Saturday, February 23, 2013
Kan Te Ko (lead male pig)
In my book Good Morning Yesterday, I wrote about an itinerant service from the kampong days known as Kan Te Ko. I am reminded of this interesting profession when I saw a photo by Andy MacDonald posted at Tom O’brien’s Memories of Singapore.
Here’s an extract from pages 67 to 69 my book;
So far I have told you about itinerant services provided by food vendors, tinkers and koyok sellers who visited our kampong. But there is one more which is sure to tickle you, and that is the itinerant farmer who provided a service called ‘kan te ko’. Kan te ko which literally means, “to lead (male) pig”, is best translated as stud service. Basically this man – let’s called him KTK for short - will visit the pig farms with his ‘stud’ and impregnate the sows for a fee of $3 per sow. Apparently results were guaranteed; otherwise they would be happy (not sure about the poor animal though) to do a repeat job. Farmers were also advised to feed their sows with eggs to increase the chance of pregnancies.
(According to my friend James Seah) Whenever the KTK arrived at the village to provide this ‘baby-making service’, all the young girls who were unmarried were not allowed to watch. The curious girls were told not to ask why the animals were making so much noise. My friend Yeo Hong Eng who grew up in a farm in Kampong Tanah Merah Kechil shared this interesting information with me.
Of course the KTK was a job that no woman would not want to take up. But sometimes when the man of the house was unavailable or sick, she had no choice but to stand in. Like the night soil carrier, this profession became extinct in Singapore. After the Primary Production Department was set up, technicians bearing syringes of Berkshire sperm from Australia took over the job. Subsequently, pig rearing was disallowed in Singapore.
Reader Lye Khuen Way’s comment about seeing the carcasses of drowned pigs in the Alexandra Canal, during the floods of the 1960s, reminds me of some photos that I have seen at the National Archives’ Picas website. Dated 03/12/1978, these photos describe the plight of pig farmers at Braddell Road, which was quite near to the kampong I grew up in. These photos come with the following description.
“The rains held off as flood waters receded in all parts of Singapore. The flood had caused heavy damage to property, livestock and poultry. The worst hit area was the farm belt stretching across Woodlands, Braddell Road, Potong Pasir and Changi. At least 2,000 pigs and a large number of poultry have perished as flood waters swollen by heavy rain, swirled through the farms on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Picture shows pigs stoically await rescue in their pens as rising water level slowly creeps up to their snouts. They are the luckier ones to be rescued although they will probably end up in a frying pan. Scores of others drowned in the floods."