There’s always a runt.
Even with the small size of Mama Cass’s litter, there was still one piglet who was born smaller than the others. The difference in size was noticeable right away, though not striking. She was active and seemed healthy.
But very quickly, her littermates were working their biological advantage and pushing her aside when she tried to nurse. Since she was too little to reach the top row of teats when Mama laid down, she would struggle to get at a lower nipple only to be stepped on or shoved by a sibling. She was nursing, but not very much. And every day, her littermates got bigger and she got weaker. She was still trying to run with the group and was active enough to try to get away if we tried to pick her up, but she was struggling. Today, with Steve back from his trip, we made the call to bring her inside for a day or two to see if we can give her a boost.
Steve brought her back after he did chores this evening and found her shaky and listless. I was worried that she wouldn’t take to a bottle since she’s over a week old, but she did and the improvement was immediate. She perked right up, and also figured out how to eat from a bowl right away (yogurt is a great first piglet food). She then proceeded to get all snuggled up with the mason jar heater, give a few satisfied and adorable grunts, and conk right out. Now she’s snoozing away, and we’re feeling cautiously optimistic. She has a cough that’s a little worrisome, but we’re hopeful that a little R&R (and a major caloric boost) will get her feeling strong enough to keep fighting. We’re sure she won’t be the last runt in need of a little extra lovin’ on our farm.
She didn’t make it through the night. It became clear after I wrote this post that her breathing troubles were more significant than we thought. It’s apparently really common for pigs to have respiratory issues, especially runts. Since administering antibiotics would have meant that we wouldn’t have been able to sell her in our CSA and would have had to take her to auction instead, we hoped that getting her strength up without her having to compete for food would have made a difference. I wonder now if we could have done more earlier on to save her, but there’s no way to know. Sigh.