Well this is embarrassing.
We’ve been so busy managing all the new life and projects and growth here on the farm, we never even wrote an update on how the new piglets all came out! (2 MONTHS AGO. Sheesh.) I know that our throngs of hardcore Honeymoon Farm fans (Hi, Mom!) have been just beside themselves. So! Let’s see…
On Thursday May 24th, as we were checking out our 3 remaining pregnant gilts, I made a bet with Steve that we would have more babies by Monday. And sure enough, Sunday morning Adrianne was nowhere to be found at feeding time. A quick exploration of the woods and Steve discovered that she had snuck off, made a nest, and was farrowing like a pro. Even though she’s normally a very friendly girl, she was showing great protective instincts right away (unlike Mama Cass, who didn’t really care if you came near) and we mostly left her alone. Steve left her a pile of clean hay to make a cozier nest, and left her to it.
The really surprising part was that, of the three gilts, she had seemed the LEAST ready to farrow… the other two were mooning around, getting big teats, and generally seeming miserable, and she had been so perky! All told, she had 7 piglets. All were born alive, which is really impressive for a first time mom, and she totally rocked at protecting those babies.
As well as caring for a gaggle of foster babies to boot…
Mama #2 (who, since farrowing, has earned the name Betty) holed up in her hut on Tuesday, if memory serves. She was in heavy labor in the evening, and by the next day had 6 little wigglers trying to get her to stay still long enough to let them nurse. Sadly, it appeared that four piglets had either been stillborn or possibly rolled on in the night. The rest seemed skittish, and Betty seemed sort of indifferent to them, especially compared to Adrianne. We were worried. Was she rejecting them? We knew they needed colostrum in the first 24 hours, or they wouldn’t have much of a chance of survival. Steve made the call to see if Adrianne would nurse them, and although the babies screamed bloody murder while we were moving them, they piled on Adrianne immediately and took right to nursing. She didn’t blink an eye.
It was pretty amazing. They stayed with her for a day but we were concerned that she was going to get too worn out feeding all of those hungry mouths, and we were also now worried that Betsy would end up with mastitis from having her milk come in with nobody to nurse. We decided to move just one baby back and see if she’d take care of it, and we were so relieved that she actually showed an interest and let her nurse! Over the next day she got all her piglets back, and they did fine from then on. Which is especially lucky for her, because if a gilt can’t farrow well and be a good mom, we can’t really keep her around. We had decided that anybody who didn’t pass muster the first time would have to be put on probation, with a future destination of the freezer if she didn’t do better on her second round.
Which brings us to Clementine.
Clementine seemed to be in heavy labor the morning after after Betty. Laying still in her hut, breathing heavily, and passing some amniotic fluid, etc. I went to check on her that afternoon, excited to see some new babies, and maybe even witness one being born! But when I got there, she was wandering around, suffering from pretty severe diarrheah, with no piglets to be seen. I was a little concerned, but remembering how long MY labor took (and how much I hated being messed with during it), I left her alone again. I was disappointed that I would probably miss her birth, but anxious to hear the baby count when Steve came back from doing evening chores. And the count? One. I was really shocked, and now we were getting worried. She had been in labor for an abnormally long time by now, appeared to be tired and working really hard, and had only one baby to show for it. (Once a pig is in heavy labor, all the babies should be delivered in the space of a few hours.) We weren’t sure what to do to help her, especially since “pulling” piglets is a tricky business, not to mention potentially dangerous for all involved. We couldn’t do anything but wait. By the end of the next day, she eventually delivered two more piglets, both stillborn. I can’t help but think that she may have had an infection we didn’t know about, but she had seemed totally fine right up until she went into labor. There’s really no way for us to know, but it was especially sad and disappointing because we are now on watch for her next farrowing and hoping hard that she won’t need to be culled. 3 piglets is a shockingly small litter, especially with only one survivor. We have been reassured that pigs adhere to the rabbit philosophy of reproduction… have lots of babies, and hope some survive… so while we have to get used to the reality that we will likely lose a few from every litter, we can’t have a sow that has such low production. But she definitely gets another chance, and we’re rooting for her.
So. The total count on spring farrows 2013:
Mama Cass: litter of 6, one stillborn, one lost (runt) 2 weeks old: 4
Adrianne: litter of 7, all born alive, one lost (bloat) 3 weeks old: 6
Betty: litter of 10, 4 stillborn:6
Clementine: litter of 3, 2 stillborn: 1
Total new life: 17 romping, galloping, snorting bundles of piggy joy!
It’s wonderful to have all these babies around. I don’t know if we’ll ever get used to the stress of farrowing time, with it’s inevetable losses, but it’s pretty darn magical all the same. We are hoping that our Ossabaw gilts are pregnant, and if so, they’ll be due late August. That’s REALLY exciting, because the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy estimates that there are less than 200 Ossabaws remaining on the mainland US. (There are many more feral on Ossabaw Island, but there is an eradication effort underway and no more animals can be removed from the island.) It’s really thrilling to think that we will be having a real impact on the population of this amazing animal!