It has been almost 50 days since we were waiting anxiously for our pig to farrow. Checking the camera often and watching her behavior change, I had a rough idea what to expect but didn't expect things to go the way they did. Expecting this glorious birth of little pigs to come into the world but ended up with anything but. Morning of January 10 found me having to go and pull a stuck piglet. A massive one at that and of course the first one to be in the birth canal. Having no experience with birthing pigs, I went on by guidance of a local pig farmer, who ended up being a huge asset throughout all of this. After getting 12 piglets out, I thought I was out of the woods. I had 11 live pigs and one mummy, which is to be expected but she had not passed her after birth. This found me back in shoulder deep, extracting a stillborn piglet. A few hours after that the sow passed, I'm chalking it up to a rupture and hemorrhage. She passed minutes after I called the vet to get input from them and someone out to see her because things were just "not right".
Now, I've raised a lot of baby animals but never have I been tasked with an entire litter of pigs. Mildly clueless, besides the fact I knew they needed food and warmth, I placed them in boxes and trucked them to the house. While grieving their mother who had pulled heart strings of not only me and my family but several people that were also waiting for the arrival of these little pigs.
The thing with piglets is they are driven for food and bottle feeding them is not ideal as they easily aspirate and draw liquids into their lungs causing a plethora of problems. the best bet is getting them to drink out of a dish, which thankfully pigs are smart and in less than a day they all had it figured out. Another hog grower recommended cow's colostrum for them and thankfully I know some dairy farmers. After several buckets of that, I went to feeding them milk replacer. But that is just the beginning. I had them eating and warm but now the adventure of getting them to weaning size. Also, had to kick them out of the house because they are quite fragrant and not in an appealing way. So back into the heated barn with their heat lamps they went. When they are newborns, they feed frequently, which meant getting up all hours of the night and feeding them milk. Thankfully this is a short period and well, that "mom brain" kicks back in pretty quick. I basically had 10 newborn babies demanding food and would wake up before my alarms to feed in the middle of the night.
Things were looking up. They were eating and growing like mad. In a week we had to double their pen size and add another dish for them to eat out of. But, like all things, it was too good to keep going flawlessly. It started with one, lethargic and stiff. By the time I got home from work that day, I had seven that weren't moving well. I reached out again to a mentor, and we chalked it up to malnourishment from a touch of scours and they were getting weak. Thinking it was a gut issue, I put them back on cow's milk and dumped probiotics to them, plus a round of antibiotics. Next morning everything was back to normal. Only for a short time though, then I would see swollen joints, or someone was hopping around on three legs. Classic joint ill, arthritis caused by some sort of infection. More antibiotics for everyone, not my most favorite way but antibiotics and alive is better than no antibiotics and dead. Majority of them came around nicely with a few struggling behind. Both of which succumbed to a raspatory infection which was more than likely a product of the joint ill or potential bacteria in the milk. For a few weeks, it was an ongoing battle of treating lame piglets. A few changes to treatment protocol and the eight were doing well. With the exception of two that were lagging behind. One of which passed over night and the other living in her own little space so she doesn't get bullied by the bigger ones. She is slowly coming around and hopefully we are done with all the dramatics as they turn seven weeks old this week.
A handful are destined to go to our county fair this year and one lucky lady will stay to continue carrying on for her mother. The ones fair bound though, sure will have a heck of a story in the show ring. I'm excited and looking forward to them strutting their stuff in the ring and watching all my work on display. Also, a huge thank you to all of those that helped me and are still helping. Jake Roth, who owns Jake's Pig Palace and was huge help through the whole farrowing and raising these piglets, Joel Nischke for all of his advice and help, and Keith Long for the supply of milk. And last but not least a big Thank you to my sister in law Heidi and her husband Dennis for helping when we took a much need break on a short trip to Tennessee. This would've been a heck of a lot harder with all of this without them.
Hi, I am Mandy Onesti originally the author/blogger of Ponytails and Cow Trails. Which I had started to bring people closer to the life on the homestead. Running two websites, a house full of kids and a small farm, made me decide to conjoin my websites. I have a lifelong background in Agriculture and have worked on everything from rotational grazing organic farms to large scale dairy farms. I now run a small herd of beef cattle and strive for a sustainable lifestyle. Thank you for joining me.