The storm that came through the other day must have really changed the barometric pressure, because three sows went into labor!
First up was Mona, who had 6 piglets alive, 1 stillborn, all boys. She’s such a reliable mama, and so good about not squishing those piggies. She stayed in her nest for two days, and then on the third day, introduced them all to her favorite spot in the whole world, the wallow. We got their ears notched this afternoon, and I’m very glad to be done with that, because I always dread it and then it turns out to be not that bad at all.
Next up was Parvati. We knew the very date she was bred, because Albus came through the fence just days after she arrived on our farm on April 15th. So almost exactly 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days per the formula, right on schedule. For a first time mama, she’s fantastic. 11 in her litter! (1:girl, 2:boy, 3:boy, 4:girl, 5: girl, 6: girl, 7: girl, 8: boy, 9: boy, 10: girl, 11: boy) 6 girls, 5 boys. (one stillborn, so 12 total in her litter)
Our method of ear-notching, which is what the Tamworth Swine Association requires, is as follows:
1. Have tame sows. Keep them friendly! That starts from the beginning, of course, but it’s never more important than when you have to take a baby away from its mama. (Parvati is practically Frank’s pet at this point. She and Padma love love love him because he brings them their special bucket so the bigger pigs don’t hog all the food.)
2. Have a sharp ear-notcher! We got ours from Tractor Supply.
3. Bring a notebook and pen out with you, write down the numbers of the litter before you start, and then update the list every few piglets when your memory is very fresh. (Also put it somewhere digital when you are done, because I can never find the right notebook when I need it later. I use this online journal for everything.)
4. We work together, and one of us grabs the piglet and clamps the mouth shut first. That way the amount of squealing is minimal and mama doesn’t get upset. We’ve gotten amazingly good at that, actually, and it minimizes everyone’s angst. The other piglets don’t get upset, none of the other big pigs come check out what we’re doing, etc. Clamp that mouth shut TIGHT!
5. One person keeps the mouth shut while the other one notches the ears. If you do it early enough, within a day or two from birth, the piglet doesn’t even flinch at the notch. They are more upset about being off the ground (pigs hate to fly!) than they are about the notching. That surprises me every single time.
6. When putting the piglet back with mama, put it right up to a teat and when it opens it’s mouth to scream bloody murder, look, milk!
7. Wash, rinse, repeat.
8. Have a beer. Or two!
It takes some nerve and some adrenaline in my experience, but it’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be. Whew!
Still, I’m glad to have both litters done.
I’m not sure what’s up with Minnie. Last year, she had a piglet stuck and I called out the vet, and none of the litter survived. This year, it was almost the same thing. She had one stillborn, nothing else, but we watched her carefully and she never seemed in distress. We gave one shot of oxytocin last afternoon, and she’s delivered two stillborn since, and today is moving around, eating and drinking, clearly no longer in labor. I’m not sure what to make of that. So, she’s still under close observation! We’re wondering about finding a petting farm or someplace for her to live where she doesn’t get bred anymore. Our fences aren’t up to keeping Albus away from a pig in heat, and she probably shouldn’t be bred anymore.