It’s amazing! I actually found my way back to the computer, it will be a brief visit for now.
I have been in the barn for what seems like days. As you recall, we are in the middle of our farrowing season. With sows and gilts having piglets left and right, I feel as though my head is spinning. Add to that sick kids, not all at once, but one after another, and I look like a zombie with a touch of lunatic!
In a nutshell, this piglet season has not gone as smoothly as we have experienced in the past. We have been blessed on the Delk Family Farm for years with near text-book deliveries. This season is turning out to be one full of more things going wrong than right.
The first delivery, Spoinky, was pretty much as normal as we are used to experiencing. Things started to go wrong with delivery #2, Norma.
We like to move our girls out of the herd and into the barn, where they have their own private birthing stall. We have a pair of sisters that were not expected to deliver until May. (We base our due dates on when we actually see the boar breeding the sows/gilts.) In this case we have a boar who acted differently than any other boar we have had. Usually once the girls have been bred the boars will leave them alone. This guy had done his job, but continued to breed the girls after they were already bred. This usually isn’t an issue because the girls that are already pregnant don’t tend to tolerate any further breeding and put up an aggressive battle, effectively saying “No” to the boar.
Back to delivery #2,Norm, we came upon this in a sad manner. While we were removing another sow that had an upcoming due date we discovered one deceased piglet. We were instantly alarmed thinking we had not moved this girl in time and that she was now in labor. Wrong!
That was when we realized it was one of the sisters that wasn’t due until May! We quickly changed our focus to this girl. We moved her out, we moved her sister out, and moved the original sow we were after. With these three girls now set up in their own spaces we began to watch for more piglets from Norma. Sadly there were no more piglets, leading us to believe that the whole litter, however many there were, had been consumed by others in the herd. Absolute devastation took me over. Looking at Norma with her swollen teats and depressed expression only made it worse.
With no rest for the weary, delivery #3, Emma, arrived that night. Emma had better luck, she delivered her litter with only 2 loses.
After a day with no deliveries, Monday brought us delivery #4, Cinnamon. Cinnamon is our oldest sow and known to be a fiercely protective and successful mother. This was the one we were counting on to be far less stressful on us. Boy were we wrong, again!
Cinnamon went into labor, however she would not push along with her contractions and it came to the point that we had to intervene. It isn’t an easy task having to physically pull a litter from a 600 pound sow. Thankfully Marcus was able to get the job done, though it took most of the day before we had pulled the whole litter. Out of 14 piglets, she has 6 survivors. Three of her piglets were born dead, the rest that died were due to her crushing them. This sometimes happens with pigs, however this was no accidental crushing. She was clearly not interested in caring for the piglets. Left with no other choice, we spent the day with her making sure they got as much colostrum (the first milk) as possible, then we took them away.
With a house full of sick kids and all the litters not going as planned, the last thing I was ready for was bottle feeding 6 piglets! So we had a plan. What if Emma was willing to add a couple more piglets to her existing litter?
We put the plan into action, ready to take it slow, one piglet at a time. Well that plan changed rapidly when I approached Emma with the first of the 6 piglets. The piglet was loud and upset instantly triggering Emma to go after the person, me, that was making the piglet scream! We then quickly gave them all to her, from that moment they were all hers. No one was going to touch her piglets! So there was one great thing to happen during this whole ordeal! Crisis averted!
Now we are up to Tuesday morning and another not so pleasant surprise. Litter #5 had arrived, sort of. Olivia had indeed had her litter in the night, but when we went out there were only 2 live piglets. Most of the loss in this litter was no fault of Olivia’s. The majority of her litter had stopped development at some point late in the pregnancy. She had 4 piglets born normal, of those 2 we found in a corner away from mom very cold, and did not make it.
So things don’t always go as planned. Life on the farm is unpredictable and Mother Nature can be cruel.
I wish I could say that the stress of farrowing season is over, but we have 3 more sows to deliver still, Penny, Norie and Primrose. For the time being we are focused on the cows and the kids as we prepare to embark on a 4 day event away from the farm showing the cattle.