Posted by Emily @ 11:57 AM EDT
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA[ Member listing ]
15 Sep · Tue 2009
Well all the babies all made it through the first night ok. Piglets always look so small and frail, and there is a possibility that the sow could accidentally step or lay on one or two without realizing it. After the first week, the piglets are alert and mobile, but right now I hold my breath every time one of the sows gets up or lays down. Fall is also rapidly creeping in, with temperatures falling into the mid 40's during the night. We gave the pigs lots of good clean hay which they use to make a nest to keep everyone warm, but we still wake up in the night and wonder if we should have put a heat lamp on the babies. I guess farm babies are always a little tougher than I give them credit for; they usually do just fine without much help from us humans. There was only one small problem this morning; Charlotte had an extra piglet and Fern was missing one. This is the first time we've had piglets in this building, it is a temporary arrangement until we get a badly needed new roof on the hog house. So in building the dividers, there must have been just enough space for a smaller piglet to squeak through! They grow so fast, they'll be too big to fit through the gap in a matter of days, so we're just going to leave it as is. The great thing about our sows is that they love thier babies and when something like this happens, they just take care of it as though it were their own. So extra piglet was snuggled up to Char, nursing just like a piglet is supposed to. We decided not to leave the piglet though, and keep things even so each sow had enough milk for her babies. I knew Char had 5 black babies and 4 blue butt patterened ones and that most of Fern's babies are black with very little white. As there were 6 black babies, I looked for the smallest piglet with the least amount of white. So I picked up the most likely suspect and quickly but gently set it next to Fern, who wasn't upset until she heard it squeal (piggies don't enjoy being picked up!). Char picked up her head as well and seeing that everyone was ok, I quickly exited the pen. Commercial pig farms use what they call farrowing crates, which are basically a little cage for the mothers. They can't get up and move around, so there is less chance that they will squish the babies, but the babies can put their heads inside the crate to nurse. We don't use anything like that, so I am very cautious about angering the sows. Char probably weighs around 400 pounds, and a pig is incredibly quick when it wants to be. In walking into their space, I had no more protection than blue jeans and sneakers offer, and so Kept a wary eye on my only exit door! That's why Char is in the pen by the door, she's more docile when she has little ones and we can just lean over her side of the fence to feed Fern, whose name becomes "Evil Pig" when she has babies because she is so protective. But I escaped unhurt, I think the piglets have grown already, and now it's back to canning....I have the last of my tomatoes ready for the food mill, so I guess this is it for the salsa.
Posted by Emily @ 11:57 AM EDT