I did not grow up raising piglets. Of course, I raised hogs in 4-H and FFA as a child, but I only finished hogs. Starting a farrow to finish business is something I got into in my adult life. I had to learn a lot about farrowing (birthing) piglets, rather quickly. Like anything, to be good, you need to keep learning. I have been incredibly lucky to have lots of pig experts in my life. Again and again I have reached out to them with basic questions and they have come back with thorough, knowledgeable answers.
This is the eponychium on a brand new piglet.
In an effort to pay it forward, I decided to share something I find interesting and an average person might not know. The piglet slippers! Let me be clear, piglet slippers is not the correct term, it is the eponychium or the deciduous hoof capsule. Piglets are born with these to prevent hurting the sows reproductive tract. As soon as they are born they dry up and fall off.
The same piglet just a few minutes later. The eponychium is totally gone.
It’s not just piglets who are born with eponychium, all animals with hooves have them. Unfortunately, I tried this summer to get some good shots of a baby calf’s capsules but the time I wiped the afterbirth off my hands and got my phone out, they were gone. That’s how fast they dry up. I’ll try again next calving season.
And a shot of a piglet in it’s sack demonstrating how the eponychium works. This was a healthy, alive piglet by the way.
This is a really fascinating part of birth. Oddly, I can’t remember ever being taught about this in my animal science classes, it was one of those things I had to ask about. I hope I was able to pass on some hog knowledge to you today!
A pig’s gestation period is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days or 114 days. I am well acquainted with this knowledge because I am about to experience for first solo pig birth. And it’s like Christmas for me. My very first sow, M-pig is due next week with her first litter. As you all recall, I’ve been anticipating this day since the end of May!
Yes, I took a video of M-Pig and her boarfriend.
All summer I’ve been extra careful with her diet and care. I’ve spent a lot of time with her, giving her attention and lots and lots of brushes and baths. I figure, if this pig really likes me, she’s not going to care too much when I assist her with her birth because she’ll trust me. I’m also looking forward to having a ranch day or two so my clients can meet their meat and I want tame pigs and piglets.
She is so close!
This week I have finished my “pig birthing kit” and worked on M-pig’s bedroom. I’m pleased to report I am pretty much ready for the blessed event. I’m watching videos on youtube, talking to my experts and reading books. I almost feel like it is a whisper silly that I am so nervous about one pig giving birth! I spent the whole summer watching and helping a couple hundred cows do it, so this shouldn’t be that big of a deal for me.
Remember the Montana Cowboy? He helped me install some bumpers so the piglets have a place to hide from Mom.
I am doing the birth the “natural way”. That means I am not using a farrowing crate. A farrowing crate is a small pen that keeps the mama sow from rolling over and squishing her babies. My gilt is pushing 600 pounds, she couldn’t feel herself roll over on her babies even if she tried. I’m not using a crate for a few reasons. The first being I can’t afford it, pretty much all my money is going into buying more pigs. The second is since I have the time, I plan on being with M-pig during and after the birth. This will hopefully mitigate any loss until the piglets can figure things out for themselves. I do realize that I do face increased piglet loss by this choice, but I am going to try it and see how it goes.
My farrowing kit. My vet helped!
I’m excited and proud of myself that I have reached this point in my hog operation. Honestly, I never thought I’d ever own a sow, let alone farrow one out! I’m getting ready to purchase a boar and build more pig pens, so I can keep expanding! Hopefully next Wednesday, my Wordless Wednesday will be cute, newborn piglets! Stay tuned!