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I had the week of September 13th all planned. It was my birthday week so happy hours, brunches, friends and my yearly haircut were all on the calendar. I had everything planned around M-Pig, she was due to farrow (give birth) the 16th.
But the best laid plans are often foiled, especially when animals are involved. M-Pig acted like she was ready to farrow in the 16th, she had milk, she was off her feed, she was HUGE! I was ready! But…nothing. I was ok with this because I figured she was going to wait and have them on my birthday, because that is the kind of pig she is, so kind and thoughtful. However, the 17th went by and nothing, then 18th (my birthday!), and most of the 19th. Birthday dinner was postponed, as were the happy hours and brunches.
Finally, mid-morning of the 19th, M-Pig’s demeanor changed drastically. She no longer wanted to eat the past the prime peaches Noble Orchards (thanks guys, the pigs loved them!) donated to the cause, she didn’t want to have belly rubs, she just wanted to sleep in her nest. I figured she’d start to farrow as soon as it got dark. She did.
I knew it was going to be a long night for everyone involved. This was M-Pig’s and my, first time farrowing. I’ve helped lots of cows do it, but this was my first pig and I was scared! I really like M-Pig and did my best to learn everything I could about this process so I could help her if she needed it. But M-Pig was a total champ about the whole thing. She had her first 7 piglets within a few hours, with no help at all. It was amazing watching these tiny, little, spotted piglets enter the world. The last two piglets took longer and were both born dead. I tried to revive them like we do with baby calves, but I had no luck.
I stayed with M-Pig and her piglets until all the afterbirth had been passed and they seemed to be settled in and happy. I kinda felt like I was in college again, pulling an all nighter because I didn’t finish a project in time (I’m too old for that now, it hurt!).
I made sure M-Pig was up, eating and drinking before I went to bed. That has actually been the most challenging part. She is so focused on being a Mama and not squishing her piglets, she stays frozen when her babies are around her. She is getting better about it though! This morning she was asking for breakfast and got up all on her own.
Stay tuned Beefjar readers, there will be many more pigtures to come! And a few ranch days for those of you that live in the area!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Awwww…..spring on a working ranch. It’s a busy time. Hence my absence from this blog (so sorry!). But I promise I will make it up to you. I have some exciting news!
As I may or may not shared here, I kept one of the gilts (that is a young female pig) that I was going to eat this year. M (the pig) was special from the beginning. First off, she is pretty, she is half red wattle, and half old spot – a wonderful mixture of heritage hog breeds. You guys know how I feel about crossbreeds (hybrid vigor is our friend).
When I got her home she immediately established dominance over the rest of the pigs. She went up to any piglet pen-mates that looked at her funny, and pushed them. She was the head hog after that. Something I respected.
As she grew it became more and more apparent that M was indeed a special hog. She was sweet and gentle to the people that would visit this winter. She always met me at her trough at feeding times. She absolutely loved to be forked, scratched and walked around the ranch. And would often hold conversations with me when we hung out (come on, you’d hang out with your pigs if you had them too).
When I finally started thinking about keeping a sow, my pig expert friends offered advice such as “look for evenly spaced nipples”, “know her mom”, “a good attitude counts”, and “make sure she has at least 14 teats”. M fulfilled all these requirements. I decided to keep her and use her for my foundation sow.
Now this meant I’d either have to get a boar or artificially inseminate (AI) her. I know I’m not ready for a boar yet, and I do have a really awesome, supportive veterinarian! He helped me find some semen and came over and AI’ed M last month. While he was here, he also taught me how to AI a hog. It was easier than I had expected.
Unfortunately M didn’t take last month. I can’t say I am surprised though, it was rather a stressful day, as the pigs next to her had their “appointment”. Just like people, stress doesn’t help with conception rates. However, this month I did it again. I bought York semen from CSU Chico. I am an Agriculture alumni, so I do love to support them, and that is where a lot of my swine knowledge comes from in the first place.
I was able to AI M three different times this heat. I’m so proud of myself that I was able to learn this skill and perform it without fear, all by myself. The last session felt really good, so I have super high hopes! A pig’s gestation time is three months, three weeks and three days and her heat is every 21 days, so I will know soon if I am gonna be a Daddy!
I am enjoying and learning so much from my hog endeavor. It has become a great source of pride and confidence for me. When I started years ago I never really planned on loving it this much and certainly didn’t think that I would ever have a sow or AI! I’m excited to see where this chapter takes me!
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