What Quacks Like a Duck and Looks Like A Cow?



Yes, Peppercorn farrowed sucessfully. Sadly, she had mostly mummified piglets. 7 or 8 mummies (I lost count), 1 still born but 6 lovely, happy, healthy live births.

Friday night I came home from work and she was nesting like a mad woman. Crazy lady needed, “THAT PIECE OF STRAW, RIGHT THERE, YOU SEE IT? I NEED IT!” irregardless of any obstacles and objects in the way. Piglet box: obliterated. Walls: being lifted up and destroyed. Pigs are strong. I tried to make a roll bar so the piglets had a safe space they wouldn’t get squished. she broke it. So I put up an electric line. She backed into it and went from “straw straw straw…warm fluffy softness. need more straw!” to staring at the electric line going, “danger. there is danger next to my nest. its going to kill me. kill me and my babies. theres one there too. what do i do?! DANGER!!!!” She stood for an hour or two staring at the polyrope until i took it back down. even then she didn’t trust the space it was in. IT MIGHT COME BACK TO KILL HER, YOU NEVER KNOW!!!! I gave her fresh straw and she got back to nesting. midnight, barn was freezing, she was fluffing up straw but no real contractions. I went to bed.

5 am its time to do a check up. I got up, throw on some clothes and see how things are. Only she isn’t in the pen. oh dear. She lifted up the hog panel and slipped underneath. I turned to look to my right and there is now a GIANT pile of hay, straw, empty feed bags and trash shaking and oinking. Nut job isn’t in labor yet. I’m going back to bed.

Morning comes and I go back to the barn. I was fine until I realized she had grabbed Blazes fleece, pulled it out of where i was storing it, pulled it out of the bag and mixed it up with the hay. VIRGIN WOOL WITH ALMOST NO VEGETABLE MATTER, POSSIBLY A $30 FLEECE I WAS GOING TO TAKE TO SHOW DESTROYED.


I lost my temper. I admit it. Hog panels were lodged on the riding mower, my tool area was torn apart, the bedding was all mucked up. And for what? Another piece of freakin’ straw. I tried to get her back into her space, but she didn’t want to go. DANGER! I finally calmed down enough to come up with a plan…..clearly she was terrified of electro-rope at the moment, so I just ran some unelectrified roped over the new nest. uh oh. THAT NEST IS DANGER NOW. she looked for an exit: the tool space caught her eye, but before she made her move I ran a line across the barn. She looked at the new line, new nest and old nest….and walked back into her space. After inspecting that it was safe she fluffled up the straw and plopped down. pretty soon she was into contractions.

Why is the image of a farmer a calm and collected man and woman? Because when you let emotion get in the way you waste time, energy, thought and make things more dangerous than they already are. Trying to force Peppercorn into the pen again would have been useless: she would have broken out again and possibly hurt me in the process of moving. When I calmed down and observed her mental state I was able to quickly and safely move her with almost no effort on my part. Part of being a successful farmer is letting go of emotion. It is what it is.

I had a heat lamp up and the frame up a roll bar up. I sat there cheering her on. I wasn’t looking when she gave a big push and out came the first piglet. After the first one popped out and started running around she sat up, looked at the piglet, looked at me, oinked a little, “What the–?” and I could hear from outside of the barn Rosie and Dot shouting at her, “Don’t worry! Its okay! Its your baby! You’ll love, lay down and let get some milk. You’ll feel woooonderful!” She laid back down this time with her butt towards the heat lamp  and stayed down the rest of the time. Next out was a very large still born and plecenta. I checked the body to see if i could revive it or figure out the cause of death.  I was still very pink and warm, fully grown, but the umbilical cord was filled with blood. By the time it the umbilical cord broke off the heart was not pumping blood. It was DOA. Was that all that was in that one horn? (Pigs have 2 uterus-es known as “horns”)

I was going to leave her, but i was concerned now that one still born came out. I noticed about two weeks ago she didn’t have alot of movement in her belly for her size. By a week before farrowing I was very concerned that the little movement I saw had largely stopped. Dots belly was dancing before she farrowed, Peppercorns did not.

I sat by as living piglets came out followed by dead piglets. Most were fully formed and very large in size. I would guess the majority died in the past 2 weeks.

I lost count. I refused to count until it was all said and done. I was hoping for 8 live, I got 6. Still, better than 2. Don’t let emotions get in the way. Can’t beat myself up about not getting all 14. It would have been good money, but, hey, it happens.  Looks like 3 boys, 3 girls. I will cut a few boys this time since I’m selling to 4-h kids.

Peppercorn continued to pull apart any bumper I tried to build going so far as to look me in the eye as she did it. How dare I try to decorate her nest!


Shes a very good mother. Very calm and careful not to squish anyone. Calmer than Rosie was, more careful than Dot. I could have let her farrow alone in the woods and it would have been fine, though I think she liked having a midwife 😉


Everyone is growing, a few faster than the others. I’ve not yet seen piglets that take this much time to choose a teat. A few are very opportunistic and bounce from teat to teat. They are the big ones. I’m happy with this litter, I think they will be quite nice pigs. I’m worried about the other two sows catching what Peppercorn had (I think Porcine Pariovirus) and having failed litters so I’m going to try and vaccinate them if its not too late. So much for being all organic! Now ya see why big producers use vaccines and anti-biotics, right?!


4 thoughts on “What Quacks Like a Duck and Looks Like A Cow?

  1. Just another day on the farm

    congrats on t, he live ones, and that is a one good nesting story! sorry about the lost ones, don’t beat yourself up about needing to use a singe vaccine for at issue that needs to be treated, my land/barn had a very local carry of a certain thing that I vaccinate for in my breeding sheep, don’t need to do the lambs but I do the parents. Keeping our critters healthy trumps being able to say, no nothing in my books

    1. erikamay85 Post author

      only 3 days old and they are already running around, jumping in the air, doing cartwheels. I keep thinking im gonna stop breeding pigs…then i get another nice litter and I’m like, “MUST HAVE MORE!!!”


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