Tag Archives: farrowing

Somethings Not Right

Violet had been bagging up so I moved her to the maternity pen. I spread hay around for when she was ready to nest.

She spent a few hot days being miserable.  “I done being pregnant!!” She’s been a good sport though. One evening I had a guest over and she was very vocal. Hormones, but not nesting, tiniest bit of milk. I figured a day or two to go.

“It’s too hot to be pregnant!”

I checked on her in the morning and she had milk. LOTS. But weirdly…she looked like she hadn’t “dropped.”

Yup, lots of milk. Got it all over!

Labor soon, water broke but…weird….something looks off. Her breathing was fast, contractions small. It looked like she wasn’t having uterine contractions at all, so I figure were a few hours away. I went inside and came back out to find a piglet! So I sat down and watched the show. and waited. and waited. While she tossed and turned i kept the piglet safe

Waiting to meet her siblings 

Something wasn’t going right….after over an hour I cleaned up and went in. There was a HUGE piglet still at the cervix. pulled it out. waited, 30 minutes later went in again. next piglet was halfway down the birth canal when i pulled. Okay, maybe she’ll be ok. My mom came up to watch the rest of the farrowing while I had to go to work (new boss, have to play by the rules)

Around noon I get a call that my mother had to pull a few piglets and a few came out on their own. Violet had been asking for help and when mom tried to leave Violet would get upset, so she spent quite a bit of time just comforting her. After the update she went back out. More piglets. A total of 12, momma was being very careful. I had a call into the vet for follow up care after pulling piglets-what antibiotics would be best for Violet so she doesn’t get a uterine infection. When I came home she was happy and proud. I gave her some molasses water to up her sugar levels, she asked for some food so I fed her. Her temp was good. All was well, right?

Then next morning I went out and she looked ragged. So did the piglets. She didn’t want food or drink, her eyes were red and closed. Somethings not good. I tried to give her penicillin but the damn needle kept blowing off and I have to get to work. I called the vet back, they are still busy. So I go to work and finally get ahold of the vet. He’s very concerned she needs antibiotics now. So my mom, my hero and Violets, too, gets the antibiotics the vet drew up and takes them up to the farm.

When she arrived the piglets were dehydrated, lying everywhere. Violet was low on milk. Violet herself was very short tempered. My mother tried to inject her with the antibiotics and Violet tried to attack. Eventually with some guidance from the vet and some help from the neighbors she was able to give Violet the most important medicine, Draxxin. She wasn’t able to give her the banamine- an anti-inflammatory pain killer. Violet still didn’t want to eat or drink until I suggested cold peaches that I picked this weekend. Mom picked the ripest of them all and offered them to Violet…She couldn’t resist. She ate the peaches and later mom bought her a watermelon. Slowly she was able to start rehydrating and producing milk again. The piglets were feeling better once she was feeding them again.

When I got home we tried again to give her the banamine, but she was not having it. I stuck her with the needle and she growled and snapped. My mother, terrified after herself seeing the nasty side of a sow, made me promise to give up for the night and not to give her the medicine alone. Okay I promise! I went back out later to feed her more watermelon and some hard boiled eggs I had just made for her. Oh boy! did the eggs hit the spot! Right after she fed the piglets and milk was back to dripping out the unused teats. Before I went to bed she enjoyed 9 eggs and the last quarter of the watermelon. Piglets were eating and she looked more comfortable. Finally at midnight, after a 12 hour shift at work, I got to bed.

This morning I woke up at 5 am. Can I administer banamine orally? Some googling indicated, yeah, its fine orally! So I got up and injected the remaining eggs with banamine, mixed in a little barley to soak up the remaining liquid and topped it with applesauce to make it delicious. I offered the mixture to Violet and she licked the bowl clean. Yay! She asked for more food so i offered her the bowl from yesterdays breakfast. She looked at it for a second then tore into it. Shes got her appetite back!

Hopefully she gets over this. We both “went in” quite a few times which can lead to infection. Obviously she was starting to develop one. This is exactly why antibiotics really are a boon to animal husbandry and why I am no longer organic. These drugs, when used correctly, save lives and reduce pain and suffering.

This is my first problem farrowing.  I am lucky that I have had so many good farrowings that I recognized something was off. I believe it was a mixeture of two things: over feeding (she was on only 5 lbs of very rich food) which resulted in big piglets and uterine inertia  and dehydration from the heat. I don’t know for sure, i didn’t have a vet look at her but I am guessing thats what happened. I’ll keep you guys updated.


Month of September Update: Pigs

I tried to update my blog. I tried. But my internet is terrible and the folks who “cleaned”my computer deleted my antivirus so my  computer is buggy and typing is a pain.

Peppercorn began to nest on a thursday morning. Big and fluffy nest. I gave her a whole bale all tied up in hopes of keeping her entertained for a while. She ripped out a bite of straw andookitto t   her nest. came back, another bite. cool, I thought, should keep her entertained for a while, right?

nope. Apparently she got impatient and just picked the whole bale up and waddled to her nest and dumped it there. She was so fidgity I gave her some beer to calm her down. Don’t know how much it helped, but she sure liked it!

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It wasn’t until the sun went down she started to farrow. The first few piglets took quite a long time. Two out, took a good 20-30 minutes before Peppercorn got up and repositioned herself. She was so focused on a stuck piglet she accidently laid on both piglets that were at her feet, but her nest was so fluffy i was able to dig them out and they were okay. Finally a HUGE piglet came out and then everyone else came out in fast order. 15 total.

It was a cold night and a few tried to wander off, but i grabbed them once they got too far away and put them back in the nest. I was cold, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was down to the 30’s that night. I went to bed once i felt things were good.

6 am  woke up feeling like I needed to get out ASAP. Found two piglets that had wandered out of the nest: one was chilled but okay and i tossed it in with everyone else. One was dead, or so it seemed. when i moved his ice cold body Ihis jaw flapped open with the slightest hint of lift. I had to move fast.


Like I did with Blaze two years ago he went into a water bath. he was so cold I started with luke warm water so as not to shock his system and gradually increased the water temp. He started shivering, then squeaking. Eventually i pulled him out of the water and wrapped him in a towel with a blow dryer pointed in. He was getting better. Another dip in the “hot tub” and within 2 hours he was ready to go back outside. amazing!


15 piglets, 15 teats means alot of fighting.

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While Peppercorn did her best to keep her little ones saft they still bit the hell out of each other at feeding time. I’ve never had injuries like I’ve seen with this litter so I made the desicion: pull a piglet. Sold one of the weaker ones that could benefit from more care. Down to 14 piglets and 15 teats everything started going smoother.


We are at 4 weeks now. 15 born, 14.5 weaned. Very good! Dispite how Peppercorns first farrowing went (with 10+ born dead) she is now right in the national average of 21 piglets a year.



We will start weaning this week. I’ll start with the 5 biggest who will go to a local farm and pumpkin patch. I’ll leave the smaller ones on for another week or two. Ack, I’m almost out of piglets?! How can this be?! My boar better hurry up and make some more for me!

Oh so busy.

Last week I had to take a business trip. Kinda cool, but that meant being off the farm for a week. And unfortunately my company didn’t ask if any of my animals were giving birth at the time (why didnt they think to ask that before planning the trip?!) and as it happened several were scheduled to give birth. LUCKILY Blaze had hers Tuesday, and Monk had hers the night before I left. My mother came up to the farm to farm sit and was very worried we needed to intervene. little toes were sticking out of Monk and there was no progress. She was just standing and trying to eat everything in sight. I said, “she just needs to focus on the task at hand. Wait for a bit.” Finally she laid down.


Out popped on lamb! She licked it right away, but wouldn’t let it get any milk. “do we need to do something?”

“No, she’s got another coming, wait until that one comes out and she’ll be so distracted licking the other lamb he’ll be able to nurse.”


Sure enough, out came the other one and Monk started letting them nurse. There was some question as to the paternity of my lambs from these two ewes as their father jumped through the electric fence several times to reach them. I think, though, from the facial markings its pretty clear who dad is.



Mooney and Monk make pretty cute babies, though Blaze’s Princess is pretty pretty, too. And she knows it! She has a throne underneath the hay feeder. End count of lambs that survived the birthing process: 5 rams, 1 ewe. Guess my flock isn’t growing this year!

So after staying with Monk I had to get up at 3 am to get on my plane to NJ so I could fly back to Ohio. Lots of sense. 4 1/2 days training.Fly back to Oregon ViA Duram, SC. What?! In the meantime we were down to basically 2 jewelers in a shop that should have 5, so i did some farm work then went into my job for a few hours the day after i got home.

Rosie was scheduled to farrow on Thursday and mom swears she was nesting, but i came home and nothing yet. She finally farrowed on Sunday-my “day off.” (It wasnt really a day off, i tried to throw a spring party an only one person showed after i sent them one last “are you coming” text. Rosie was kind enough to add some guests)


Lovely day to have babies.


Ms.Rosie was very tired by the end. She hadn’t eaten for several days. By the time she had her last one she was too tired to be careful. I saw her try to lay down carefully, and halfway through was like, “aw, screw it. I weigh 700 lbs, its too hard to be careful!” and flopped down. She ended up crushing 3 piglets in the next 12 hours. I didn’t sleep well that night worrying about the piglets. Once Rosie got a good sleep, though, she went back to being oh so careful. No injuries after some rest.

So, as I mentioned we were down a few jewelers. I had to go in on Monday, my normal day off. In the morning Dot was looking wistfully at the woods. We werent going to have a repeat of last time so I built a fence around the lean-to before going to work so she had a private space and was forced to stay out of the woods. Came home and my mother was around. “Hows Dot doing?”

“Eh. Shes not doing much. Just walking around eating, laying down…walking around somemore.” I went to check on her anyway.



Uh huh. not doing a darn thing. Okay, at that point she only had six running around dry and nursing. I called mom over and she got to witness her first pig births a few hours later when she unloaded the second batch of piglets. The last one took forever to come out. it was a never ending umbilical cord…everytime shed push more cord would come out…occationally slip back in, then more cord. Like, 3 feet of cord. FINALLY the big girl popped out, but the veil didn’t break. I broke it around her face and cleared her nose. It took her a while to start breathing, but she finally did. I think if I hadn’t been there she wouldn’t have made it.


Dot looks pretty proud of herself. She did a great job. No losses, no stillbirths, no crushed piglets or injuries. 11 out of Dot, 8 surviving out of Rosie. Ive got more pigs than I know what to do with.



Anyway, then I worked my full week. I’m going into official overtime today. But I’ve been busy. Very busy and tired.


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?!

I Failed My Animals

As the farmer it is my job to do what is best for my animals. I had a gilt who was going to farrow soon and most people put them on lock down and make them farrow in crates.

Yet I wanted it to be natural, and with what seemed like encouragement from many other alternative farmers I let her farrow in the woods and “never have had a problem!”, although my gut said, “Don’t! Lock her in the barn and keep and eye on her” She left…and did not come back.

I felt horrible. Guilty. Like I failed both her and me. Embarrassed at my failure with so many other people wanting to point and say, “I told you so! you should have crated her!”  How stupid was I to let her follow her nature? What if she died from a complication?

No…the walk would have put the piglets in place. She’d be more likely to have a breech in a crate…but what about the piglets? was she scared? Did she kill them? Did she run find a food source and run away for good? I couldn’t sleep at night, I didn’t want to socialize or talk to anyone.

—-I looked every night and every morning for her, but had to rush off to work and in the evenings I came home in the dark. Still, with a headlamp I wandered through the woods with a bucket of feed trying to find her. Finally on Friday I found what looked like a pig trail, I walked it for a bit but had to run off to work. On Saturday morning I took the logging road up the hill to try and meet with the trail-head…only at the trail-head I found my pig. Had I walked 20 more yards Friday I would have found her.

She greeted me and showed me to her nest. She looked skinny, confused, dazed and looked like she was running low on milk. No water for 5 days, though she was subsisting on worms and roots. Her nest was tall and narrow made out of ferns. Hiding in the nest were two little piglets, running behind logs, under sumac keeping an eye on me. They were healthy, though a little skinny. I could see they had been chewing on each others tails: stress. Around her nest hung the smell of death and 3 little corpses all of differing stages of decay. One died early, the other two were stepped on. I believe they were piled on top of each other because it was so cold out, and when she would stand up one would tumble down under her feet, but I don’t know. She had started nibbling on the freshest corpse but stopped. She didn’t like the taste of pork, I guess. That one looked like it had only recently died, maybe that morning.


I tried to get her to come down with the feed bucket and hoped the piglets would follow. No go. So I gave her a little food while I went down to get help. The plan was one person would lead her away with food, then I nab the piglets when shes far enough away…except she stopped 50 feet from the nest and ran back before I even grabbed them. 

Messing with a sows babies is dangerous. DANGEROUS. They can get protective and kill you. BAD IDEA….but she didn’t seem to be aggressive. A little protective, but she knows me and was feeling helpless. Starving, thirsty, exhausted, 3 dead piglets…at this point she needed me. I took the risk. I stuck the two living ones in the bucket and started walking.

Except, Dots kinda dumb. She didn’t know where they were and had a hard time grasping the concept of them being in the bucket. She didn’t follow for long before running back to the dead ones. Eventually between a bucket of squeaking piglets and a bucket of feed we were able to lure her away. That first 50 feet she hard a hard time leaving. the next 200 yards was a little easier but we still had to bribe her with the two buckets…then we hit the logging road and she suddenly perked up. She started stepping more lightly, happy behind me…..then she started thinking. I could hear her talking turn from happy, to worried, to slightly aggressive as she starting thinking about me with her piglets. SRSLY, PERSON WITH THE FEED COME OVER AND DISTRACT HER.  It worked, a little food and she was happily distracted again. As we came down the hill Rosie spied her daughter and came running. RUNNING to say “Hello!” They talked face to face, then rubbed against each other talking with excitement. The other to pigs joined in on the conversation over the fence. Happiness abounded!


We continued to lead her to the barn, though at one point Rosie came up and insisted on looking in the bucket full of squeaks. Her grandchildren! A happy occasion. Pigs are very smart socially, and thats where we get to thinking there smart on other ways. Not so. We got halfway to the barn when Dot suddenly realized she lost her babies and started running back. Luckily she was stopped by my mother with the bucket of feed and led back to the barn. I locked her in there like I had thought to do the night she ran off with food, water, and her babies.

The two little piglets left are spunky little things days old and already rooting around. They are named “Digger” and “Ditch.”Image

A boy and girl. The boy is wide and thick framed, growing especially fast since he gets all the teats he can reach. The girl isn’t quite fast enough and he sometimes steals milk from “her” 2 teats. She’s pretty feisty and when he tries to wrestle she doesn’t give up. I was worried they weren’t getting enough milk the first day, but they didn’t want none of that cow milk…luckily mom started producing right away.



Two weeks later they are happy and healthy, twice the size of when I first found them. Pregnancy has done Dot well: she is happier and calmer than she was when younger. Today I introduced the piglets to the rest of the pigs and am hoping to breed Dot back as soon as possible. I’m thinking with only 2 piglets she should start cycling again soon.

I didn’t update this blog for a while since I was embarassed. Embarassed that I lost so many, embarrassed that along with Rosies failing to farrow, I’ve wasted money and time on the pigs with nothing more to show than two piglets. I had hoped Dot would have more piglets and make up for Rosie, but now I just have to be happy than I got two piglets out of a gilt at an age when they are usually just getting bred. I mean, 9 months old and farrowing unassisted with two piglets to show for isn’t bad. Supposin’ this is a long enough post. Thanks for stickin’ around!


And Shes Off!

I had hoped to attend the birth…but I guess Dot was like a regular old sow and just wanted privacy. She ambled off into the woods. I have a general Idea of where she is, so *IF* I feel the need to check in on her I can probably find her. I’ll wait ’til morning to take a look-see.

Hopefully everything goes well and I don’t find her with a breech and everyone behind the breech dead…worst case senario. Most likely not…shes a good size now. Other “worst case” is if she freaks out like Rosie did and don’t let them nurse. She probably won’t. But, ug, I’m worried now. Helichopter farmer…thats what I am.


But I’ll trust nature. If she felt the need to be alone, then she needs to be alone. If she needed me around she’d have kept me around. She did talk to her momma through the fence, I think momma encouraged her and was trying to discourage me from bothering Dot.

All is and will be well. Nature knows whats best

Still Waiting

We went from this a few weeks ago:


To this:


To this: even bigger, but still no piglets!



So she’s dropped and filling with milk but….no nesting or anything. Oh, but they are in there. I can SEE them moving around inside her. And she can feel it. Right now I think thats why shes so uncomfortable: a multitude of piglets bouncing around inside of her.

Rosie showed a few signs, was huffing and puffing one morning, taking tiny pees and tiny poops no desire for breakfast and…..nothing. I came home and she was all perky and waiting for dinner. A few days later she got busy with the little boar. *sigh* so…she’s probably gonna turn into sausage or something….The ex stipulated she can’t be slaughtered so I gotta figure out what to do with her. Stupid being honorable/honest.  I suspect she has ovarian cysts because she was bred later than normal (2 years rather than 6 months) and spent much of her live overweight. But…then again she did get beat up by the ram who is probably gonna turn into sausage.

So we are still waiting for the piglets. I broke down and built a little piglet space thats warm and draft free that can sit in the hoop house if she farrows  on a cold night.  Momma thought it was a back scratchier for her. It was nice and pretty (used left over painted props from the music video) but now its got a big muddy body print of Dot on it.


With all Dots unhappy feelings she tried to curl up in my lap…but 400 lbs of pork in my lap is a bit much.


For her sake (and the sake of my lap) I do hope this is over soon!