Friday, December 14, 2012

Things We Learned From the Latest Farrowing

First off, a little catch up.

Our piggery currently consists of 5 finished pens housing 18 pigs of various ages. It sounds like a lot, and it certainly is, although 13 of them are new piglets.

Hammy, who weighs in at 180 pounds, will be filling our freezer soon.

His sister, Freckles, is 170 pounds and almost old enough to breed, but we may just sell her instead.

Penelope is our other gilt. She has come into heat once, so she'll likely be bred soon... or we may sell her too. She weighs 245 pounds and is cousin to the other two. She's a little older, and therefor a little bigger than they are. (Sorry, no pic of Penelope at present.)

Big Mama and Spot were both bred last August and just recently they each had their second litters. Recently... as in November 26th and 28th, respectively.

Okay, now for the lessons we learned from this last farrowing.

1. Don't do the AI too early (or too late). We think this is what happened with Spot, as she had only 5 piglets. Seeing that this was her second litter, we expected many more than that. On the other hand, they're sure growing fast without much competition for milk.

2. Don't breed the sows at the same time. It makes for a heck of a lot of work at farrowing time and hardly any sleep for us. Mike says the reason he did it this way was to pay less for the shipping of the semen, and for the potential cross-fostering of the piglets. Unfortunately, because they ended up having their litters 2 days apart, the cross-fostering thing didn't work out. (We tried.) It works best to do this within the first 24 hours or so.

3. NO fresh wood chips. We thought we were doing a favor to prep the pens for birthing by giving them a nice clean layer of fresh chips. WRONG! Warm, wet wood chips that haven't yet been inoculated with IMO's harbor the bacteria that causes mastitis. We learned this the hard way. Both our girls, one after the other, got sick with high fever, inflamed udders, loss of appetite. They just lay in misery, ignoring their piglets because they were so out of it with fever. Mike had to go out to the barn every hour, night and day, to prod them until they rolled over to nurse their piglets. Sadly, Spot lost one of her piglets during this time. Mastitis is serious stuff. We had to give the sows penicillin injections, spray them and their pens with lacto, spread IMO4 all over the bedding like crazy... and in a few days they were back on their feet, eating, and nursing well again - thank goodness!

4. Don't wait too long to assist birthing. I think we could have possibly saved a couple of Big Mama's piglets if we had gone in to assist sooner than we did. She would have had 12, but 2 were born dead. Next time, we won't wait as long.

5. Restrict feed on the due date. Pigs are reliably prompt with their due date. We did give Big Mama less feed that morning, but apparently, it was still too much. Poor Mama was throwing up with every contraction. Since Spot was a couple days later, she benefited from her sister's experience and got less feed on her due date. That seemed to help.

All in all, we are a little disappointed in having only 15 piglets born. Since it was the second litters for these sows, we thought there would be more. But we can see where circumstances may have contributed to the lower birth and survival rates, and will correct them for next time. I should mention, we lost one more piglet to internal injuries due to being stepped on, poor little thing. Thus, there are 13 piglets left to sell at weaning time.

Still, all thirteen piglets are thriving under the excellent attentiveness of their mothers.