Monday, September 7, 2015

What?! No Piglets?

Seems like we learn something new with each new litter.

Miss Pinky Pie went through her pregnancy just fine. She created her nest, her water broke, labor began... but she had NO piglets!
Not even days later.
Not even dead ones.
There was a slight brownish discharge at one point, but that was all. She acted like she was all done with the whole thing, and a week later she came back into heat.

Weirdest thing we'd ever been through. What the heck had happened??

At first it seemed like it might have been caused by Porcine Parvo Virus, but thank goodness it wasn't that! The symptoms didn't quite fit for this common disease. Most piggeries worldwide, large and small, have exposure to Porcine Parvo - think of it like chicken pox (before we all got so freaked out by this common childhood virus) : you get it, you're done and most likely have lifetime immunity. If she had contracted this disease for the first time right after she was bred, either impregnation wouldn't have happened, or there would have been dead piglets at various stages of development. So, not Parvo - what then?

One telling clue was that her milk never did come in, so something hormonal must have been off. Once we started looking into various causes of false pregnancy in pigs, it became clear that the length of her cycle being a week longer than normal was another clue.

That's when things started lining up that it was "F2 Toxin Fungal Poisoning" that caused her to lose the litter in vitro. This F2 toxin is actually Zearalenone which is produced by Fusarium Graminearum, a fungus which is commonly found on grains worldwide: wheat, barley, rice, corn, etc, as well as soybeans. Again, this fungus is one of those things that's just out there, worldwide, all the time.

Normally, the presence of Fusarium isn't going to be too much of a problem. It's unavoidable, anyway. But when we ferment our grains overnight (to break down the phytic acid and thus make more of the nutrition available), it allows the fungus to proliferate which of course increases the amount of Zearalenone toxin.

Zearalenone toxin acts as a megadose of estrogen. (In fact, it is used in the treatment of breast cancer and hormone replacement therapies in humans.) Which explains Miss Pinky Pie's symptoms: longer cycles, false pregnancy to term but with no piglets and no milk production. It's interesting to note that, since we've been feeding this same mix to Mr Red, our young uncut male, it explains his lack of libido, so much so that he doesn't even notice when the sow in the next pen is in heat!

Using Korean Natural Farming inputs (IMO4, LAB, and OHN) during fermentation seems to have some kind of counter-balancing effect, either by introducing enough good bacteria that it overpowers the harmful Fusarium... or perhaps the good stuff actually breaks down the Zearalenone. Without expensive laboratory testing, we cannot know for sure just what is happening, but it sure seems to do the trick. We will definitely be adding these inputs every single time in future.

We had planned on keeping a couple of the gilts from this litter to continue our breeding program and the bloodlines we'd been working on since beginning our piggery... but alas, no piglets means the end of an era for us.

Mr Red was raised to fill our freezer. Now Miss Pinky Pie will join him. (This was her second chance; remember When Mama Sow Rejects Her Piglets? She's just been too hard to work with.) So, we'll get a bit of a break while we reconfigure the pens and prepare to start over with new wean-offs. Oh yes, we will begin again!

Stay tuned - we're not done yet!


volcano gail said...

Glad you're keeping on. For a moment there with the end of the era I was worried! Aloha!

Sonia said...

This has to be so frustrating and Gail, for a minute there I was worried you would be giving up... Glad you're picking yourself up, dusting off and carrying on!