A passion for piglets

Last spring, we took both Kali and Sienna to visit Boris, the boar. So this fall we were waiting with bated breath for them to give birth.

Sienna was first, and we learnt a lot from that situation – mostly what not to do.

We had thought that in September it would be warm enough for a pig to give birth. That was our first mistake, and it contributed to the rest.

We gave Sienna lots of straw for her and the piglets to burrow into. Sienna is about 300-400 lbs and each piglet would be no more than a pound or two. So the risk of being squashed is there. Usually, piglets are quick enough to get out of the way but if they can’t get traction, like when they are buried in straw, they can’t get away. Another mistake we made was using pallets for her house. Pallets have gaps, and while pigs can’t get out, dogs can peer in through the gaps, which would upset any mother giving birth. If a sow is upset while giving birth, she doesn’t settle and nurse her piglets (there are usually six to 12 in a litter). These piglets are then wandering around to find her and getting underfoot. Not a safe place to be.

On the night Sienna was giving birth, Schwartz was barking a lot. Finally, at 5:30am, I got up to check on everything. On the way to the barnyard, our neighbour’s dog met me. With pigs on my mind, I just let her go.

When I got to Kali and Sienna’s pens, they were both very agitated. There was a piglet that had somehow gotten out of the house, and Sienna couldn’t get it back in. When I picked up the piglet, it let out a squeal and Sienna got even more agitated.

That’s when I started to talk to her. She didn’t like the board I had between us for my safety, so I set it aside and started to scratch her behind her ears. This started to calm her down.

With the piglet back in the house, I tried to assess the situation by flashlight. From what I could see there was only this one piglet, but then the straw moved and another one poked its head out. I started to dig through the straw to see if there were any others and there were. But they hadn’t survived.

It was an hour later when I went back into the house, deflated from the experience. By the afternoon, there was only one piglet surviving. But she was looking well, so I had some hope. Sadly, after another night, she was gone, too.

We realized that it was a combination of cold temperatures and being hassled by dogs that made us lose the litter. So we moved Kali into the barn, where it was warm and she was protected from other animals.

Two weeks later, Kali started to give birth. We were a bit nervous, but she did fine. She was able to settle and nurse her piglets right away. All but one piglet made it through the first night, the rest are thriving.

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