Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pigs: Wilma's Second Litter

We were pretty close on our estimation of Wilma's due date. We had been on piglet watch all week. All the signs were there. She was very hungry and thirsty. Her milk sacks were full, and her belly nearly touched the ground when she walked. The day before she delivered, she bit two other pigs that were contesting her supreme rulership of the water barrell. We had predicted that Wilma would deliver the second week of January; she gave us 10 piglets on January 8, 2012.

Piglet Cuddling with Wilma

Wilma is proving to be a fine, solid breeder. Her first litter came in the night while we were home relaxing. Mr. Farmer and Young Master Farmer went to feed and water her and there they were! This second litter came with just as little excitement. She just settled into a corner of the hut and started popping them out, one after another. I watched many of them being born, including a breach that was out and on the ground before I could say, "Oh, no! That's a foot!" The entire process was drama-free and incident free.

The only difficulties came from the remaining pigs from the first litters. They were only mildly curious while Wilma did her thing, and they did not bother her. Still, Mr. Farmer was concerned; so as I watched the little piggies come out one by one in the freezing cold, Mr. Farmer closed off the larger pigs into a separate part of the enclosure. By nightfall, however, they became restless and unhappy. Pigs are social animals and do not like to be separated from one another. So, to keep the peace, he allowed them to be together for the night. He closed in the third side of the hut and put up fence rails on the fourth. He fed and watered Wilma inside her cage, and it seemed to be working well to keep the others out without making them feel separated.

The following morning, one of the rails was down and one of the piglets had a cut on its head from being knocked by it. Wilma had forced her way out (or a younger pig forced its way in). Mr. Farmer repaired the rails and added a door to let Wilma in and out. The younger pigs found there way in anyway (over the rails this time), and sometime over the following night, two piglets were lost. Crushing deaths are not unusual with pigs, but we were pretty upset since we didn't lose any at all from the first two litters in the summer.

Several days later, we had another casualty. One of the piglets had a significant injury. A flap of skin covering a quarter of its belly was hanging loose. We brought it inside to see if we could stitch it up, but the wound was too far healed to sew and appeared to be infected. It could not be saved, so we put it down so that it would not die of starvation or further maiming. That leaves 7 piglets.

The babies are starting to wean now, and all but one of the males have been castrated. They are putting on weight quickly, as they should. And, of course, they are cute...

Piglets Pestering Mamas

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