I once read that if you call a baby pig a piglet, it shows you are not a serious pig farmer. And you know what, I am fine with that. Because we have the cutest PIGLETS EVER!
I have always loved piglets. They are just so darn cute! I did an internship at the Houston SPCA and we had a litter of piglets dropped off. I couldn’t help myself and I went into the pen with them. My supervisor came in yelling, “What are you DOING?!” I said, “They’re just too cute, I had to!” “NO!!!”, he screamed, “they have mange!!!” Truth be told, I only got out of the pen because I knew he wanted me to. Seriously, they were that cute. And now that we have piglets, I am not much better.
Like most birthing I am a part of, I am a wreck. We got Gertie’s house set-up the day before she farrowed. We had plans of building a fancy house, but ended up backing the trailer up to the fence, setting down a mat and straw, building a roll bar so the babies can get away from momma, and letting her in. She went in surprisingly easy, had been talking to Flossie in a strange voice all day, and kept rubbing on my leg, so I knew she was close.
The next morning she farrowed. Thankfully, we had a 5 am knock on the door that the cows were out. Once the cows were back in, we went to check on Gertie and there was one stillborn and one live pig. We waited and waited but nothing was happening and there was no afterbirth. Luckily, I had a neighbor with some oxytocin and 30 minutes after the injection, out shot two more piglets. It was a small litter, but all were healthy. There were two girls, Solamente and Corky, and one boy Shooter. Solamente, because we thought she was the only one; Corky because she was the one blocking the way; and Shooter because he literally shot out. The afterbirth came soon after, and Gertie quickly cleaned everything up. Contrary to popular belief, pigs are very clean and keep a very tidy house.
Once everyone was settled in and nursing, it was time for me to do my thing…sit and watch. When we have a new baby, the whole day, if not two or three days, is shot for me. I doubt I will be any different witnessing my 100th birth. It’s just a magical experience to watch momma and baby figure it out together. And it’s when I get to learn. With the piglets tucked in the straw, Gertie decided to cool off in the wallow. When she came back in, the piglets scrambled to nurse and were covered in mud. My first thought was, “is that ok?”, but figured she knew best. And sure enough she did. Piglets who are not exposed to enough dirt, may need iron shots. Gertie was making sure that was not needed. And from then on, instead of pink piggies, we had dirt balls. Which is as it should be.
Gertie was a great mom. She was protective of them with us, but not to where we thought she would hurt us. With each day, we could handle them more with her present. And Flossie was a terrific auntie. You hear about a momma pig or another sow eating babies, and I was so afraid of that with Flossie. But she took to them like they were her own. And since we think she lost all of hers during the Great Pig Caper, her gentleness towards them was a huge relief. We separated the pen so each sow had a side, but the wire was high enough for the babies to go under. And a lot of their time was spent with Auntie Flossie in her house. They would go to momma to eat, then go back to Auntie.
You will notice in the photos their ears are notched. We do not like this practice, but in order to register them, they must be notched. This helps to keep track of the breed numbers and assure they are not crossed with another breed. Since Tamworths are considered “threatened” by The Livestock Conservancy, keeping the breed lines pure until their removal is one of our goals. It also helps us to identify a pig easier and keep track of any treatment or injuries a certain pig may have recieved. We ear notch at 2 days so they can get enough colostrum to help with healing, but are still young enough that there is little blood flow to the ears.
They have been doing well on pasture; learning what to and not to eat. Pasture time is a bit more play time for them. Lots of room for piglets to run and play chase. Acorns are starting to fall and soon everyone will be in the woods putting on some winter weight.