It happened. We had our first baby pigs born at the farm. When we first got our gilts, we knew that some of them were pregnant and that they were about two and a half months away from farrowing. In my mind, it would be this picture perfect plan where we would finish building their farrowing pen in the new rotational pasture systemÂ then move the gilts in there and they would magically all drop their litters in sync. That is not what happened. That’s not what happened at all! That’s actually the complete opposite of what happened. Here is the story of our first farrowing.
About two weeks ago we noticed that one of our gilts was looking super pregnant… she’s showing! How cute. Her belly was hanging really low, teats were looking full and cupped, waddling around the pasture but still very content. We even set up a baby pool on our facebook page!Â So since it looked like she was getting close, Dave made plans to pick up our Port-A-Hut farrowing huts.Â We needed a lot of them so shipping was not really a financial option for us. The factory is located in Eastern Iowa, a mere nine hours away! And because Dave and our buddy John are hardcore-down-to-do-some-crazy-shit types of dudes, they decided to rent a trailer and drive 9 hours there and 9 hours back. And off they went!
The night they left, I gave the pigs their special late night dinner treat; a mixture of leftover produce from our local corner produce stand, Richard’s Produce. And then off to bed I went. The next morning, I started my normal routine (cue normal everyday light and happy instrumental music a la Leave It To Beaver); pet the dog, make my coffee, feed and water the ducklings in the living room. Then head out towards the chicken coops to feed and water them and collect eggs into my hoodie pockets as I go. Next it’s off toward to goat barn to say hello to my little girls (Babs and Lucy) and my big girls (Judy and Liza). Now onto visit Piggy Azalea. Totally forgot to make her bottle so as a consolation I’ll help her scratch that itch behind her ear and in return get to listen to that adorable little oink/grunty thing she does, then it’s up to the walk-in to grab some fodder to give to the big pigs. As I’m flinging the fodder over the fence I happen to look up toward their pen and see some little tiny black thing squirming around. Oh shit! I think that’s what I think it is! (Cue “Miracle of Miracles” from Fiddler on the Roof)
I immediately took off towards the barn, freshly laid chicken eggs flying from my hoodie pockets. Once I got up to the barn I saw seven beautiful baby piglets just chillin’ in the straw and two gilts on the other side of the pen. I called Dave (who is still in Iowa) and frantically screamed into the phone “We have babies! There’s babies in there! What do I do?!” Obviously,Â I was not expecting my morning to start like this, nor was I prepared.
First things first, I had to get momma and the babies isolated into the pen but as soon as I went into the pen, the two gilts ran out. Great. At least I have the babies isolated in there. My immediate thought was that maybe the first time mom abandoned her babies and I’ll have to bottle feed ALL of them. I half hated/half loved the thought of that. Quickly thinking, I threw out a bag of feed for everyone, hopingÂ that the mom would stay behind and be with her babies. WRONG! Everyone was patiently waiting their breakfast. While they were eating, I grabbed a fresh bale of straw to put in the pen to keep the babies warm until I figured out this momma mia situation. But first, I had to pet those babies. And they were adorable and so soft. Just a few hours old and so perfect.
It’s hard to recognize a lot of our pigs individually except for a few that have some distinguishing marks or different colored ear tags so I always knew which one was Hamjelina because she was “the really pregnant one.” Well, since she just gave birth to seven babies a few hours ago, she didn’t have that extra roundness in her figureÂ to distinguish her from the others. So… I just went down the line to look at everyone’s lady parts. Also not how I thought my morning was going to go. But eventually Hamjelina separated herself from the buffet line and made her way back into the pen. She checked on the babies, found the placenta and started eating it. Yes! She’s the mom! Awesome! And gross! But awesome! Nothing like drinking your morning coffee while watching a gilt eat her placenta.
After she finished her breakfast,Â she made a little nest for herself in the fresh straw, laid down and started nursing her babies. Success!! While she was busy, I made sure her nursery pen was all set up for her. Nipple waterers were hooked up and working properly for mom, a tub of feed readily available and some butternut squash and kale from the garden. Apparently greens are very good for nursing mothers because they have lots of iron which is not only good for the gilts/sows but also beneficial for their milk and therefore the babies.
And then after a while I just watched them. And watched. And watched some more. Our very first farrowing was a success and we weren’t even there for it… or did anything. At all. I can’t believe she did everything on her own and with all of the other pigs around too! She must have done a good job protecting and defending herself while she was in labor. What an amazing, unexpected and lovely morning it was… full of fresh babies, placenta, lady parts and egg yolks all along the driveway.
But then later that afternoon I got a call from Dave telling me that something was wrong with the truck and long story short, the trailer with all of the new farrowing huts had to be left in the middle of Small Town, Iowa (not a real place but that would be great to live in a place that’s actually called “Small Town”) and that he would be driving home only to drop off the truck at the mechanic (our buddies at Freedom Automotive) then borrow another truck to drive BACK up to Iowa and pick up the rented trailer. Not such a red letter day for Dave. Equally frustrating is that this was not part of the birthing plan. Babies are not supposed to be born in the temporary pasture! We’re just crossing our fingers that no other gilts will decide to farrow before we have their individual huts all set up in the big girl pasture. But on the brightside, the port-a-hut farrowing huts will be here tomorrow afternoon and probably installed in the next few days. And it’s hard to be upset when there’s miracles happening right outside your door. I’ll just tell these other girls to hold their lady parts together until farmer Dave is done with their proper pens. I’m sure they’ll listen to reason.
And just for the hell of it, here’s a whole bunch of cute baby pictures.