Sunday, February 22, 2009

The red-and-black pig pregnancy

The red n black pig falling asleep on a pile of hay

I talked about possibly putting red n black in a farrowing crate to see if I got better piglet survival, but realized there was a step that I could try before a farrowing crate. What I did was construct a stall out of T posts and hog panels under the roof of my hay barn. It's not heated, but does give her protection from rain. I bedded the stall with hay, and built it around a half of a supersack of food. The pigs like playing with fabric, tarps being a particular favorite, so I figured that the supersack of food would provide her with some entertainment as well as allowing her to eat as much as possible.

When a sow farrows, each piglet is the size of a 12 oz can of coke, and weighs about the same. The more piglets the sow has, the less each piglet weighs. Sometimes when you get a litter, you'll get 5 big piglets, and 7 smaller ones. The bigger ones tend to survive better. I don't know why there's a variation in size -- different mating, maybe? The boar will mount a sow several times to impregnate her.

She's laying with her rear legs tucked in under her, and her front legs out in front. Sort of a how a dog will lay down. This is the position that they give birth in -- I'm figuring its close, but I've been thinking that for a week now.

After a sow gives birth, she delivers a large afterbirth, which she'll usually eat, so I don't have to deal with it. Just the birth alone will cause her to lose 50-75lbs of weight, both tissue and fluid. After that, as the piglets suckle on her, she'll lose another 100lbs. Talk about diet plans!

To reduce stress on her, and to give her some shelter from breezes, I've put plywood up outside the hog panels. If I put it inside she'll chew it up. I've left small openings on all four sides so she can look out if she chooses to, but she's not really interested in what's going on outside. Her friends have all come to visit. The white faced pig, and a little black and white pig from a previous litter come and look at her and grunt at her, and she grunts back. The boar has also been over a couple of times, and yesterday morning when I looked in on her, the boar was sleeping beside her, having pushed the hog panel in so that he was touching her through it.
You can flip a sow over with one finger, which is what I did to get this photo. All you have to do is gently rub her nipples. She'll groan and wiggle and eventually turn over to allow you to pet both rows of nipples. Notice where her feet are. If she were to walk her belly would be brushing the ground. At this very late stage in pregnancy you can see the piglets moving around inside her belly.
Here you can see the cleavage between the two rows of teats. They're not producing milk today, which is a pretty reliable indicator of less than 24 hours left to go, but I can't imagine her getting any bigger. She's HUGE.
Here's big mamma, who's' the next sow that's going to give birth. She's a bigger pig in all respects, so even though she's pretty pregnant she's still got good ground clearance. Big mamma is about a foot longer and 6" taller than red n black. Both are adults.

She's "bagged out", which means her breasts are engorged and getting ready to produce milk, but she's still a week or more out before she gives birth.

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