Monday, November 16, 2015

video: Piglet interventions

Had a sow that was having trouble giving birth this afternoon; had 4 piglets live, and 4 stillborn, and was showing signs of distress.  A farrowing crate is good for these situations because you can make sure that the sow can be observed and treated if it's needed; most animals, given a choice, if they are feeling bad, will seek someplace isolated, and that could mean we'd lose the sow and her litter.

I make sure that she had food and water, although when a sow gives birth (farrows) she usually doesn't want to eat or drink for about 24 hours, and then went about doing other chores for a couple of hours, and came back to check on her.  She had delivered another stillborn piglet, and in examining her she had a piglet head that had emerged, but the pig was stuck.  A quick trip to the house for a bucket of warm soapy water, and a good scrub of my hands and a careful finger and I had the piglet out.  Unfortunately it was deceased; probably had its neck constricted, and the sow uttered a visible sigh of relief when I slid it out.  Relaxed immediately.

She's one of the oldest sows I have, and has always been great as a mother; and I'm sorry to see the stillbirths.  It happens with older animals, and I do try a round of vaccinations for illnesses that cause stillbirths but it's likely that she'll be culled after weaning this litter.

Each one of the four live had been put aside in a small warming pen, with a light and a heat pad while I figured out how to get mom to relax, and I carefully scooped each piglet up (and they scream like you're murdering them until you put them down!) and was gratified to see each one find a nipple and latch on.

  This first suckling is very important.  I waited a half hour, listening to the sow sing to her piglets; the deep gutteral grunting that a sow nursing makes, and watched her piglets vigorously push themselves into her stomach, and listened to the rain outside the barn.

There's a fair chance that she has another flight of piglets inside her - pigs give birth in two stages, one side of their reproductive tract, and then the other, usually seperated by a 30 minutes to an hour.  So I'll check on her in an hour or two to see if she's delivered the placenta, or possibly the placenta and another group of piglets.

I position the heat lamp so that it shines on the heat pad, put my hand on the heat pad to make sure that it's on, and warm, and feel the heat of the lamp on the top of my hand too.  Everything looks cosy for the little pigs.

piglets from bruce king   the four piglets I'm writing about in this entry

I walk around to the front of the crate and talk to the sow a little.  She opens her eyes a little,  lost in the nursing state.  she'll stay nearly absolutely still for the next 24 hours.  I scratch her ears and she grunts a little.

Livestock farming is hands-on.

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