Despite all the preparations, forethought and planning leading up to Esther farrowing there was still a surprise in the works for us.
The theory was that we would move Esther into a stone outbuilding nearer the house a few days before her due date so that we can keep an eye on her more easily. This would also mean she was separated from the 2 meat pigs that have been company for her but were due to go off to the abattoir at about the same time.
Having checked her at breakfast time on the Saturday morning, I was happy that she could be moved into the shed at mealtime that same evening. This would mean the meat pigs could stay in the woods until they were loaded in the trailer on last thing on Sunday or first thing on Monday morning.
Everything was continuing according to the carefully made plans so far…
We got down to the woods to move her at about 4pm and immediately noticed that the 2 meat pigs rushed out to greet us but there was no sign of Esther coming out of her ark. Highly unusual because she’s normally fairly keen on her food and moves quickly even at this late stage of the gestation
As I got closer to her ark the reason became clear, she’d already farrowed 5 piglets and looked to be still in the process of producing more. Luckily she is a very placid mother and happy for us to be around her even during farrowing.
An immediate change of plans was required, I would not be comfortable leaving a sow with new born piglets in the same pen as a couple of mildly boisterous 6 month old boars.
In the end, the 2 boars got some unexpected luxury accommodation in the farrowing shed for a couple of nights and we left Esther where she was. The pig ark was very sheltered and she’d done an excellent job with looking after them so far. There seemed no benefit to disturbing them at that point especially given that we’ve got some very mild weather at the moment
We’ve not had pigs farrowing outdoors before, mainly because we’re fascinated by the whole process and like to feel that we’re helping by being on hand. There have been a few occasions where we’ve managed to save piglets that where weaker when born but that’s not always possible.
It’s just a fact of life (and death) that sometimes an apparently healthy looking piglet will be born very weak or even dead and while it’s never easy to see though but we just do our best to help where we can.
The final outcome for this litter was 3 gilts and a boar – there was another boar that seemed okay at first but sadly he was dead by the next morning.
Most importantly for the surviving piglets, their mother was doing well and soon up on her feet again. It’s obviously tiring for the sow during the farrowing but she worked up quite an appetite after missing her Saturday evening meal due to the early arrivals.
By Sunday morning she was glad of her extra rations and a chance to come out of the pig ark to stretch her legs.