Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making Up For Lost Time


Little Red was supposed to have piglets, along with Spot and Scar, in early August.  Despite her svelte shape at the time (after all, she hardly showed with her first pregnancy -- we thought she was still 3 weeks out on March 1 and then suddenly she was giving milk), we dutifully frittered her away into a spacious and private farrowing stall on July 27th.  In the neighboring stalls, Spot and Scar had their litters right on time. Little Red politely greeted us, piglet-less, with confused grunts every time we went in to poke and prod and otherwise hunt for signs of imminent new life.

One of Spot's or Scar's August piglets today.
On such a mission one day, the boar next door was making quite a commotion.  He appeared to be trying to dig through the concrete floor to burrow into Little Red's stall.  Odder still, Little Red seemed to be trying to shove her body through a small hole in the wood to get to him.  So we took down the temporary wall that had separated them to see what would happen.

Now, according to popular hog knowledge, a female pig will only entertain a boar's advances if she is in heat, and she would not be in heat if she were pregnant.*  The second the wall was down, it was clear that she was interested in the boar's advances; meaning that she was not pregnant.

How many can you see?  Not enough... 





We are not sure why she eschewed having August piglets.  The heat in July or the stress of moving her from the far pasture to the barn may have caused a miscarriage, or she might never have recovered enough from nursing her last litter (and then competing with the larger Spot and Scar for food throughout the summer) to get fertile again.

Anyway, in the last two months, we have watched Little Red turn from the smallest sow on the farm into a gentle, russet-colored sphere.  She definitely had something in her belly.  However, we weren't sure if it was actual piglets or just a lot of grain now that Spot and Scar (still nursing piglets in the barn) were out of the picture, or a combination of both.

Well, today we learned that it was mostly piglets.  When the Big Man checked at midnight, it was clear that something was happening.  A calm Little Red and nine piglets at 2 AM made him think she was finished.  But this morning, FOURTEEN piglets greeted him at chore time.

That is a new farm record -- by a lot.  Her first litter was nine.  Spot's first was seven and her August batch was also seven.  Scar had eight for her first litter and six born alive in August.  Now, the heat can account for their small numbers in August, and the March piglets were First Litters for all of the young sows, but fourteen is a more than respectable number any way you parse it.

LR; pile of piglets.
 It will be interesting to see how many she can keep alive.  We have a heat lamp set up, and they already know how to use it, but fourteen is a fairly big burden on a sow (with only fourteen teats...whereas humans usually have two for each baby and cows have four for one or two calves), and there is already one 'let who seems a little small, tired, cold, and generally uninterested in moving.

Little Red and Tiny Reds


*We are still trying to figure out if this is true. We have no clue.  The internets/books seem to think it is so, but we are skeptical because of our logic skills.





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