Monday, November 7, 2011

Inside-out Sow

My camera is broken.  This is actually fairly lucky for you, readers, because this past weekend we had a notably unattractive health scare with one of our sows: a prolapsed rectum.

Anal prolapse gathers like dark clouds on the horizon...

Situations like that this generally incite a googling frenzy on my part, a frenzy that always results in a feeling of utter disappointment at the lack of DIY vet resources there are out there for the small farmer.  This is exacerbated substantially by the lack of actual vets who deal with livestock, on farm, at all.  Around us there are a few who deal with cows.  Pigs however...while I'm sure there must be someone, he/she is awfully hard to find.

Not to mention that these days, cost margins are so thin that it would take something exceptional for us to even consider calling a vet out to look at our animals.  One $100 vet visit, and we would lose our entire profit on a 250-pound meat pig, or have to take a loss on a litter of piglets.  The only instances I can see it being justifiable are if there is an outbreak of a disease that threatens the herd, or if one of our best sows, perhaps when pregnant, is afflicted with something that would be an easy fix for a vet but is an utter impossibility for us.

Scar, and friends, before the incident.

This is a real shame.  I was recently visiting my family in Ohio, and while staying in my childhood bedroom I rediscovered the joys of All Creatures Great and Small by my man (and subconscious inspiration?) James Herriot.  He was a country vet in the 1930s, a time when the practice was just  beginning to move from primarily serving farmers and their livestock to servicing the dogs, cats and other house pets of the town-folk.  Reading it this time was different, because now I actually do know what it was like to be up in the middle of the night in 0 degree weather with a hand up the birth canal of a struggling mother-to-be and all the frustration/amazement/terror/exhausting delight that comes with it when the little ones inexplicably arrive alive, somehow knowing to head straight toward the warmth and nourishment of the teat within seconds of being born.

Little ones, growing.

Anyway.  Scar had a prolapsed rectum.  This is an ugly condition wherein what should remain inside (the rectal tissue) is suddenly outside (expelled through the anus).  It can be just a bit of material, or a heaping lot.  Luckily for us, it was just a bit, and equally lucky for us, the Big Man caught it fast.  One of the bigger dangers of a prolapse is that the tissue get caught on something (such as inquiring mouths, or barbed wire, or twigs, or...anything, really) and get cut.  According to google, the causes range from hormones to indigestion to an, er, rough, encounter with the boar, to a million other things.  It seems to be fairly rare in sows and more of a problem among young male grower pigs.  The suggested treatment involved sedating the animal, gently pushing what should be inside back to the inside, and stitching up whatever hole it came out of with a purse-string-suture-type stitch.  Or, separating the animal from its curious friends, and crossing ones fingers that would work out.

Luckily, this time, that's exactly what happened.  A few hours on her lonesome, and Scar was as good as new.  I kept her in for an extra day to make sure that everything was working its way through alright, and returned her to the general population yesterday afternoon.  She's doing great.

Missy in the foreground, and an increasingly spherical Little Red (now, amazingly, our largest sow...this time hopefully because she's full of babies) in the rear.
But next time, it might not work itself out so well, and that's made me want to redouble my efforts to become an amateur vet.  Anesthesia is now on my 'Controlled Substances to Buy' list.  And I will be practicing some purse-string sutures on some unsuspecting fabric this winter, just in case.

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