Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Tale of Twenty-One Little Piglets

Just too cute.
Yes I know another story about our new piglets but how can I not write about them when they are so cute. It’s more of an excuse to put their photos on here than anything else. This weekend they will be a month old, my goodness how time flies. They are all doing very well and growing fatter every day. Petunia and Pinky are still feeding them and the information about how Wessex Saddlebacks are happy to feed their own and others is very true. The piglets usually go to the right sow to feed but sometimes they will head for the nearest milk bar open for business. You can really see just how much they have grown because now the sows can stand up and feed and the piglets can easily reach the teats. 

Look I can feed while Mum is standing up now.
At around two weeks old we started them on the dry feed the sows eat. This is a lovely mix of grains and Cadburys Chocolate. Yummy!  It didn’t take the piglets long to know that when they see me coming with the blue bucket it means tucker time. Sometimes it’s hard to walk as they crowd around my feet. There are some who love jumping into Mum’s trough to get a good mouthful of food. Mum doesn’t take too kindly to this and sometimes will shove them out of the way with a bunt of her head, which makes the piglet scurry up and over the side of the trough in a great hurry and with lots of squealing. They are also cunning little buggers because when they have finished their food they race on over through the fence to see what’s left at the Tamworths feeding area. 

Out and about with Mum.
They love investigating outside the fenced off pig boundary area, always in a group and at the first sign of something strange they race back with ears flopping and all of them grunting. It’s a very comical sight to watch. Pigs are nature’s bulldozers turning the earth up without effort and these little fellas are no exception. When the creator of all life was handing out noses they sure did a good job with this one. It’s a perfectly positioned and designed piece of equipment and I was amazed at how quickly the piglets put it to good use not many days after they were born. Mud is a great place for bulldozing with the nose. Another funny sight was to see these tiny little ones just a couple of days old having a scratch against a door or wall, a miniature version of the adults. 

Me in the pen with Mum and Babies when only days old.
The Sows have been very good mothers and very careful with the piglets. Before the Sow lies down to sleep or feed them she carefully checks with her snout every area of the bed of hay just to make sure the piglets are not underneath a pile of hay, as they like to burrow under it. Then she carefully bit by bit lays down her body, it’s a great thing to watch. This sort of experience is just one of the many which makes me more enchanted by these wonderful intelligent animals.  When John was talking about having pigs a long time ago I said no way they are smelly dirty animals. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t know much about pigs then only that they looked kind of cute. As soon as we got our Saddlebacks they wormed their way into my heart with their cuteness and funny little ways.  Can’t wait for the Tamworths to have piglets too. Now the Tammies are a little bit different to the Saddlebacks personality wise. They are a very vocal pig and are always ‘talking’ to you and very loud. Sometimes I call them whingers because it sounds like they are complaining about something. They are a lovely pig and love their share of attention too. It will be interesting to see if the Tammies will let us in the pen while they are having their piglets like the Saddlebacks did, they didn’t mind at all. Time will tell.  Next story I promise no piglets.

Proud Dad Fergal.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Piglets return to the paddock.

Observation and experience are great learning tools when raising pigs and I have learnt a lot over the past week. Luckily our inexperience  didn’t cause any problems and we now have twenty-one fat noisy piglets back out in the paddock with their mothers.

Fat and healthy.

We kept the sows and their litters in separate stables for the first three days and then let them return to their paddock to raise their young in peace. They’re all in robust health, having great fun exploring, tiny snouts rooting up the wet ground and meeting the other pigs. Fencing is meaningless, they are small enough to dart through at will but they always seem careful not to stray to far from mum. The other pigs in the adjacent paddock have shown no aggression at all towards the piglets, they all tend to freeze when the piglets get close and don’t move again until the piglets have cleared the area.

Getting into mischief is so tiring.

 I have learnt that either sow will feed any piglet. The first sow to lie down to feed will end up with twenty-one piglets squabbling noisily over the available teats. They are all fat and healthy so none are missing out.  The piglets all managed to double their birth weight in four days and the older litter have gained better than two kilograms in their first week. The two mothers are both eating their way through about nine kilograms of lactating sow feed a day and turning it into milk. Makes a change from two weeks ago when they were increased to one kilogram each a day. 

Too many piglets - not enough teats.

Before our next sows are due I will make some changes to our stables. The individual stables all need access to their own outdoor pen so that the sow and her piglets can roam and forage in a secure environment. At the moment the two maternity stables both open out onto a common area. This time it didn’t cause any problems as the piglets were only a day apart and formed a homogenous group with both sows sharing the feeding. I suspect that if the piglet litters were even two days apart the older piglets would quickly monopolise the available teats and the younger piglets would suffer.

We have one more Wessex Saddleback to farrow quickly followed by the three Tamworth sows. Won't be long and we will have lots more piglets on the ground.