Friday, June 13, 2014

Loss on a farm can be heartbreaking.

As I look at our previous blog post I see it's been four months since I last wrote something. That four months has just flown by and I wonder where it has gone. So much has happened. Sometimes it just goes by in a blur. 

Roisin with a previous litter.

It is with a sad heart that I write this new post. On April the 25th we lost a very dear member of our animal family. One of our Tamworth Sows Roisin is no longer with us. She was the last of our Tammies to give birth this round and she had a massive prolapse while farrowing. It's a terrible sight to see and one I wouldn't wish on anybody. We have never had this happen before. We were devastated and through our tears we had to come to grips with the situation rapidly. We quickly weighed up whether to keep the surviving piglets. It didn't take us long (a matter of minutes) to say yes we'll try and hand raise them. There were seven piglets alive and we made sure they had time to have some colostrum. We then gathered them up and made a warm bed under a heat lamp in the laundry. The next and very important job was to stop Roisin's suffering, if indeed she was, as I don't really know if she was in pain as there was no signs of it. She was probably in shock. There was no way we could have saved her, believe me if we could've we would have. I said my goodbyes and left, then poor John had the task of putting her down. I know you are suppose to be tough when you are a farmer but as we are getting older we are getting more softer. 

When they were just born.

Sometimes where there is death there is also life, so they say, and consequently it was for us, here in the form of seven little wriggling squirming ginger piglets. We pulled out all stops to try and help save these little guys who had lost their mum. We googled articles on how to hand raise piglets. We found that one of the best milks to feed them was goats milk.  Luckily we live right next door to a goat dairy. So with the help of Mathom Farm we collected goats milk about every third day. We then mixed it with egg yolks, our own untreated honey and a bit of charcoal. We fed them every two hours and watched for signs of diarrhoea and upset tummies etc. They say the first two to three weeks isn't so bad but once you get over that stage it can turn nasty and you can lose them. At about the three week stage we did lose two little ones. They just didn't do so well and died. The five who were left just thrived and now at the seven week stage they are growing in leaps and bounds. They have been moved out into the wood shed next to the house with their heat lamp and straw bed. We have weaned them on to a calf replacer milk powder and I am still adding the egg yolk, honey and a little charcoal. They are still getting their warm milk feed every two hours and we have introduced some grain mix to them as well. The smallest one is still bottle fed and the others now feed out of bowls. They are very demanding and take a bit of time out of the day. 

Getting into mischief inside.

I've hand fed plenty of lambs, calves and even a wallaby over the years but piglets are very different little critters to hand-rear. Even though you are connecting with them while hand feeding, they still don't like being picked up and fidget, wriggle and squeal every time. They follow me around and jump on my lap when I kneel down but don't get over friendly like a calf or a lamb does. They certainly have a mind of their own. They do make you laugh with their antics and if I accidentally leave the door open and they come inside they quickly get into lots of mischief. One of the cutest moments is when they sneak onto our old dog Smudge's bed and lay together in a pig pile with little smiles on their faces. So far so good with these little guys they look like they are going to survive. They are strong, healthy, lively and robust. Only time will tell but I think they will be okay. 

The smallest one is still getting bottle fed.

The others are on bowls now.

RIP Roisin you were a great mum and a gentle soul.