Sunday, October 2, 2016


I'm heading to the barn in the middle of the night to check on our sow Rosy who was leaking milk at supper time; a sure sign that piglets are soon to be delivered.  It's 4:30 am and my third time making the walk in the dark.  Although I remembered the flashlight before, I know the way and aim for the light colored earth that signifies the road to the barn.  I step smack dab in the middle of a cow pie.   Ha.  I didn't think about those.   Rain begins to fall upon my head.  Nice.   This is our first rain of fall, a welcome treat.  The earth starts to waft it's sweet, musky aroma.    It no longer seems like an inconvenience to check on her.  It's a blessing.

There are no piglets yet and Rosy is still piling straw on her nest.  She is gathering it up from her whole pen, mouthful by mouthful.  She periodically pauses to pant.  I head back to bed.  It looks like piglets won't be here until dawn as a sow will lay down and kind of go into a trance before they start popping out.

At 7 am she has one piglet and she's agitated and thrashing about.  So much for the trance. She squishes the piglet for a second and I decide to pick it up and keep it in a box with a heat lamp until she calms down.  In the past we've let her farrow on her own, but it hasn't worked out to well.  Rosy is notorious for squishing her young, especially in labor.  She is a big sow and too fat, which is my fault.  I think I've been feeding her too much. 

It's 2:39 pm now and she's had nine piglets.  It's been a long labor.  I smell like blood and pig poop.  I've had only protein bars and coffee.   We think she's done, as quite a lot of placenta came out in the last 2.5 hours, but we are unsure if all of both placentas came out.  Sows can deliver one placenta then have a piglet from the other horn before they deliver the second placenta.  Or so I've read. Her contractions were very weak with the placenta delivery and we gave her an injection of oxytocin to make sure she passed it all.  Usually it's easy to see both placentas.  She's settling down now so we think she is finally done. 

 We had to work to keep her from squishing the piglets during her labor.   We would scoop them up when she got agitated with a contraction and put them in their box. (We see why she squished them during previous deliveries.) When  she settled down we'd place them back on the nipples.  They all look good, even the ninth one who Mark named Gasper. He came out short on oxygen because his umbilical cord disconnected before he was delivered. He got some shaking, rubbing and even some mouth to mouth resuscitation and after about an hour he finally latched on to a nipple.  We didn't think the little bugger was going to make it. 

Daisy, our young sow, delivered her first litter of 10 piglets a little over two weeks ago.  Textbook perfect delivery and she is a fantastic mom.  She has not squished a single piglet. Here she is sleeping in the barn, because it's still sprinkling outside.  She and her piglets are free roamers now, no longer in the nursery pen, but they are still staying pretty close to home. 

It's common for sows uncrated to accidentally roll over on their teeny, tiny newborns. Crating is a common practice in swine husbandry, but it doesn't allow a sow to make a nest or be able to turn around.  We've never used one as it seems unnatural. Daisy is super careful, but unfortunately Rosy isn't, so I'm on barn duty for the rest of the day.  As the piglets get stronger it will be safer for them.  She hasn't had any noticeable contractions for a while, so I think nine piglets is it.  I just hope she still has nine in the morning. I kinda doubt it, but we'll see. 

I guess I will go back to reading my book and listening to a light rain fall on this old barn roof.  Bliss , albeit tired bliss. 


  1. You are one special midwife. Poetic, if messy. Well done good and faithful servant.

  2. Barn duty doesn't sound too bad to me if you get to read in-between times. Those little buggers sure grow fast; what a difference in the sizes of the two week old ones and the new ones. What a great feeling it must be to see them start their lives. Is this a normal time of year for farrowing? I know nothing about pigs - except they are ultra smart.
    Bionic Cowgirl

  3. I don't think there is a season for farrowing. We only do two a year, fall and spring. Commercial swine farms really push them and often wean piglets at two weeks so they can breed the sow again. Check it out online, it's a bit brutal to me. But that's why commercial pork is cheap.


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