Babies on the farm are usually a springtime thing, yes? This season we’ve had some outliers who saved their deliveries for Fall. Amusingly, the mamas to whom I am referring are named Sweetie and Salty.
Sweetie (and her fella Ollie) came to the farm last Spring. They were from another island homestead who had reached their quota of pig chores and offered us the pair. We’d been buying our piglets from neighboring farms, so having our own breeding pair could be cost effective, despite the learning curve.
Here’s a Fun Farm Fact: a pig’s gestation period is three months, three weeks, and three days (how on earth did they make THAT happen?). In true organizational fashion, we recorded Sweetie's due date on a little piece of paper… somewhere….
Of course we had a general idea of when the piglets would arrive, and figured that Sweetie would start dropping hints. These came in the form of escape. Out of the blue, she started finding ways to pry herself through her gate and would head straight to the barn, grab a 50# sack of feed and shake it like a mere toy until it burst. These escapades, alongside teats clearly beginning to fill with milk, indicated that her time was at hand.
Toby wonders what to do about this escaped pig situation.
A day or two later, we found Sweetie in the midst of labor. She had made herself a nest in her hay, and there were already three tiny piglets. Sweetie’s last litter had been 12 piglets, so we expected somewhere around that many.
Amy showing off one of the first little ones, before there were too many to count.
Then came the dance of giving Sweetie the amount of space she needed to feel she could safely deliver, while wanting to hover like helicopter farm moms (poor Eric was on the ferry for a feed run and missed the whole thing). Here’s another Fun Farm Fact: a sow will expel the piglets’ placenta in two or three sections. So, when there were a dozen piglets and placenta delivered, we thought she was done. But then there was another piglet… and another…. and another. The atmosphere in the stall subtly changed from excitement and laughter to incredulous mystery: HOW MANY piglets were there going to be???
Looks like a lot? This was only half of them!
In the end, Sweetie delivered twenty piglets, one of which was stillborn. Sweetie has 14 teats, so we had a challenge before us. We decided to “split feed” the piglets, which means we separated half of the piglets while the other half got access to the milk bar (or “charging ports”, as Eric calls them). An hour later, we'd swap the groups.
Sadly, we lost a number of piglets over the next days. Each piglet requires a certain amount of colostrum (the nutrient-packed milk that the sow has just after farrowing). With that many piglets, even with supplementing goat colostrum saved from last Spring, we were unable to get everyone up to speed. Sweetie also had a hard time keeping track of everyone, and another true and Much-Less-Fun Farm Fact is that sows often (fatally) lay on piglets.
Now that we are about 10 days in, it looks like everyone has stabilized, and we now have a healthy and still-sizeable brood that alternates between napping in their “red light lounge” and keeping Sweetie busy.
Piglets with the Zoomies!
Introducing Salty, in all her goofy glory.
Then there was Salty. Early last spring we bred a small handful of goats, strictly so we could have some kids in the summer when there are so many visitors. Of the five goats, four of them had healthy twins who melted hearts at our petting zoo all August and September. The fifth goat just never looked or acted pregnant. We called her Salty, due to her amusing habit of treating you like a salt lick. Her favorite thing in the world is when someone visits the farm after hiking Turtleback mountain, sweating and dressed in shorts.
We kept an eye on Salty, and finally at the end of September she started looking a little wider than usual. Early October, she even adopted that pregnant lady waddle. We started calling her the false pregnancy goat, since labor still did not seem imminent. Perhaps she was waiting for us to turn our attention elsewhere for it was when we were sidetracked with piglets and preparing for the predicted turn in weather that she finally decided to kid.
See her way up by the tree?
During morning chores, we noticed Salty wasn’t joining the group. When a pregnant goat separates herself from the herd and sort of gazes off into the middle distance, early labor is underway. Since it was our first day of rain in weeks, we loaded her up into the golf cart (as one does) and moved her to a nice warm corner of the goat barn.
An hour later, a very large (nearly 10 lb.) baby was born. Crystal named him “Nimbus” since it was our first truly cloudy day in a while. Nim for short. As a single big baby, he got all the colostrum he needed and was instantly thriving.
Salty is so excited to have her very own baby to treat as a salt lick as much as she wants.
Thus FINALLY ended the season of babies on the farm. Or so we thought, as the next afternoon Eric sent this text: