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Posted 10/27/2012 4:30pm by Monique Russ.

Tinks first delivery

Tinkerbelle (Tinks) had her babies on Monday. YEA!! She delivered on day 117 which is right on target for a Berkshire. She started active labor around 9:45pm and finished just after 3am. It was a long and exhausting night! While it’s exciting now it was quite stressful for a little while because it was an awfully difficult delivery for her. If we hadn’t been there observing she could have certainly died had we not intervened and provided assistance. (This is why we are always present during farrowing .)

She had a normal pre-labor, but after about 20 minutes of active labor I knew something wasn’t right because she was grunting in pain, and there didn’t seem to be any progress. Long story short – it turns out somehow the first baby had opened its mouth in the birth canal and its bottom jaw was trapped behind her anus and Tinks wasn’t able to get the baby out. It was obvious she was in great pain and distress and that she needed help. I had just put my O.B. gloves on when I saw this little nose trying to come out, and when I reached in to grab it I only felt the top portion of its mouth and I panicked. Thankfully my husband didn’t hesitate and jumped right in and provided the assistance that was needed. (Unfortunately this little baby died later, and I bawled my fool head off.)

The rest of the delivery wasn’t easy on Tinks, and we had to provide birthing assistance to several other babies as well. That first baby badly tore her and she was so exhausted she was having difficulty pushing the rest of her babies out. It was an awful delivery – the worst one we’ve experienced – and it’s upsetting her first delivery was so rough on her. I have no doubt that she could have quite possibly died during delivery because of the severity of the situation, but I’m happy to report that she is healing well and her and her babies are doing great.

Tinks delivered a total of 10 babies, and 9 survived the delivery, and I have no doubt she will raise all of them successfully to weaning age. Some sows “savage” or turn on their young. In most instances it’s the first born that is killed. Typically a sow savages because of fear, anxiety, pain, distress, or a combo of all of these, and some believe this “trait” can actually be passed on genetically. We haven’t had a sow that has turned on her young, but one of our sows, Pig Pig, is pretty rough on her first born pigs. (In her defense she’s only rough when they start climbing on her face while she’s still delivering. I don’t know about you, but that would irritate me too.) Tinks on the other hand seems to be gentler, and she actively kisses and nuzzles her pigs. We knew she was going to be a good momma, but she has proven to be an outstanding mother. We’ve never seen a sow walk so softly or maneuver so carefully around her young. She is very aware of where they are, she’s very vocal and affectionate, and a couple of days ago we saw her trying to play with them. We laughed so hard watching her! She would spin around, bark and then quickly drop to the ground, so she didn’t actually knock a baby down. I didn’t get a video of that, but I did get some cute pics…Tinks nursing her first litterTinks' first litter

Posted 10/17/2012 4:44pm by Monique Russ.

TinksTinkerbelle (Tinks) is about to farrow her very first litter later this week!!! Yea!

Pigs gestate for 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days - almost always on the nose. The average gestation period is 113-116 days with purebred Berkshires being right around 116 days. (Miss Pig Pig who is only 1/2 Berkshire farrows on day 116 every time and she's always farrowed during the day - typically right around 4:30pm.) Since Tinks is our first purebred Berkshire we're assuming she'll deliver on day 116 too which will be this Sunday.

We've learned that our sows like company during farrowing - especially when it's their first time. Who doesn't want reassurance during their first delivery? They like it quiet, and they like knowing someone's there. I'm assuming they find it comforting just like most people do because they don't know what to expect. They know they're going to have babies - but I'm sure just like any first time mom they're a little nervous. Tinks seems to be a little needy, and for the past few days has been wanting more and more attention, so beginning tonight I'll spend an hour or two a night with her just hanging out. I enjoy it, and like I said, it's comforting for them.

We like to be there just in case the sow needs some birthing assistance too. Sometimes they get so nervous or they're in so much pain from the contractions and delivering so many babies that they are agitated way more than usual (who wouldn't be!?), so they can be a little rough with the first couple of babies. New mothers sometimes aren't as aware as more seasoned sows, so the chance is higher for a baby pig to get hurt too. For example, Miss Pig Pig doesn't like it when they climb on her snout while she's still delivering, so she's been known to fling them off. By being there we can help to monitor the sows health, assist in difficult deliveries, and keep the sow more comfortable by helping to "babysit" if needed. I also get a little radical and go so far as to keep the sow's backside clean by periodically washing them (if there's time) and I'm also diligent about keeping the stall as clean as possible too. (Once the delivery mess dries on a sow it's near impossible to get them clean, so it helps make my job easier, and so far they all seem to appreciate it.)

Some people bed down their sows at night and never check on them again until morning, but that's not how we operate our farm. We believe it's important for us to be there whenever possible especially for a first time mom, so we'll start checking in on her at night beginning tomorrow night if she's showing signs. With my luck she'll be a nighttime farrower like one of our other sows, and I'll walk out at 2am to find she's already delivering. It can take several hours for them to deliver all their babies, so that's a night without sleep. Huge bummer! I can't help but get excited when babies are coming because they're just so dang cute and fun to be around.

Check back for updates!!

Posted 9/23/2012 4:51pm by Monique Russ.

Me & Pig Pig'

Miss Pig Pig farrowed (delivered) 13 live babies this past Saturday. YEA! This is her biggest litter yet! Last time she farrowed 10, and that delivery was a little tougher for her as two babies were stuck in the canal together.

Yesterday evening we noticed one of the baby pigs went missing, and we quickly discovered that one died. We are assuming that it was accidentally smothered by Pig Pig becasue it was covered with straw. My first reaction was to get mad at her for being so careless, but then I reminded myself that she really is a good mom, and this is only her second loss. Baby pigs like to snuggle right up against their moms, and she's a big girl weighing roughly 650 lbs and with her udders so full of milk it takes a little momentum to get up.

Now Pig Pig isn't as delicate with her piglets as her mom was, but she's still an excellent mother. She always warns her babies before she gets up with a soft grunt or a movement, but since we don't confine our sows to farrowing crates it can result in a loss of a baby pig ocassionally. We would rather endure the risk of losing a baby pig than confine our sows because farrowing crates are awful. I'm going to do another post on the use of farrowing crates at a later date, but to summarize it, the use of crates is a hideous practice.

Momma and babies are all doing great, and soon they'll be out running around.

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