While the media pundits speculate and discuss the disintegration of the globe’s finances which now appear to have been built entirely on promises and IOU’s we have much more pressing matters here on the farm.
What we deal with on the farm on a day to day basis, and by this I mean every single day of the year, is tangible assets. You can see them, touch them and usually know approximately their worth. Growing crops, or failing crops, livestock or deadstock, it is basic and simple.
This morning a gilt [young female pig] has had her first piglets, by their lack of size we think they are premature. There was no sign last night that their birthday was imminent and because we bought this gilt already in-pig, we did not know the exact day of service. Usual gestation for a pig is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Yesterday she had just started to bag up in the udder area but not as much as a pig usually does before they are due and I certainly could not draw any milk off her last night which is a usual sign of birth within 24 hours.
The gilt produced five piglets. Two were dead and buried right under the straw, perhaps she laid on them as she was birthing. On examining them closely there was no sign they had even drawn their first breath, one would have been the biggest of the litter and the other was a small one. Three more remain alive, 2 small ones and one very small, a runt. We have not even determined the sex yet as if we try pick them up they squeal loudly and this upsets the mother, who is already struggling to cope with her change in circumstances.
The piglets have not yet sucked their mother and it is vital that they receive the colostrums [first milk with antibodies] within the first six hours of life. I have managed to milk out a very small amount from the pig and syringe it into the piglets. It is so much harder trying to milk a pig than a sheep or a cow, perhaps a human breast pump would be easier? I syringed ten millilitres [two teaspoons] into the bigger two, and less for the smaller one, it was all I could milk out of her the first time. It gave them a new lease of life and two then tried to suckle. I managed to get one latched on for a few moments but then the squealing started as it got totally over excited about drinking, as all newborn animals do, so then the gilt got up and round and round the stable we went.
It is not at all easy, and actually quite dangerous for us, although she is lovely pig and very friendly the maternal instinct can kick in at any second and she could turn on us. She must weigh at least 130kg and could knock and pin us to the ground if she wanted to.
I must go and try to feed them again, they need to feed every 1 – 2 hours in their first days. Hopefully Jethro will be back soon from checking all the other animals and guiding large tractors and machines down narrow lanes as still the drilling and cultivations for next year’s still continue non-stop, 250 acres still to go.