Yesterday, the new mother of 10 did not finish her breakfast.
A pig not eating is a VERY BAD sign so we took her temperature, which was raised, and immediately administered antibiotics by injection. With an ill pig every minute counts, their health can go up and down in a matter of hours, not days, if you wait, it can be too late. With so many piglets in need of a mother we could not waste a second. There were no obvious signs of mastitis (infection in the udder) or metritis (infection in the womb).
The pig got worse. The 10 piglets started to look hungry and restless as the milk supply lessened so we called the vet. The vet was as puzzled as we were, and gave additional medicines to reduce the fever which was now dangerously high and another antibiotic. The birth had been totally normal with no interference to the mother, just a little help to get some of the piglets who came out backwards to take a first breath.
At tea time and again after supper I spent ages sitting with her and syringing fresh water into her mouth to try to keep her hydrated, every so often she would swallow. I also sponged her down to reduce her body temperature, she was really hot to touch. The piglets had another feed from her and settled back under their heat lamp, this time they appeared to be satisfied, this was encouraging.
Before bed time I checked again, this time the gilt walked around the stable and nibbled on a brassica leaf I had picked from the garden for her. A good sign. I fetched her pig meal and she ate some, an even better sign. She flopped down again and I used the 100ml syringe again, she sucked the cooling clean water down straight from the syringe, she seemed to be making good progress.
I woke in the night and got dressed, even though it was 4am she was very pleased to see me. She had eaten a lot of the brassicas and windfall apples I had left for her and had a little drink. I gave her some more meal, and watched the piglets feed again. Her sister who is due to farrow tomorrow snored loudly in the next door stable. Apart from that the night was quiet until something, a fox perhaps, or a cat, disturbed the ducks on the pond and a cacophony of noise echoed around the farmyard. Once the gilt had settled down to sleep once more and the piglets snoozed under their lamp I made a cup of tea and went back to bed.
Daylight came all too soon, and the thermometer revealed a slight fever still, but we could all see a much healthier pig. We must finish the course of treatment and keep a close eye on them all. I am feeding her little and often until she gets back to normal, her digestive system seems to be functioning normally.
It was a close call for her and for us, probably as close as they come, farrowing fever is what the pig-men call it, to me it felt more like harrowing fever as the concern for 11 lives is immense. Let’s hope her sister does better.