Fall Piglets Nursing


The photo above shows some of the variation in the colors of our pigs. Most of them are white to all white with perhaps a few small markings that I use to visually identify them. But a small percentage of them are spotted, tan, red, brown, yellow, black and such. They are a mix of a variety of heritage breeds. Based on the color variations and other features I believe they are primarily Yorkshire with a bit of Berkshire, Tamworth, Glouster Old Spot, Hampshire and one Large Black.

You can see Blackie in this photo coming down along the fence line. She is the odd sow out. Almost of our pigs are descended from three sister sows who of the Yorkshire white style. Blackie is the fourth source point sow and a separate line from the others. We got her a couple of years ago. I kept her simply for the interest of a different color. She’s turned out to be an excellent mother.

The sow who is nursing in this picture, Mouse, is starting to look a little peaked. That is to say she’s nursed down. It’s time to wean her piglets who are now about five weeks old or her body will try and keep satisfying their growing demands. That’s not good for her and at this point they don’t really need her milk – they’re quite capable of thriving on pasture, whey, cheese and fall garden excess we feed. I’ve been letting the piglets creep feed into the gardens now for a week or so.

Up in the distance on the left are two silly sheep. Ram 2 and Ewe 4. So why don’t the sheep rate names? Our original ones came with numbers so blame it on the government. A handy scrapies goat.

Today we got the first of our winter hay. 41,880 pounds so far in 48 round bales plus 58 small square bales. When it rains it pours. I spent most of the day putting hay away. On Monday I had put out the one remaining round bale from last year – it didn’t go far with so many hungry mouths. Today I distributed 5 round bales, two north, two south and one to farrowing mothers. The pigs and sheep were happy to see the new hay as pasture is getting sparse. Yesterday we had opened up another section of the north field to the second herd. The stocked grasses there are high and lush.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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14 Responses to Fall Piglets Nursing

  1. pablo says:

    I’m not informed in these kinds of things, but that is an unlikely looking tail on that nursing pig. I thought they were curly, hairless things. This one looks more bovine.

  2. Oh, that’s because she’s a cow pig. Just kidding! We do joke that the ones that are white with black patterns are cow pigs but no, that’s a normal adult pig tail.

    Occasionally piglets will lose their tails and end up with something short – they nibble each other when looking for a teat during the first week – but normally they have quite long tails. Like other animals they hold them in all sorts of positions, use them to swat a pesky fly, signal how they feel and if they spin them really, really fast they can take off like a helicopter. er, maybe not.

    Mouse, in that picture was just standing very relaxed swishing her tail side to side as she nursed piglets. The piglet on the near left does have its tail curled up which shows an example of the classic image of the curly tail.

  3. farm mom says:

    Lovely photo! I never get enough of seeing animals on pasture, roaming about. I never knew pig tails were long like that either. Isn’t it amazing how industrialized agriculture shapes our ideas on how an animal is “supposed” to look.

  4. John says:

    Wow! Great photo – it’s amazing how long the leaves are hanging on this year. I’m a bit south of you in Mass and am planning a smaller scale version of what you have going in Vt. Budgeting has been a challenge, but would you mind giving us a ballpark on how much 40,000 lbs of hay costs? I can get a sense for what heritage breed animals are going for and fetching from a few internet sites, but haven’t yet located similar on-line resources for hay sales. I understand hey varies greatly in content and quality; I’m just trying to get a rough estimate.

    Thanks Walter – I don’t know how you keep up with all this posting, but we LOVE it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Having never lived on a farm, do you pet the pigs or hug them? Will they lick you? I suppose its not good to hug something you might end up eating? Keep up the good pics, beautiful place there.

  6. John, small square bales (~60 lbs) are running about $3 per bale and small round bales (~800 lbs) are about $30 lbs. Add to that the cost of delivery or do the pickup yourself. Do note that the price of hay varies tremendously with location and it also varies considerably year to year. Doing an internet search won’t likely give you a good sense of what your local cost is being to be like. I expect it is probably more expensive in Mass than it is around here. A good place to look is in your local classified ads.

  7. Anony, we don’t hug the pigs, they aren’t pets. They do greatly enjoy being scratched behind the ears, on the sides and back. Do be very cautious about hand feeding – your fingers are small and tender and pigs have big sharp teeth and strong jaws – they can bite. Also, with big ones like our 400 to 800 sows and boars you need to be very aware of them because you don’t want to get stepped on or pushed up against something solid, including another pig.

  8. Mark says:

    What walter doesnt mention is that most pigs we see around in picturs and from both small farms and the factory farms have had their tails cut off when they were little. It is good to see long tails as they were ment to be.

  9. Correct, we don’t cut tails – tail docking as it is called. That is routinely done on some farms and in virtually all confinement operations (I hesitate to call them farms). See Piglet Interventions.

    Most of our pigs have long tails but occasionally when they are within their first week they’ll mistake a litter mate’s tail for a nipple and nurse hard on said tail. At that age their tails are so thin and fragile that in some cases this results in shortening or even the loss of the tail. Thus we have a few short tailed pigs out and about.

    Interestingly, this occurs most in larger litters and I think there may even be a genetic component to the tail nursing as it seems to follow a line among our herd that may have come in with our boar Archimedes’ genetics. Flip, Flop, and Flo all have short tails. All of Flop’s piglets have short tails. Some of Mouse’s piglets end up with short tails. In a few more generations I’ll probably have that sorted out better.

    Interestingly, I just read an article about this very topic of tail biting. They were talking about tail biting in confinement operations and with older pigs than the nursing piglets we see it happen with. Our pigs are not crowed, since they’re out on pasture, and I’ve never seen this behavior or had a pig loses its tail after the first week or so. My guess is that the problem they’re seeing is a direct result of crowded conditions and possibly boredom.

  10. Pete says:

    How you you wean them Walter? Do you move the mother to the other field? If you do that, don’t they fight?

    I’m personally trying to find a tidy way of forcing weaning while leaving mother an piglets together in the same pasture and I’m drawing a big blank. By the time my sow weans on her own, she is really run down.

    Pete

  11. Pete, we’ve done weaning a number of ways. The best seems to be to get the sows and piglets into an area where there is a creep in one direction for the piglets to go for food and then have the sows go back out. Moving the piglets further to a new area with new companions helps too. If they are too close there is a lot of angst on both the sows and the piglets part. The sows are ready to get away from the demands of the piglets at around five weeks but if the piglets make a lot of noise they’ll try to get back to the piglets. Thus distance and good fencing.

  12. Mellifera says:

    We have a buddy with a wild pig they “adopted” as a half-grown piglet. She’s got a short little curly tail… maybe as with sheep, some got tails and some don’t.

  13. Lois Ferguson says:

    What do you call the nesting area where the mother pig nurses her babies, when they are very young, say in the first week or so? Do newborn baby pigs sleep most of the time, or do they learn to walk quickly, and wander about when the mother gets up to eat? Does she ever step on them?

    • We call the nest a nest. Do you know another word for it? I like to collect terminology on the FAQ page.

      When piglets are born they are walking. The mother does nothing for them other than providing a nest, pushing them out of her vagina and providing a milk bar. As soon as they are born the piglets clean themselves off and walk around to her belly to get warm and start nursing. When the mother gets up they tend to huddle together in a pig pile.

      Sometimes a mother will step on a piglet. Usually she hears it squeak and moves her foot off of it such that the piglet is fine. A good mother lays down slowly and carefully so she doesn’t crush piglets but an overweight sow may crush piglets when she uncontrollably flops down. This is one more reason why a lower calorie pasture diet and exercise is good for the pigs. A high corn diet tends to produce fat sows who have less control and more crushings.

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