Cardamom surprised us by starting to farrow this evening in the east end of the south end shed. We were out doing late chores after having moved one group of sows into the garden paddock when Holly heard the sound of newborn piglets. Cardamom had looked very bagged but I thought she wouldn’t go for a few more days.
Cardamom is a reddish yellow haired sow with black spots in our fourth generation of sows. I seem to name a lot of animals after spices. She is an excellent experience mom and a calm pig. Once born the piglets crawl forward around the sow to her belly, quickly cleaning off and drying. The hay helps them to clean as well as keeping them warm. The sow’s body is 103°F, hot for us but a normal temperature for a pig, making her a natural heating pad to keep them warm on a cold winter day like today.
Winnie Gathering Hay for a Nest
Often we miss the actual birthing. It is always fun to see when we get to. The sows are very good about having piglets and don’t need much in the way of interventions. Nature has taught them how to do it instinctively. While Cardamom farrowed her piglets Winnie and two other sows who will farrow soon were gathering hay and buildings nest nearby.
Interesting the sows tend to cluster their farrowings. With so many sows one might guess we would have piglets born every week but there will be several weeks with none and then three to five sows will farrow in one week. Based on how the ladies are bagging I think we’ll see a lot piglets born this coming week.
To give Cardamom a little space we put up some 2×4’s for fencing to divide off the area she had chosen from the rest of the open shed. Holly and I also brought her extra hay. The house end shed is low in the terrain and on the lee side of the farm house so it is well protected from the wind.
Someone recently asked about how much space each sow needs. There is no hard and fast number – about 7’x7′ seems to be good for a nesting area although they often use less, even half that. Out in the pasture during the summer they build nests which are about a foot or so bigger than themselves in all directions. For just sleeping the pigs like to cuddle together in a pile which cuts down their sleeping space to only about six square feet per pig. That is for 500 to 700 pound sows and their boars. Of course, they have much more space out on the pasture even in the winter when they have the more limited paddocks. We purposefully put their winter feeder a ways away from the sleeping area so they have a walk of 200′ to 400′ long each way which gives them exercise. No couch potatoes are these pigs.
Look closely at the piglets as they are born and you’ll notice that their ears are folded back flat along their heads much like butterfly wings when they first emerge. Tomorrow they’ll be up a bit and many will be upright within a few days. Cardamom has flopped forward ears like her father Archimedes. It will be interesting to see how the ears lie on the piglets.
By the time we got done putting out hay to the two south herd areas the piglets were nursing. Putting my hand under the hay where they were I could feel the heat – toasty warm on a cold winter day.
Outdoors: 23°F/12°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 57°F/39°F Separated eight sows into north and south garden paddocks for farrowing. Cardamon farrowed in south end shed.
Tiny Cottage: 62°F/50°F