People often ask what a sow looks like just before farrowing. Abby, above, farrowed the next day. She is heavily bagged – that means her breasts, all fourteen, are full and hanging with enlarged nipples. She has started to drip a bit of milk. It is hard to see in the above photo but her vulva is puffy as it readies for the job to come. Fortunately, unlike humans, her piglets are very small relative to her size so they slip out easily. Her hip ligaments are also softening such that her back is flattening out.
The hay is there because her nesting instincts have kicked in. She built a firmly packed bowl shaped nest of hay about six feet in diameter that encourages the piglets to stay with her against her belly as she puts her back against one wall.
Piglet on Abby’s Head
She just can’t get any respect. They’re everywhere!
There were 11 piglets in this group but only one with any color. Abby’s red color is genetically recessive so her offspring carry it but the boar’s dominant Yorkshire white gets expressed in most of the piglets. There’s something else in there too, possibly Glouster Old Spot. Note that the piglets in a litter may have more than one father just to add some confusion. Based on how these piglets looked later I’m guessing it was Spot and BigUn. We run the boars together with the breeding herd and a sow typically takes multiple matings during a heating. This maximizes the litter size.
One Day Old Piglet
Piglets at this age are ever so cute. We are hardwired in our brains to see them that way. It’s part of being a mammal. Babies look adorable. This produces survival. Later when they get to 300 lbs, 600 lbs, 1,200 lbs they aren’t quite so cute although I must admit I still enjoy working with the big pigs too.
Outdoors: 55°F/22°F Sunny
Farm House: 40°F/33°F Doors open
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/57°F Windows open