Piglets and Sow Torn Drinking Milk
Sows in the north home field are starting to tell their piglets, “No!” she doesn’t want to be nursed. There gets to be a time after about four to six weeks when the sows get tired of all those greedy mouths going after them. To protect herself she will lie on her belly to block them from gaining access to her teats. They pester her and if she stands up to go poop, pee, get a drink or graze they will pounce on her. If we don’t wean the piglets off of the sow they can nurse her down too much and she will be come peakid – that is to say her backbone will show like a peak. Super model skinny is not sexy on a sow.
Out in the wild most of the piglets are dead by now, having been predated by foxes, coyotes and birds of prey. This makes weaning easier in nature since there are typically less than one piglet left per litter at this point. On the farm our livestock guardian dogs eat the predators so the piglet litters wean at far higher survival rates. This means we must handle weaning to protect the sow’s health.
The fact is the piglets do not need the sow’s milk anymore. They’re quite capable of grazing even with their smaller jaws and digestive tracts. They’ve been eating pasture for weeks. They especially love the tender grass shoots and clovers. Plus we have dairy in the form of whey, milk, cream, butter and cheese to supplement the pasture an hay. This provides more calories and lysine, a limiting amino acid they need that is scarce on pasture.
Soon these little piglets will move down to a weaning paddock. There they will get a lot of interaction with us and the dogs which tames them. Getting to know us and that we’re good is important. They learn to come when we call. They learn to be herded by the dogs. In six months they will weigh 250 to 300 pounds and be far stronger than us or the dogs. The pigs lack the brains, speed or agility of the dogs but it is best to train them to be herded now while they are small. Then it is easier to move them and handle them when they get big.
Outdoors: 62°F/44°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/66°F
Daily Spark: Unhappy pigs are disgruntled so happy pigs must be gruntled.