Releasing Piglet


Death of a Piglet

Not all stories have happy endings. Not all pictures are pretty. The piglet above was born 20 hours ago but never thrived. Sometimes when piglets are born there is a weak one. Perhaps a premie that was not as far along in the womb when the others voted to exit. A piglet like this won’t get out of the way of others, chills more easily, won’t suckle and is not nearly as viable. We’re not talking runts, the ones who do survive but are smaller. These others are the next level down.

With extra care they may survive. We mark them so they won’t go into the breeder pool and put them in the ICU for intensive care after hot tubbing them to warm their core temperature. The ICU consists of half a barrel in our cottage with bottles filled with 104°F water, bedding and a cloth cover to keep the warmth inside. Twenty-four hours a day we feed them every few hours by hand and they snuggle up to the warm bottles. It is a lot of work but fortunately few piglets need it and of those that do this often revives them and within a few hours or days so they can rejoin their litter mates and mom.
Even with this extra attention some of these piglets don’t make it. They may have be born with a congenital birth defect that makes them truly non-viable. Once off the mother’s life support systems in the womb they can’t breath right, their hearts might be weak, their digestive systems incomplete. They die.

The strange part is they almost always die in our hands. Statistically that seems very odd – we are only handling them about 5% of the time. There is nothing that we’re physically doing that seems like it would stress them. They seem to like being held. It is usually while we’re just calmly sitting and holding them that they go, that they are released from life.

Outdoors: 40°F/31°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/65°F

Daily Spark: Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. -Roger Caras

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to Releasing Piglet

  1. Alice says:

    Oh – that is so sad. I think that many times the dying do want to be released from life. Maybe piglet was comforted by your hold it and relaxed. They want that last blessing. Maybe this is where the thing with priests comes from. I know that in my work in hospice it is very often the case that we’ll be with a patient when the pass on to the other side.

  2. michael says:

    Walter,
    How do you dispose of animals that die unexpectedly? I’ve had good success composting chicken carcasses but not sure what to do with a larger animal.

  3. Edy says:

    Oh that is why Katya is so protective of the piglet (picture) and likes her work so well. Is she a blue healer? We keep a great pyrenees with our sheep and chickens, he does very well. We tried an Anatolian last year but unfortunately she liked to eat chickens and she did not wait for the sick ones to died (they never get sick), she just helped her self.

    • Yes, very much so. The dogs are very clear on the concept. One protects the livestock from predators while it is alive and then eats it when it is dead, either by natural death or by culling the weak from the herd (my job). None of this evangelical veganism for them. In nature the wolves protect their territories fiercely, preventing other predators from preying on the young herbivores, then harvesting the herbivores as adults. There was a scientific article about this out in Yellowstone(?) and how when the wolves were reintroduced it resulted in more calves and fawns surviving the predation of foxes and coyotes. The theory is that the wolves may be natural ranchers. Perhaps that is why they work so well with human ranchers.

  4. Edy says:

    Yes Walter, beautiful balance.

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