Farrowing Fence


Fenced Farrowing Space

This Tamworth cross sow chose to farrow right next to the north field pigs’s wallow which would be a bit too much mud for little piglets. Will put a fence around her nest to both keep piglets from wandering into the wallow and keep other sows from lying down next to the farrowing sow. We had just gotten rain which had made the situation worse so Will added some wood shavings to dry up the mud in the nest.
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Her farrowing fence gives her privacy but has an opening at one side so she can exit to get food and water or go graze if she likes. The small opening is easily defensible.

The sow above is a cross of the Tamworth and our LargeBlack#2 lines. A year ago last winter we got some purebred Tamworth sows and boar along with Large Black. I’ve not been terribly impressed with the Tamworth – the Large Black are better but still not up to our Blackie line. Perhaps they are showing us just how far we have advanced our own pigs’s genetics through a decade of hard selective breeding. The Tam’s mothering skills, nest building skills, rate of gain on pasture and other traits are not as good as our main herd. Perhaps with time I can select them up.

What the Tams do give us is more sows with 16 to 18 teats. In our herd 14 is the norm although we had some of the 16 teat genetics in our Blackie and Mainline herds. Generally pigs only have 10 to 12 teats – this is something I’ve been breeding upward for years. Getting higher teat counts is worth some work in the crossing. So what I am doing is maintaining both the separate Tamworth genetics and selecting those hard plus I’m crossing them over with our other genetics. In time I will hopefully boost both lines. It is a long term process.

One other oddity in this litter: reddish the piglet in the lower right was born with a large lesion. Examining it closely we discovered that it had had and healed several other lesions in utero which were now scarred over. I’ve never seen this before. The sow has had many litters without that showing up so I don’t think it is a genetic problem. None of the other piglets in this litter show any problem so I don’t think it was an exposure problem during gestation. A rather odd congenital defect. The piglet is thriving and healing – it’s a robust young animal and very vigorous eater.

Outdoors: 64°F/48°F Rain, Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: Luck takes careful planning.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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9 Responses to Farrowing Fence

  1. A. of CT emailed me some interesting thoughts on this post:
    Piglet with lesion,wonder if it was fighting inside prior to birth ? Yet you never seen anything before in other litters, wonder if they were fighting inside as discovered in sharks ? Interesting you mention tamworths averaging more nipples compared with your pigs and from what I read in literature they have smaller litters, guess you got lucky ! See if that luck extends to future offspring.

    I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’ve heard of sharks doing that. Piglets are separated in utero by the sacks but Hope thinks maybe another piglet was kicking it. Pretty powerful kicks! However, their hooves are covered with a soft shell pre-birth so that seems unlikely.

    The Tamworths as a breed in general don’t average more nipples, it is just two of the set we bought had the gene for more nipples. This is a gene we already have in some of our our pigs so I was glad to see it again so I might transfer that gene into our main herd line. The Tams do tend to have smaller litters than our Mainline and our Blackie line. It will be interesting to see how the crossing and the selecting even within the Tamworth line works out. Years to come…

  2. Dawn says:

    Walter,
    You might want to look into adding Berkshires into your lines if you want more teats and higher litter numbers. Or the Middle White breeds are extreamly prolific. I had one sow that continueally gave me 19…her biggest litter was 23 and with a little bottle feeding or help from another sow they would usually all live. Her daughters that I kept were just as prolific.
    I had a couple of years were piglets were coming out with patches of skin missing…hair growing the wrong way on patches of skin that didn’t match the grain. I don’t know whatever caused the problem and those sows whose babies did that didn’t always produce babies that had problems with skin. And I haven’t had the problem show up again for about 5 years now.
    I did have one sow one time give me almost an entire litter of babies with cleft palates. I know there is a certain type of weed that will cause that but I had none of that weed on my property. Her next litter there were none with cleft palates but they had other types of congential deformities. I eliminated her from the gene pool and I kept nothing of hers to use for breeding either.
    Tams seem to be slower growing pigs that produce leaner meat…they are hearty and can stand colder weather but they are not real well known for high numbers in their litters.
    Myself I do like my Berkshire/Spot crosses. The Berkshires are excellent mothers and the Spots are a quieter breed of pig. The Berks are a broader built animal where the Spots (old line Spots) are a taller leggier animal. The cross for me has been great. All of my lines are older lines. As with my horses I don’t succomb to fads or what wins in the show ring. I want a good moving and good working animal with a great disposition that doesn’t need to be pampered to do well.

    • We already have a fair bit of Berkshire in our main herd and are adding more through our pure bred berkshire boar Spitz who we got about a year and a half ago. The goal with the additional Berkshire genetics is added marbling as that is what they’re primarily known for.

      The Tams like the one above that came in last year are not nearly as hardy or winterable as our main line. Perhaps it is a relative thing since we have spent a decade breeding and selecting our main line pigs for winter hardiness, winter farrowing, etc. But these Tamworths do have that one trait of extra teats which has gotten some of them a place in the breeding herd.

  3. Nicola says:

    What a fascinating post. I’m so inspired to read of two diligent breeders! (Walter & Dawn)

  4. Walter, do you know the lineage of your tams? It turns out there are two significantly different sets of Tamworths in North America.

    The original importation was to Indiana in the late 19th century. That line has been bred to resemble other commercial breeds. Then in hippy days more tams were brought to both US coasts with the deliberate goal of pasture raising pork that stumps your land for free.

    If you search on Flickr it’s pretty clear that coastal tams look like the original British stock, (Check out “Accidental Smallholder” if he’s still around.) while the midwestern ones look a lot more like red Berkshires than a British Tamworth.

  5. Peter says:

    I would imagine that this is in your “draft post” queue (is that number getting higher, BTW? ;-) ) …. but do you track any of these lines computer-wise?

    When I was a bit more involved in genealogy than I currently am, I recall reading on the the Reunion for Mac website that one use of the software that was reported to them, was to track sires/dams for thoroughbred horses. I think that was a surprise to them but is a logical use.

    Somewhere out there on the interwebs is also an article on how tracking the genetics of giant pandas is an issue since apparently many of the ones in zoos right now actually descend from only a very few older ones.

  6. Farmerbob1 says:

    Since this post was in 2013, I suppose it’s possible that this sow is still around. If not, maybe she was butchered and perhaps you got to look at the insides.

    I don’t know anything about how piglets are stacked inside the sow, but if only one piglet was showing a lesion, and it looked to have several healed lesions, perhaps the piglet was pressed up against a bone inside the sow, or a ridge of scar tissue, or something that would have caused the piglet to be dragged back and forth across a rough/hard surface inside the sow? That could cause blistering to the piglet if the skin was constantly being twisted as the sow moved around. Did she have an odd gait while pregnant that you can remember?

    I would expect something that could blister the pigler it to also cause irritation in the uterus of the sow as well, but it might not? (no clue here). Then again, this sow did apparently farrow in a place that was not ideal. Perhaps internal uterine irritations messed up her farrowing instincts somehow?

  7. Farmerbob1 says:

    Darnit, forgot the typo

    “which were now scared over”
    I’m pretty sure you meant ‘scarred’

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