Hot Tubbing Piglet
Occasionally a piglet is not thriving under natural conditions. It survives making the transition from womb to world but isn’t doing well. These little guys sometimes get brought into our cottage and given a hot bath and a boost.
Not every piglet born has what it takes to survive. They might be fine inside the womb, relying on the sow’s lung and digestive capacity. But then a few will fail out in the real world where they must breath for themselves, seek a nipple themselves, fight off other piglets, navigate and a host of other real world
Those with the worst issues will die soon after birth without even cleaning themselves off. A typical problem in this group is they just don’t have the lung capacity for the real world. They can’t breath.
The next group manages to clean themselves off but die within the first hour. These may have lacked the heart to live or just too small a lung capacity.
A few die within the first 24 to 48 hours. In their cases their digestive systems may not have been sufficient to absorb nutrients and water or perhaps their brains were not functional enough to navigate to the nipple and deal with other competing sibling piglets.
For piglets like the above no intervention helps. The hard thing is one doesn’t always know which is which. Sometimes they’re functional enough that with some help they can make it. So we try. Thus the existence of kitchen pigs.
We’ll give weak piglets like the one pictured an extra boost with a 105°F hot water bath, hand holding onto the sow so they can nurse to get colostrum, milking sows, stored colostrum and a milk replacer mix we make up with yogurt and such. Sometimes this will pull them through and then they can either get supervised visitation to the sow, returned to the sow or sometimes grafted onto a younger litter on another sow. Sometimes they make it.
Hand raising piglets is hard work. They need to be fed about every two hours, 24 hours a day. They need patience because they may not be good eaters. It takes a lot of attention. Good sows do a lot better job of this than people. I strongly suggest leaving piglets on the original mother sow or grafting them onto another sow if at all possible as the sows are uniquely suited to the job of raising piglets.
But sometimes that isn’t possible. Any pigs that need this sort of assistance get marked and tracked to meat, never to be a breeder. They’ll never be sold as weaner feeders for other people to raise nor will they become breeder pigs. In order to constantly improve our herd genetics we breed the best of the best and eat the rest. In nature this piglet would have died. With intervention it can not be allowed to become a breeder on the farm or we would violate this basic tenet of evolutionary improvement. Mother Nature really does know best on issues like this.
Fortunately the kitchen piglets are the unusual piglets, they are rare. Most piglets do fine. Piglets who make it to the 48 hour mark on the sow are survivors. They are gaining weight and looking healthy in almost all cases. Almost all piglets who make it that far will wean successfully at six weeks.
Outdoors: 17°F/9°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/61°F
Daily Spark: He had a poetic license but he never used it.