Cardamom Farrowing 2008 Winter

Cardamom Mid-Farrow

Cardamom surprised us by starting to farrow this evening in the east end of the south end shed. We were out doing late chores after having moved one group of sows into the garden paddock when Holly heard the sound of newborn piglets. Cardamom had looked very bagged but I thought she wouldn’t go for a few more days.

Cardamom is a reddish yellow haired sow with black spots in our fourth generation of sows. I seem to name a lot of animals after spices. She is an excellent experience mom and a calm pig. Once born the piglets crawl forward around the sow to her belly, quickly cleaning off and drying. The hay helps them to clean as well as keeping them warm. The sow’s body is 103°F, hot for us but a normal temperature for a pig, making her a natural heating pad to keep them warm on a cold winter day like today.

Winnie Gathering Hay for a Nest

Often we miss the actual birthing. It is always fun to see when we get to. The sows are very good about having piglets and don’t need much in the way of interventions. Nature has taught them how to do it instinctively. While Cardamom farrowed her piglets Winnie and two other sows who will farrow soon were gathering hay and buildings nest nearby.

Interesting the sows tend to cluster their farrowings. With so many sows one might guess we would have piglets born every week but there will be several weeks with none and then three to five sows will farrow in one week. Based on how the ladies are bagging I think we’ll see a lot piglets born this coming week.

To give Cardamom a little space we put up some 2×4’s for fencing to divide off the area she had chosen from the rest of the open shed. Holly and I also brought her extra hay. The house end shed is low in the terrain and on the lee side of the farm house so it is well protected from the wind.

Someone recently asked about how much space each sow needs. There is no hard and fast number – about 7’x7′ seems to be good for a nesting area although they often use less, even half that. Out in the pasture during the summer they build nests which are about a foot or so bigger than themselves in all directions. For just sleeping the pigs like to cuddle together in a pile which cuts down their sleeping space to only about six square feet per pig. That is for 500 to 700 pound sows and their boars. Of course, they have much more space out on the pasture even in the winter when they have the more limited paddocks. We purposefully put their winter feeder a ways away from the sleeping area so they have a walk of 200′ to 400′ long each way which gives them exercise. No couch potatoes are these pigs.

Look closely at the piglets as they are born and you’ll notice that their ears are folded back flat along their heads much like butterfly wings when they first emerge. Tomorrow they’ll be up a bit and many will be upright within a few days. Cardamom has flopped forward ears like her father Archimedes. It will be interesting to see how the ears lie on the piglets.

Piglets Nursing

By the time we got done putting out hay to the two south herd areas the piglets were nursing. Putting my hand under the hay where they were I could feel the heat – toasty warm on a cold winter day.

Outdoors: 23°F/12°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 57°F/39°F Separated eight sows into north and south garden paddocks for farrowing. Cardamon farrowed in south end shed.
Tiny Cottage: 62°F/50°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to Cardamom Farrowing 2008 Winter

  1. karl says:

    our salad spinner uses an Archimedes screw. i like to read between the lines and imagine that your kids exposure to science is like how i intend ours. seamlessly integrated as normal. nothing mnemonically necessary about Archimedes when your childhood was spent with one of your main animals named after him.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love the post, and the blog in general. Curious though, how tolerant are the sows of people getting close to the piglets?


    James in Ohio

  3. Lisa says:

    I love the piggie posts! I have no experience with most farm animals, but like a little kid, I love to see and learn! Thanks!

  4. Perri says:

    Beautiful piglets! We’ve been considering getting a few pigs to help de-stump our new pasture (if we ever finish clearing it) and to provide meat this year. No question they are a smart choice, economically. But we worry that cuties like these will be tough to part with when the time comes. (Our 8 year old daughter cried when we sold one of our ram lambs this year (Though she didn’t mourn the passing of our mean nasty ram)

    Have you had issues with this kind of thing?


  5. Perri, Interesting question. See this post for a general overview. As to our kids. They have always understood that the animals are to eat. It is part of farm life. We celebrate the animals in life and dinner.

  6. Karl, Yes, exactly. Science, history, politics, math and so much more are integrated into our daily living. We are always “in-school”. During the afternoon is actual book and more traditional schooling & research time but the learning experience extends throughout life.

  7. Christy says:

    I read your linked post about butchering the animals and how you feel about it. As someone who is planning to raise animals for meat I really appreciated the post. What I wanted to know if it isn’t too personal to ask is how you actually kill the animal? I want to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible when the time comes.

  8. P says:

    I just read “To Kill or Not”. Very interesting post. I agree completely– was a vegetarian for ten years because I felt I could not, myself, kill an animal for food. After three years on a farm, I’ve been able to take part in the slaughter of a few of our animals: a rooster, several guineas and a ram. We will raise some turkeys this year and look forward to it. And I completely agree that I am satisfied to know that the meat I consume was raised well and lived well.

    But my children (ages 4, 6 and 8)may not be ready for the next big leap. While they did fine with the meat we’ve slaughtered and eaten so far (Well, they don’t like the strong taste of the ram) they have a hard time watching the lambs leave the farm. This is about “missing” an animal more than killing it, I think. (But I think the reaction will be stronger with slaughtering an animal) It surprised me when this issue showed up (as we were loading a lamb into a friend’s truck). A couple of pigs would almost certainly be tough. I am afraid we’d end up with some 500 pound pets! Though, I’d love to have our own uncured bacon :)

    Maybe we started too late with getting the kids used to realities of this sort? Have you had any similar issues with your kids?

  9. Thanks for these wonderful photos and information. As homeschoolers we learn in so many different ways. Both of my sons tell people who ask why were out of the house on a ‘school day’, “The World Is Our Classroom”.

    It’s true isn’t it? There is learning to do all around us.

    By the way, I loved your beautiful description of the newborn piglet’s ear being like a butterfly’s wings.

  10. Twinville, Your kids are so right, the world is our classroom. Every day is a school day and we never stop learning.

    P, I would try to avoid the 500 lb pet pig problem if I were you. See this and this post. You’re not too late with your kids. Start with chickens or rabbits for slaughter. Work your way up as you feel comfortable. It’s a process and a skill to master.

    Christy, there are many ways to do the deed. For smaller animals it is easier to do than with larger animals. It is a post in and of itself for another day. As I mentioned above, start with small animals. In all cases, work to do it humanely.

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