Piglet Paparazzo

I feel like a paparazzi with all these piglets popping out all over the place. They’re everywhere! Since piglets often are piled on top of each other the photos don’t give the full variety of colors in each litter but they are is an interesting sampling, a snap shot in time of some of this weeks farrowings…

Sweetie’s Piglets in South Field Entrance

Sweetie was part of the group of sows we had been moving over from the north herd to the south field in preparation for completely reoganizing our pig herds. She farrowed right along the fence line leading back to her old domicile. We simply wrapped some hog panel around the nest she had made giving her a private space so other sows would not snuggle close and crush piglets. It is still cold enough that the sows are not going out into the brush seeking privacy to farrow so this is an issue we have to keep a careful watch on.

Some of Quartermane’s PIglets in House End Shed

There are 11 piglets there. Can you find them all? The sow, Quartermane, is a daughter of Blackie, one of our best sows. The black gene is partially recessive and showed up in two of her piglets. Color is controlled by a complex set of genes rather than a single pair. She farrowed in the house end shed with its greenhouse glazed roof – the best place on the farm. She too was part of the north herd moving south for the summer. Integration is an interesting and slow process that should not be rushed.

Isosceles Piglets in North Greenhouse Shed

Isosceles is so named because someone took a bite out the middle of her right ear. The missing chunk looks just like an isosceles triangle. She’s low on the totem pole and pigs don’t always play nice.

We had tried to get her into the greenhouse a couple of days before because she looked ever so close to farrowing but she would have nothing of it. Then when I was making early morning rounds I heard the cry of a piglet from the middle of a big pile of sows in the south field. Isosceles was farrowing in the center. I radioed up for help and we managed to move her between births. With the release of the natural drugs at birth into her system she was a little more tractable but not much.

Rehoming a sow who has picked a nest is very difficult. Once they choose a place that is where they want to be and their instincts to stay are very strong. Generally what we do is instead relocate the piglets to other mothers, grafting them into different near aged litters. This works better than actually trying to move the mother out on pasture. Our other solution when feasible is to simply drop a ring of fencing or shelter over them where they are if that is at all possible. That worked with Sweetie above.

Charley’s Piglets in Hay Cube

Charley is named after Charlie Chaplin for her mustache. She has excellent conformation and length although she’s not a perfect ten since she only has fourteen tits. Close but no cigar. Prior to her coming out she was a bit on the reclusive side but now that she’s nesting in front of the house on the driveway she’s gotten more interaction with us and is tamer. This often happens with first time mothers. Up until their first farrowing they may have spent most of their time out in the field – they’re not pets.

Hay Cubes

These are stacks of square bales of hay so that I can pick them up with the tractor and move them as groups much like a large round bale. Each set of bales is on a wooden pallet. Charley was not supposed to farrow here but she got out of the south field and found this absolutely wonderful spot, from her point of view. You can see the bales inside the tarp on the right that she knocked down to make her nest. Once she was in there I did not fight it. She had made her nest and would farrow in it. So be it.

Charley’s Piglets in Sun

Charley has a large door out of the east side of the hay cubes. Her piglets have a smaller door that leads to a morning sun porch between the pallets as shown above.

Also farrowing this week were Torn, Big Red and Oreo. In six to eight weeks these piglets will be weaners and start going to other homes as summer pigs. This is the burst at the end of a hiatus of piglet births. By my plans we would get new litters every week but the sows have other ideas. Their hormones cause them to syncronize which causes boom and bust cycles of a month or more with no births and then oodles of piglets.

Outdoors: 34째F/21째F Mostly Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65째F/61째F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Piglet Paparazzo

  1. Mary Ricksen says:

    A lot of work for sure. But this must be the best part of being a pig farmer, new little piggies.
    They are cute like most newborn things. Not in me to make one a pet though.
    What do they summer elsewhere? Then come back, how does it work till they are grown enough to use?

  2. Anonymous says:

    they are all too cute!
    when they are that different is size at birth do they stay large/small for a long time? all their lives?

  3. ranch101 says:

    Try as I might, I can only find 10 piglets in the picture!

  4. Aimee says:

    congratulations on all your beautiful babies! The last couple of weeks have been full of babies here too – goat babies. It's a great time of year.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You have quite an interesting variety of colors. That is one of the things I love about my goats, wondering what trait they will get from whom. Sometimes, I must say, they surprise me.

    I never realized pigs were so into making nests. I've only ever known pigs that were confined.

  6. Nance says:

    "Charley was not supposed to farrow here", Walter said.

    Walter, you are a softie, just as my mother was about 1954. My Mama didn't let cats in the house but this time, Ol' Mama cat slipped in and had baby kittens in my bed, with hardly anybody knowing. And Mama cat and kittens got to stay awhile . . . this 3 yr old had to find a new, temporary bed.

  7. Love the pics Walter! We only have two little ones…I'm so anxious for another litter!

  8. Anna says:

    I *love* this post! It reads like a wildlife documentary. (Or maybe like my adventures as a kid trying to find our half wild barn cat's litter before the tomcat did… :-) )

  9. The eleventh Quartermane piglet is almost impossible to see in the photo, just a bit of it peeking out of the side by another. Charley also has 11 but they're all white and very hard to tell. Where they're basking in the sun I can find 10 of the 11 but the last is hidden somewhere.

    In the summer the pigs go further out to more distant pastures. We have lost our snows early and they're starting to tentatively explore where the fencing allows. Then in winter they stay close to our central area on sacrificial paddocks that we use as gardens in the summer for growing beets and other things for fall pig food.

  10. cottagesweet says:

    Your blog is on my shortcut desk. I so enjoy reading about your farm and all. Love it that you have a humane and caring farming way for your animals. The piglets are cute!!

  11. Gail in Montana says:

    Beautiful piglets, Walter. I would love to be there and view them all in person. Of course, I would want to hold them all, too
    ;-) Great photos, thanks for sharing!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I really enjoyed your phrase "oodles of piglets"!!

  13. Nanan says:

    Is that your slaughterhouse rising in the picture with the hay? I see some structure off on the left side over there behind the hay bales. It looks huge!.

  14. Nanan, yes, that is the butcher shop's forms rising to the left. We've poured the concrete about half way up. Winter set in which stopped us. We are preparing so that when the weather warms we can start again.

  15. David says:

    Walter, you have commented in the past about your learned ability to compost/dispose of large body waste, anticipating the disposal problems with your slaughtering/butchering facility. I have never managed to compost anything bigger than a deceased chicken. Some detail, please?

  16. David,

    There is a mention of big compost piles in this post along with a photo. I have composted pigs as large as about 800 lbs. All that is left is a grey stain. I am not of the religious order of compost testers and turners but rather let my piles sit for a long time. They get quite hot, steaming in the morning cool air.

    If properly made they'll process right through the winter. If I can't get a pile started in winter I store the bodies in a snow bank, layering with carbon and then in the spring that automatically turns into a compost pile when the snow melts.

    Basically it is a matter of making a bed of large, course carbon material such as chip, brush, etc on top of some finder carbon. Ideally this has a bowl shape to it. Add the corpse and cover with more carbon.

    Here are some reading resources [1, 2, 3].

    Note that you do not need to be as rigorous and precise as they suggest. Nature composts all the time. It works. Err on the side of carbon and time. Patience is key.



  17. Samantha says:

    They so cute…How much does one piglet weight?

    • At birth a few pounds. At weaning typically 20 to 30 lbs. Roughly six months later, about 250 lbs. At about three years, roughly 700 to 1,000 lbs. Unfortunately the cuteness fades fast and my favorite colors turn dull as they get older.

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