First Piglets Spring 2014

Hour Old First Piglet 2014 Spring – a Bit Early

One of our Blackieline sows had the first litter of the spring of 2014 back on Tuesday, the 11th. “Ah-ha!” you say, <"But it's not spring yet!" You are right but don’t try and tell the sow that. This piglet and its litter mates weren’t supposed to be born until around the Equinox on the 22nd or 23rd of March. We shan’t all look the same calendars now shall we?

The sow’s gestation was a mere 103 days. Normally a sow gestation is 114 day. Our Blackieline sows often short gestate. That is to say, just like with humans, not all pig pregnancies are the same length. I was born on time (early signs of OCD?), one of my sisters was born early, one of my brothers was born late. Such is the way of schedules.

Because of their short gestation periods and anxiousness to get back in the saddle with the boars right away, they’ll jump 4′ fences to do so, the Blackieline sows often have three strong, healthy litters per year per sow compared with the normal 2.3 litters per year of most pigs.

One often hears that lactation prevents heating and conception but apparently nobody told Blackie and her daughters like PeanutButter, Oreo, DoubleStuff, LadyDiamond, Jill and friends. The result is they do get pregnant while still nursing a litter. This is by their own choice – no encouragement needed from us. If we try to separate them from the boars they’ll make a concerted effort to get to the boars. Seeing a fully bagged sow vault a fence is impressive. Remember folks: Breast feeding is not a reliable form of birth control.

These sows keep their condition well, are great mothers and productive milkers even on our low calorie pasture/hay+whey diet they have shown that they can perform fine this way so I am not concerned for their health. They seem to know what they’re doing so I let nature take it’s course.

Spring is officially here as counted by the sows, although the Equinox still has not shown and the snows will still be deep for a long time.

By the way, there is a myth that sows farrow at 3 am and pick the worst weather. This sow farrowed from 5 pm to 7 pm on a very nice night. It was a balmy 34°F when she birthed at the end of the day. It only dropped to 14°F over night which is a nice temperate range for us this time of year. She farrowed on a deep bedding pack in the south field shed which is an open roofed area. The deep bedding composts producing heat coming up to the pigs’s bellies which they enjoy. The next day we got 19″ of snow which she conveniently missed. She at least did not try and uphold the myth. We did have a sow in early January who farrowed when it was -24°F, again on the deep bedding pack, and all the piglets were fine. She was from our Mainline herd.

Outdoors: 24°F/-8°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/57°F

Daily Spark: When we look back through history at all those who have sought the elixir [of immortality] in the past the one thing that they all have in common is that they’re all dead. -Stephen Cave

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to First Piglets Spring 2014

  1. Susan says:

    Hi Walter- a quick question. How do you keep track of which boar is the father if your sows are jumping fences?? Thank you so for a wonderfully informative site! I thoroughly enjoy your posts.

    • Because of several things:

      1) The setup is such that she might jump one fence to get to a boar but she’s not going to jump three more to get to another. Sows don’t really care who the father is. They just have an itch they want scratched when they’re in heat.

      2) I know our genetics so well that I can simply look at the piglets coming out of a litter and tell you who the father is because some characteristics are dominant and others recessive. That is something that comes with knowing genetics and simply experience.

  2. Patrick says:

    Curious: what’s your general loss rate on piglets and does it differ by season of birth? What causes most losses?

    • It varies with the line. Our Mainline and Blackielines are low loss. The Tamworth and second Large Black line do very well in the warm weather but not so well in the winter because they are not as attentive.

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