Umbilical Hernia

Pig with Umbilical Hernia

Not everybody’s perfect. Once in a while someone’s belly button doesn’t get properly tied by the doctor and you get an outie or it even comes untied, or unbuttoned, in which case you get a hernia as the guts spill out. Messy, messy…

Well, not really, outies, innies and umbilical hernias have nothing to do with tying off the umbilical cord. In fact, umbilical hernias are a congenital defect where the abdominal tissue is not tight enough leaving a wean point or hole through which the intestines are able to extrude under the skin creating a bulge like the one on the pig shown above. This is real and can happen in humans too.

There appears to be a genetic link to umbilical hernias. Years ago we had them more often, although still rare. I noticed that they trended in certain genetic lines within our herds so I culled out those genes over a period of many generations. When we got additional genetics a few years ago the gene for this showed up in that herd too and I’m working at weeding it out again. Infrequently popping up recessive inclination traits like this are the hardest to work on in a genetic program but persistence pays off resulting in gradual improvement of the herds. This works since only about 5% of females ever get to breed and only 0.5% of males get to breed. Nature runs her herds in much the same way.

Generally a pig will show the umbilical hernia by weaning age. If it is doing okay I’ll keep watching it and sometimes the pig grows fine right up to finisher size.

If pinched and unaddressed then the pig can die from the hernia so you want to keep an eye one it if you have a pig with a hernia. The pig would literally die of starvation amid plenty. If I see the pig start to lose weight that tells me that the hernia has pinched the intestines and the pig is no longer able to pass it’s bowels. That means it is slaughter time. These make fine roaster pigs, there is nothing wrong with the meat, they just won’t grow well.

You might even see the abdomen bloat like the assholeless piglets – the ones I refer to as being unopinionated.

I have heard of people using duct tape and half a tennis ball to push the extruding piece of intestine back in and then hold it within the pig in the hope it will heal up the hernia hole. If one were to do that then the pig should be separated from other pigs for the duration of the treatment as the cohort mates may rip off the tape.

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About Walter Jeffries

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3 Responses to Umbilical Hernia

  1. Dawn Carroll says:

    I had a mess of scrotal hernia’s one time. Same lines… same sows, same boars…there was some chatter about some of it being related to a calcium deficiency. I have had a few piglets get hernias after being laid up by the sow or from being at the bottom of the pig pile due to the pressure of being laid on. At least that is what seemed to have happened when one minute they didn’t have a hernia and the next minute the hernia popped up or out I should say.

  2. Sarah says:

    Walter, I really enjoy and appreciate your posts. I am starting pastured pork production and your website has been an amazing help. Do you have any experience with or info on scrotal hernias? We have a little piglet (2 weeks old) with one. We decided not to cut as our general policy, but wondering if it is worth doing the procedure to fix him up? What is the likelihood that this pig will suffer or die from the hernia? Do abattoirs usually refuse to take a pig with a scrotal hernia? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this one!

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