Yukka Yogurt & Pig Morality

FDR – The Paralyzed Pig

That’s FDR in the photo. She’s a gilt weaner piglet named after the late great President. He had polio. I’m not sure what her problem is but she can’t use her back legs. Still, she gets around, dragging her paralyzed hind quarters behind her using her front legs. She’s a survivor.

Pigs are not nice people. They do not take care of each other. There is no empathy in pigs. No caring for the injured. No altruism. Pigs are about “Me First” and everyone else is a distant ninth.

Contrast this with human society and wolf society where we take care of our injured, bring them part of the kill to eat while they heal, doctor them through illness. Wolves and humans both do altruism. They gift give – something you’ll never find a pig doing in their natural society.

This brings us to why FDR is up at the dog house by our cottage and not out in the field with the other pigs: I was out walking and saw her dragging herself along hoping for a crumb of the bread I was broadcasting. Another little pig of her size saw her too and nailed her. It was all over her. Biting her. Pushing her. Tearing at her ears and face. There was nothing she could do to defend herself. There was plenty of food all around them and no need for the fighting.

I see this sort of behavior. Pigs attack the weak and will kill them. I suspect the reason they do this is because a weak animal in the herd may attract predators. By killing or weakening FDR and leaving her as the herd moves on the other pigs increase their odds of survival since the predators will stop to eat her. It’s a survival strategy for herd animals but not very nice. I cull against this but it is deep in the pigs’s ken.

So I picked her up and carried her to the cottage. Remus immediately took her under his, er, wing and has been nursing her back to health, feeding her donuts and telling the other dogs that he is the one who gets to doctor her. He’s very good with piglets, as are all of the dogs. They understand caring for the weak. That’s what they do. They understand altruism and gift giving. These are natural behaviors that cement the bonds of their pack.

I don’t know if FDR will ever walk. Possible causes for her rear leg paralysis include but are not limited to:

  • Sunburn/sunstroke
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Viral Infections
  • Botulism
  • Mycotoxins
  • Poisonous plants
  • Mineral deficiencies
  • Injury (e.g., stepped on in the case of a piglet)

Only the last one seems likely since she is the only pig exhibiting the problem. Yet, I see no dislocation, no injury to the skin of her back or legs. It is a puzzler. Thoughts on causes?

ThePigSite web site has a disease problem solver on it that might help if you’re trying to diagnose ills. It tends to come back with a lot of false positives but that can help identify some possible causes and then one can eliminate the impossible.

So there is FDR, paralyzed from the waist down but still a survivor. No wheel chair for her. Maybe she’ll make it. Maybe she’ll regain the use of her rear legs. With some palliative care her body may heal. That’s the hope. We and the dogs will care for her.

With this in mind, since she is a new weanling, I went to make her some yogurt. But low and behold, the only yogurt I had was a little bit of quite moldy yogurt in the back of the fridge. Normally I start with a nice clean culture. In fact, I’ve never tried starting with a culture this green and fuzzy, by far. On a desperate whim I blended it with a gallon of whole milk and some molasses and set it in a hot water bath in the kitchen sink to see if the Lacto bacilus could win in the battle against the green mold and what ever else was growing in that container. Miracles of miracles, a day later I had a gallon of yogurt! FDR was most appreciative. From that I’ve done two more gallon’s using each as starter for the next. I guess the good guys (Lacto bacilus) won.

Outdoors: 79°F/54°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/63°F

Daily Spark: Pigs have neither morality nor ethics although they will espouse both during an election.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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19 Responses to Yukka Yogurt & Pig Morality

  1. Patrick says:

    It’s not just pigs. I have a Muscovy that got along with everyone – he was the oldest drake we had. Then this winter he got frostbit and that slowed him down for a few days until he got his energy back. The other male ducks – and even geese – have permanently excommunicated him from the flock. They see him and attack, every time. The gals don’t seem to be bothered by him, and even let him mate. Other new birds are accepted into the combined flock, but this one is on their list forever.

    Drakes are here for two reasons: breeding and eating. It’s too much work to breed him, and frankly if the other males think there is something wrong I will defer to nature. He’s still pretty healthy, so I think this week is “the time”.

    Our pigs are just like you say. They’ll run down a runt getting anything they can. They will take from the runt even if they got food right in front of them. Pigs are not nice. Not by a longshot. We give them a good life, but I don’t feel bad for them at the end.

  2. Jessy K says:

    This question is off topic but you said to leave questions/comments anywhere so here goes: We are about to raise 3 Berkshire cross feeder pigs. I have good quality timothy-clover hay for bedding/free choice feed and waste milk from the dairy I work at. I want to supplement this hay-milk diet with a bit of grain. Do I need to give them the “hog feed” that the feed store sells or will they do alright on straight ground corn? This is mainly a vitamin/mineral question. Will they become deficient if they don’t eat the vitamin premix that is contained in the feed store “hog feed”? Will a pig feed off loose mineral like a horse or cow? They will have access to rotated pasture too with lots of weeds(forbs!) in it as well. Thanks so much!

    • First realize I’m speaking from theory since I don’t feed a corn diet or commercial feed… My understanding is that the advantage of the commercial feed for you is that it will provide a balance of protein and energy as well as the minerals while a ground corn diet is going to be too high in energy (calories) and missing minerals as well as low in protein. This could cause fat pigs with poor muscle development and possibly low mineral problems. Being on dirt might solve the mineral issues if the dirt is complete – get a soil test and it is specifically iron and selenium among others that are at issue. You could also solve this with a vitamin mineral premix but now you’re going to so much work that perhaps it would be best to do a commercial feed if that’s the way you want to lean.

      All that said if they’re on good pasture they’ll likely get most of what they need from that so some corn is merely boosting energy levels while the dairy is taking care of protein and possibly energy levels too depending on the type of dairy (e.g., whole milk vs whey). I think they’ll be okay.

      • Jessy K says:

        Thanks so much Walter! Yes, they will have lots of pasture and whole milk so I think I will give it a go with straight corn.

    • Patrick says:

      Walter is an expert on pigs and I would defer to him on anything. That said, he doesn’t use the commercial feeds. I do, because my land is more heavy wood than pasture. So hopefully I can contribute here.

      You need a few things more than simple corn: Essential Amino Acids, and lysine is the important one. Lysine is a big factor in the development of lean mass (muscle). Lysine will be found in pasture in fairly small amounts, but the upside is that pastured pigs don’t need a high concentration of lysine because they grow slower on a more balanced (lower calorie density) diet. The issue with feeding regimens based on calorie-rich food is that unlike pasture, those extra calories are going to go somewhere if they don’t have enough EAAs to help convert them. It goes to fat.

      Pastured pigs don’t need as much supplementation because their growth rate is more natural. When you power-grow a hog, you need to up their EAA intake to match those extra calories. I have some studies around here somewhere but they are hardcopy.

      Lysine is not a magic bullet. You need to watch your hogs as they grow and balance feeds carefully. If they are getting too fat, slow down the feed and make them walk a bit more. Also don’t switch foods around too fast or it’ll make them sick. Feed-raised animals are not as adapted to varying foodstuffs. Overdosing EAAs is not going to hurt them, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money. So do some research and stick with the low to median values (percentages) that you need.

      If you can raise them outside in the woods, then you are in a good place where the soil might help – follow Walter’s advice about testing or just watch and measure if you only got a few test pigs. If they have sapling trees to munch they won’t be so bored and they get good minerals (but not much lysine or other EAAs). Just make sure they are not eating poisonous plants. Pigs are dumb enough to eat just about anything that’ll fit in their mouths.

      As for feed suggestions, I have gone through a few different feeds and mixes and options. I currently prefer Purina Sow & Pig Complete. They make a concentrate that you can mix with corn or other feed (call them) to get the extra stuff you need. The products are also natural and not made with old ground-up bones or whatnot. It’s a bit pricey but frankly it’s worth it for me. I have charted growth on other feeds and the Purina stuff creates a good product with lean muscle and enough Berkshire lard to cook it all in – a great balance. We give them as much natural pasture food as we can, but in the end their primary food is from a mill.

      I think Walter gets his pigs lysine naturally in the form of whey. If I could, I would. Next farm…

  3. Jenna says:

    Your insights are aways striking. I had never thought about the paralels between people and wolves and how distinct they are from pig societies. Hope FDR recovers!

  4. Amy says:

    No ideas on what could be causing the issue. But, bravo for giving her time to heal. I am continually amazed at what a pig can come back from. We have had them recover (almost completely on their own) from vicious dog attacks, illness and broken bones. I think that farmers are often too quick to put an animal down. But, I am a bit of a softy ;)

  5. Jason at High Cove Farm says:

    I just had to comment on this given our recent experience with a piglet. We raise large blacks in western North Carolina and recently discovered a three week old piglet in the pasture who couldn’t use his front left or right rear leg, and had some cuts and abrasions on his face. No obvious sign of broken bones. We guess he was accidentally crushed by one of the larger sows and then, as you say, the other piglets showed no mercy, hence the bloody face.

    We scooped him up and took him to the house, not sure of our next move other than providing shelter, food and water. I didn’t think he would last long but he kept eating and pooping normally, and quickly became adjusted to house life. And lap sitting.

    We had a family reunion here at the farm a few days later and a cousin, who is a chiropractor, looked at him and said, “Well here’s your problem.” He manipulated the leg, did some chiropractor stuff, and immediately the piglet stood straight up on his front legs! His back end was too swollen to do anything with and my cousin didn’t have his activator tool, but it gave us an idea.

    As it happens, my son has been seeing an excellent massage therapist to help him with some recent leg surgery. Long story short, he had the activator and within minutes the piglet was using his back leg, although not perfectly. At five and a half weeks we put him back with the other piglets and watched carefully. He still has a slight limp with his back leg (nerve damage maybe?), but apparently not enough to trigger a negative response from his peers. Today, at 9 weeks, he’s right in with the rest of them.

    It turns out my cousin had previously adjusted some race horses in the Knoxville area. Googling “animal chiropractors” may surprise you.

    • Cool! I’m glad that worked so well for your pig. Holly, Ben and I have been doing physical and occupational therapy sessions with FDR and I have seen her use her muscles once in a while so I think she may be improving. Hanno, one of our livestock dogs trys to do the sessions too but he’s a bit of a drill sargent. But he does her no harm and makes her work out so that may help too.

  6. Belseth says:

    Another possible cause would be a tumor. She’s really young for that but it can even happen before birth. It could be putting pressure on the spinal cord or simply cutting off blood flow. No way to tell without testing. Odds are you’ll never know. I’ve seen animals with congenital spine problems. Sometimes they don’t cause problems right off. I had a kitten with a deformity that made it hard to swallow hard food and ended up killing her before six months. It could be something as simple as a slipped disc. Too many options.

  7. Dawn Carroll says:

    I would try some DMSO along FDR’s spine and would do this daily even twice daily if you can. If you don’t like getting it on your hands a paint brush works well. I use the roll on kind on myself. Really takes care of that inflammation.
    I know you are on Facebook….check out Chris P Bacon Pig on Wheels…with your families abilities to manufacture something out of nothing you might be able to rig up something that would help keep her spine straight (would heal better straight) and her/his hips straight as well.
    You should be able to, if FDR doesn’t recover, get her/him to roaster size without the problem of sores on the legs from the hindquarters being drug in the dirt if you made a chariot for her/him to use.
    I know it isn’t practical to save the “few” but for every sick one I save I learn something new that will save the next sick one faster or I learn how to prevent the problem altogether from happening a next time.

    • I hadn’t heard of DMSO before. For those who are interested, here is the Wiki page on DMSO. I don’t think I’ll be going that route, nor the wheel chair since FDR will only be growing to roaster size and not around long enough to make good use of the mechanical ‘legs’. We have been doing physical therapy sessions. Normally she keeps her legs stretched out straight behind her, the photo caught her at a funny twist, so her spine is staying straight. She now has motion in her tail and occasional leg control.

  8. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Hi Walter: Some cautions on DMSO (though you seem to have self-warned-off already):
    I used to buy the veterinary grade of the stuff from a feed store, as the human pharma involved doctor and prescription costs I didn’t have money for. Heavy into martial arts and SCA armored broadsword fighting, my degenerating knees really benefited from the stuff. I learned to relish the garlic taste when slathering the goop on.
    First of those cautions, DMSO is a transporter. Anything you touch while it is on you is going into your bloodstream with it. We were having an SCA tourney and convention at the Twin Towers in Isla Vista the same weekend the visiting Swedish track team was there, training at the UCSB campus nearby. I remember seeing them through the grill of my helm, passing our tourney field; tall, toned, magnificently fit young blond men and women, swim suited, glistening, I now know, from the DMSO they regularly applied all over to combat soreness and swelling. We learned later that most of them died that day. They lay out sunbathing on a beautiful lawn that had recently had an application of nitrogen fertilizer.
    Second caution is much like the first. DMSO will take with it anything that is on your hide pre-application. Sunscreen, perfume, cologne, insect repellant . . .
    DMSO can be a murder weapon too. Dick Francis did a book wherein race horses were poisoned via neck pats with surgical gloves bearing poison-laced DMSO. Sir Francis did impeccable research, always.
    An aside somewhat apropos; at that convention there was an exhibit of war bag-piping, full volume, full costume. I was standing and flinching next Sir Bela of Eastmarch, whom you probably know as Poul Anderson. He turned to me, wincing, and said, “He’s hurting the poor thing.” Applying DMSO to any beastie with a paint brush is exposing the critter’s innards to anything it may encounter while the stuff is still moist. You might hurt the poor thing.

  9. Mark Johnson says:

    I really love your spark. Good article too.

  10. How is your pig doing? We have a barrow that is having difficulty with it’s rear end. It can stand when necessary, but is very unstable on it’s back legs and will drag it’s behind if not encouraged to stand. Also no sign of injury. It is with a herd of 13 other pigs and no others exhibit this behavior. We will probably segregate it, although there doesn’t seem to be much bullying happening. We’re hoping time will heal all. Hope your pig has recovered.

    • FDR is doing great. She has probably doubled in size. I see her moving her legs a little, flutter kicking, and she moves her tail but she does not walk. We do physical therapy sessions with her but that is her least favorite part of the day.

  11. Update: FDR never healed her back legs although she would wiggle them and wiggle her tail but she scooched around she did grow to 50 lbs which was about five times as large as she was when I found her broken out in the field and very impressive.

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