Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim and Not Litter Mates

Tiny Tim is the piglet pictured in the middle. At five days of age he weighs just one pound. Unlike his namesake he is not crippled, he’s just very, very small.

The piglets on either side of Tiny Tim are not his litter mates. They’re about seven days older than him. Still, the difference should not be so dramatic. He is only about the size of their heads.

Tiny Tim is officially a runt, in that he is very small. It will be interesting to watch him over time and see if he makes it to full market size. We occasionally get runts and some times they make it. Most tiny ones like this die within the first 24 to 48 hours. They have congenital birth defects such that they were able to survive in the womb while on the sow’s life support system but once born and having to support themselves, to breath, eat and digest they don’t make it. So the fact that Tiny Tim is five days old and still doing well suggests he might actually make it.

Runts, when they live, don’t stay small. They may not grow into 1,700 lb mammoths like Spot and other half ton or more giants we have had but they won’t stay small and aren’t pet pigs. At full size, if he makes it, Tiny Tim will probably weigh 400 to 600 lbs. A market pig is 250 lbs. That’s no lap pig – although at the moment he fits in the palm of my hand.

Some people have asked if a tiny piglet would breed true, producing tiny offspring. I’ve never tried it but I doubt it. The problem does not seem to be likely a genetic issue but rather a non-genetic congenital defect.

For comparison, all of the bitches in our working dog pack have been small yet they have produced sons, and a few daughters, who way out massed them sometimes by a factor of three.

In our pigs, Spot, Speckles, Big’Un, Archimedes and other greater than 1,000 lb boars were all produced by sows who were only 400 to 600 lbs at the time these giants were born. I don’t think you could realistically, efficiently or quickly produce a race of teacup pigs from our farm genetics which have been bred for generations for just the opposite.

No, if I was going to try and produce small pigs I would actually start the other way around, by looking at the sows and boars who grow the slowest and top out the lowest as adults. These would be more likely to have the genes for smaller size that one might want when producing a pig to live in a small ecosystem. A runt like Tiny Tim is most likely just a random oddity.

Even better would be to start with existing small genetics like the Potbellied Pig, Kune Kune, Ossabow. These are breeds that are known for slow growth and staying smaller in the 200 to 300 lb range. They have already been selected for slow growth and small adult size through centuries of breeding.

So what are the odds of such a tiny pig? Being the only one born like that this year so far out of hundreds of piglets so I would peg the odds at about a 0.2% chance of a Tiny Tim.

Outdoors: 84°F/58°F 2.5″ Rain
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/63°F

Daily Spark: All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others. -Animal Farm

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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9 Responses to Tiny Tim

  1. Zephyr Hill says:

    Is Tiny Tim still doing okay?

  2. Jason at High Cove Farm says:

    And how is FDR doing?

    • Good. FDR is doing great. She’s in the hospital paddock, along with Tiny Tim. FDR has massive shoulders from using her wheelchair, er, I mean pulling herself around with her front legs. Her hams are actually looking quite good. She seems to have a little control over them now. Her tail wiggles and I sometimes see her rhythmically work her hind legs a little but she still can’t stand or walk on them. We do physical therapy sessions, holding her up so she gets the feeling of walking. Not her favorite part of the day. She would rather just scoot around on her belly.

  3. Tiny Tim lived for thirteen days. He never put on any more weight and at death was still only about a pound, significantly smaller than even normal newborn piglets. He ate, pooped and peed, all looking normal, but never put on, or lost, weight. My guess is that he had a problem with his small intestines that made it so that he was not able to properly utilize foods. It might have been something else related to digestion. He was lively and active right up to the end and then just didn’t wake up this evening.

  4. Aidan Hamilton says:

    Tiny Tim could turn a fellow soft.

    Do you typically raise out runts because feed costs are not so much of an issue on Sugar Mountain? Do they ever catch up?

    • We do. At a factory farm they aren’t considered economically worth it but here on pasture it is not a big deal if they take a few extra months to get to size. They don’t typically get as large as full size pigs, which can be well over 1,000 lbs, but they get way beyond cute and will get up to many hundreds of pounds eventually.

  5. Farmerbob1 says:

    I’m curious. If you had a sow who regularly threw small yet healthy piglets that grew to market weight at a reasonable rate, would you consider trying to capture that trait of small birth size? Smaller piglets would be less strain on a sow to birth and possibly less stressful to nurse, depending on the weight gain curve? Maybe sows would throw larger litters for more years if they weren’t stressed?

    Looking at it from the outside without your experience, the first problem I imagine would be winter farrowing. Hypothermia is heavily size dependent for most animals. I’m not certain how much size really matters if the sow is attentive and the farrowing takes place in the conditions you provide for your pigs in the winter.

    • We might already have this, or have sows with big hips. I have heard of many people talk about sows that get piglets stuck during farrowing. We don’t get this. There is a reason big hipped women are so beautiful…

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