Brimming with Milk

Black Sow and Piglets

This is her first litter, thus she’s what is termed a Parity 1 sow. Before the litter was born she was a gilt – that is to say a ‘Miss’ in the parlance of pig production. In olden times they termed a woman who had not had a child yet a virgin but the meaning of that term has changed with the times which creates some historical confusion.

Typically we get to spring just scraping by on the hay but this year we were fortunate to have extra so the sows have been getting the occasional bale out in the near fields. This tends to suck them inward at night and they often farrow at the bales or utilize them for gathering nesting materials. It’s an easy source of bedding. This sow and the one who farrowed with her have eaten down almost an entire bale despite also having pasture available. Interesting that they’ll still eat quite a bit of hay when the fresh greens are readily available.

Outdoors: 75°F/50°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark:
Ronald Regan said a rising tide lifts all boats.
I would suggest we make sure everyone’s not just
putting their boat in the water but the oars too.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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19 Responses to Brimming with Milk

  1. Larry says:

    Love your blog, Walter. You are a very knowledged man; and I appreciate your sharing of your wisdom. Just to let you know, tho, it was JFK who gave the rising tide speech, not Ronnie. ;)

    • Googling and Wikiing I see JFK used it first and Reagan later. Apparently Margret Thatcher and probably lots of politicians have used it. Interesting. That makes it more poignant since both parties have been using this phrase. They need to get together and agree it does indeed work, recognizing that it takes more than rising tide to make it effective. If the two parties would stop being so polarizing perhaps they could get more done. Hmm… That might be a very bad idea, given much of what they have done.

  2. Larry says:

    Couldn’t agree more… less is more with Congress.

    As long as elected OFFicALs continue to take money from big business, and do their bidding, WE THE PEOPLE don’t have a prayer… no matter who is elected. Politics has the tendency to make me bitter; so I don’t pay attention to it anymore. It just tears my heart out when a state I would love to move to, Missouri, could pass that big-farm-coddling, sad excuse for a constitutional amendment. Uggh.

  3. JP Swift says:

    I find it interesting also what my animals eat when I think they should be eating something else as in you saying the pigs will eat dry hay when there are greens to eat. It goes to show that animals know what they need at that moment better than we do.

    • Aye, I’m a big fan of simply making good things available and then letting the customer decide. If I want them to eat something in particular then I need to market it better or enhance it. I do make some decisions on this such as concentrating the eggs towards the smaller pigs where they have the greatest nutritional leverage. A boiled egg means a lot to a 20 lb piglet but that same egg is just a nibble to a 800 lb sow.

  4. Nance says:

    nothing prettier than a parity 1 sow : ) with nursing piglets except for a Mama farm cat with 5 or 6 kittens. I can’t believe I just called Mama Pig a parity 1 sow.

  5. Johanna says:

    I wasnt sure where to ask this question, but here goes. I love this site and use it exhaustively. Im new to pigs and just had our second farrowing with my single red wattle sow. She had 19 piglets, and only lost one. I took 5 away to raise on goats milk, they are now 4 weeks old. Two questions. The five are happy and healthy but tiny (i dont think they are true runts though) will they catch up? And will the sow typically have these large litters? She had 12 with the first parity. Great momma though. But it has been a bit crazy caring for the little guys.

    • Eventually they should catch up. It may take eight months or a year. If they did not get colostrum that would set them back some. The goats milk is not as rich as the sow’s milk so that would also set them back. Sow milk is very rich. Litter size is somewhat genetic but also largely controlled by how many times she mates (typical is 2x per breeding about 12 hours apart), when (at peak heat), nutrition, weight, age, season, vitamins, minerals, stress, etc. Lots of factors.

      • Johanna says:

        Thank you for the reply. i guess i will just be happy that my sow is obviously healthy and happy. Shouldnt be complaining about to many babies huh :)

  6. David Rhodes says:

    I have a parity 3 Berkshire sow litter 1 lost 1 to squashing. litter 2 lost 6 out of 11 after 4 days I took and bottle fed,lots of work. last night parity 3 had 11, squashed 1 by mid day. Sow is over weight ,should I pull them now before more losses or do they need more collesterum. I will be using milk replacer.

    • Her being over weight could be an issue that makes her less agile and more prone to crush piglets. That is hard to solve for this litter. At four days the piglets have gotten all of the colostrum they’ll get however her milk is the best thing for them. You can take them off her and feed them and use the milk replacer. I would make a mix of soft scrambled egg, whole milk, molasses and yogurt with fish oil. If I didn’t have molasses I would use white sugar. Even if I was using the milk replacer I would boost it with the above items for nutrition and energy. Good luck.

  7. David Rhodes says:

    Thank you for the advice. Very impressive operation and family you have.

  8. Brenda says:

    We have 2 sows that were littermates. Large Black x Berkshire cross. “Jewel” had 14 her first litter and raised 13 of them. “Little Bit” had 6 and raised all of them. They are both excellent mothers.
    Now we are on round two. Little Bit only had 7; all healthy and happy at 2 weeks old now…. but disappointed with only 7. Do we give her one more chance to have larger litters, or turn her into sausage once this litter is weaned? What would you do?
    We are still waiting on Jewels second litter due in a couple days. She took longer to breed back due to being nursed down from feeding 13 babies. I was giving her 20 pounds of feed a day trying to keep weight on her. I decided this litter will get weaned at 6 weeks rather than 8; to keep her weight up.

    • If you have a better sow to replace her then do so. If not then keep breeding her. It’s a matter of working with the resources you have. Realize that litter count is controlled by a lot of factors and genetics is the minor part of that. Diet, mycotoxins in feed, various toxic plants, stress, number of matings, boar health, sow health, minerals and vitamins are all factors that influence litter size.

      • Brenda says:

        Thank you. The two sows are in identical environment, same boar, feed, everything. We have reserved 2 gilts from Jewels first litter that look exceptionally nice. They will be ready to breed about the same time “Little Bit” will be weaning this (her second) litter. Jewel is having hers (second litter) literally right now. Will let you know how she does later. Thanks again!

        • Brenda says:

          Well….”Little Bit” was showed up by her sister once again. “Jewel” had 12 yesterday. All look healthy….so I am thinking Little Bit will be headed to the processor soon after weaning her 7.
          Love your site. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us!

  9. Brenda says:

    We are on the “countdown” for a load of pigs to be processed. 16 days. I have read that barley will help to firm up the fat. I know milk is good, but don’t have access to any that is affordable. So, is there anything we can feed or do at this point to put that little extra finishing of “special flavor” in the meat/fat?
    This is our first big batch and we really want them to be outstanding for our customers, so we get good referrals.
    Thank you!

    • At only 16 days to go it won’t make a lot of difference. Fat is where the flavor is stored. Scientific research on flavor and fat has shown that the change in fat happens at 14 days but I find it takes 30 days to get most of the change and then the change continues to about 90 days. Feeding fat this late in the game will make minimal difference.

      • Brenda says:

        Thank you Walter! We have been giving them one feeding a day of sweet feed in addition to their regular feed for several weeks. Our hope is that the molasses will affect the flavor to some degree. We will soon find out, I guess. :-)

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