A Mess of Winter Piglets

Tamborine and Eight Piglets

Last night this sow in our Tamworth line had eight piglets down in the south field shed. She’s giving me the eye, wondering if I’m going to disturb her. There is no need. She farrowed fine all by herself just like all good sows. We select hard for sows that can farrow year round on their own with little to no intervention on our part.

All they need is simply a private space away from the rest of the herd. In the warm months the sows go to the margins of the pastures, pick a spot, build a nest and defend it a day or few before giving birth. Then in a week or so they join other sows to form cohorts.

In the winter we provide that privacy by having winter paddocks for farrowing sows which are separate from the rest of the herds. There are deep bedding packs which produce belly heat and food from the composting action of the wood chips and hay. We give them hay, it takes about one round bale per litter, as well as fresh water – something otherwise frozen solid in our cold winter world.

Beyond these simple things we need do little for most farrowings. Farrowing crates and gestation crates are not necessary, contrary to the opinions of Big Ag. No drying off with towels, no iodine, not iron shots, no tail clipping, no teeth cutting. None of these popular interventions are necessary. The good sows nest and give birth without human intervention as nature evolved them to be able to do over millions of years.

24 Piglets in One Nest

Occasionally sows will be larger communal nests and all farrow together. With experienced good sows this is not a problem. These twenty-four piglets were also born last night in a group nest shared by three sows who are using bay four of the south field shed.

It is interesting to note that while they have the opportunity to build their nests further back in the sheds they generally do it out at the front edge where they can see the bright sky. Pigs seem to like to sleep under the stars.

Garden Piglets

These are piglets who are a little older, a little bigger and were born a little earlier this month down in the house garden which is our oldest winter paddock. In the background you can see their father, our Berkshire boar Spitz, who is snuggled in with the sows.

Outdoors: 10°F/4°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/59°F

Daily Spark: Three Blind Men – name for a company who makes hunting shelters or window shades.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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