Beans (born June 25, 2019) serviced by Pork on January 30, 2020 (Both 7 months of age) Farrowed May 24, 2020 (115 days gestating) at 9:00PM
May 24, Sunday
At 9:00PM I saw Beans moving nesting material near the creepspace, then she turned around and lay down. By 10:00PM I could see a big brown piglet. At 11:10PM, Beans got up, some piglets squealed then she lay down again. By 12 midnight I could hear Beans grunting as she nurses her piglets. She starts nursing again 15 minutes later. Another 15 minutes later, I heard some piglets fighting but Beans quieted them down by grunting louder (perhaps, producing more milk?)
The fan was on throughout farrowing which I believe encourages Beans to farrow near the creepspace and at the same time discourages the piglets from wandering away from the creepspace. By 4:00AM I turned off the fan as the temperature became cooler.
May 25, Monday
6:30AM Beans ate a light meal, water then returned to nursing her piglets. There are 6 piglets. A small litter but I am happier about small litters because it is less stressful for the sow and crushing incidents are less likely.
Beans is agile and flexible and responds quickly to piglets squealing. At 3:50PM, a piglet was squealing because it fell over on its back and couldn’t get up. It managed to get up after a couple of seconds. Beans got up startled wondering what had happened. When she lay down, her backside pressed on a resting piglet, it squealed so Beans got up to allow the piglet to escape.
Early on piglets seem to have learned to avoid their mother perhaps for fear of crushing.
May 26, Tuesday
Beans ate much better today. Her appetite is back to normal. Temperature is not elevated. I applied iron supplements on her teats while the piglets were nursing. I saw Beans panic a bit when she accidentally stepped on a piglet.
May 27, Wednesday
I saw Beans playing! She was running playfully after the piglets. I was worried she might step on them but she is very agile and careful. The piglets also know how to use the creepspace for protection.
Pinky Boar’s tusk trimming was scheduled for today. Despite the presence of people and the noise, Beans was not badly affected. She stayed in one corner of the pen protecting her piglets. I gave them food and forage to distract their attention from the tusk trimming.
May 28, Thursday
I saw Beans playing again, which is a good sign after the noise and stress of yesterday’s tusk trimming (the nearby pen about 10 meters away). Beans mode of play is by jumping in the air and turning at the same time. She seemed to do this to attract the piglets’ attention.
May 30, Saturday
Beans was playing again, running around the pen and barking. The piglets have just discovered the different and more attractive soil found just out the escape hatch. I noticed that one of the brown piglets had a “gash” on its left flank. The gash looks like a skin had been pulled away and the wound already healing/drying. It is very difficult to tell what it is or what caused it. Could’ve been an accident with the sow or a sharp object in the pen or the escape hatch/piglet confinement area.
Some important observations
Teeth clipping was unnecessary. We had no nursing difficulties. Fighting took place as usual amongst litter mates, but the sow was able to control the fighting. Piglets were very adventurous, not afraid of our presence yet careful and wary when wandering outside the pen. Once the piglets start wandering too far towards dangerous sections of the garden (for example near the neighbours where there are dogs), I start to close the piglet pen. This is at around 3-4 weeks of age. By 3 weeks of age the piglets are eating whatever their mother eats, testing new things to eat.
July 18, Saturday
Beans appeared to be in heat. She was anxious, made deep but soft growl-like vocalizations, and kept looking towards Pinky Boar in a pen about 12 meters away. So I decided to separate her from her piglets July 19. I took her to the pen next to Pinky and she seemed very excited about it!
A day before weaning, I gave the piglets a herbal concoction to prevent diarrhea. The piglets usually get diarrhea 3 days after I’ve separated them from their mom. But this time, no diarrhea at all. Herbal medicine works! I didn’t need to give them any anti-scour medicine or antibiotics.
Number 3’s Fifth Parity Serviced by Pinky Boar March 1, 2019 Farrowed June 25, 2019
May 29, Number 3 was transferred to the Maternity Pen. She ate plenty of pineapples. She looked happy and comfortable. By evening, she started that characteristic grunting sound, as if calling piglets to suckle. This could be a sign of hormonal changes.
June 7, Number 3 was given an anthelmintic (Levamisole Hcl).
June 8, Number 3’s vulva was swollen. She had this problem several times before but not this close to farrowing. I notice that she never had this problem during lactating. I wonder if this was a sign of hormonal problems or more serious health/reproductive problem. The vulva becomes swollen and there is bleeding. Often, a boil or pustule is visible which becomes enlarged and bursts, reducing in size. However, this time, if there was a boil, it was discharging from the inside. The discharge was a mix of blood and clear liquid. I often use Hexa-mide cream (Hexachlorophene Sulfanilamide) which clears the wound, swelling and irritation.
June 17, Number 3’s vulva looked normal and no discharge visible.
June 24, nest building started at 5:30PM.
June 25, Number 3 was given her usual feed at 6AM and 4PM while she continued nest-building. She started farrowing at around 9PM. Number 3 gave birth to a small litter of 7 piglets.
June 30, Number 3 accidentally stepped on a piglet and killed it. The accident was at the trough where the ground gets wet, slippery and very hard. That area needs to be re-designed.
Observations: The small litter size is probably due to the condition of the boar. I decided to reduce the boar’s daily feed to reduce his weight. Unfortunately, this actually meant he wasn’t as strong and agile and thus kept falling off the sow during mating. When I started giving the boar the usual feed, he was much better. We didn’t need to cut piglets’ teeth. Perhaps because of the small number of piglets, although there was fighting at the teats, it wasn’t aggressive enough to upset the sow and disrupt suckling. Piglets were weaned at 35 days.
We also noticed that the fan seemed to affect the piglets. Since the fan was directed towards the center of the pen, the piglets stayed away from it and instead stayed in the creep space which was not reached by the force of the fan. So the fan seemed also a good way of guiding piglets away from certain areas, reducing the risk of laying over or crushing by the sow.
Gestation 111 Days.
Serviced by Pinky Boar on November 10, 2018.
Farrowed March 1, 2019.
Electric Fan Installed in Maternity Pen
To reduce heat stress, we decided to install an electric fan in the maternity pen.
We transferred Auntie Brownie to the Maternity Pen at around 3 weeks before farrowing. I turned on the electric fan to test at 10:00AM while Auntie Brownie was busy drinking at the trough. She stopped drinking and looked up at the fan. All day, she avoided the fan and rested near the gate of the pen. However, by 5PM, she got used to the fan and slept right next to the creep space where the fan was directed. A tarpaulin was installed along the south side of the pen to provide shade from the heat of the winter sun.
By 107 days gestation, Auntie Brownie’s teats looked bigger. She also made louder grunting noises while resting, as if calling piglets to suckle. When she was feeling hot, she would point her nose to the fan, so I turn it on.
Sow’s Mothering Instincts
Two weeks before farrowing, Auntie Brownie’s mothering instincts became more and more apparent. She made grunting sounds prior to lying down, she was more alert and suspicious of sounds and movement in the environment, she shredded dry coconut leaves as if they were nesting material (our sows’ preferred nesting material are dry banana leaves), she pawed the ground prior to lying down, etc.
Twitching Leg of Sow
I noticed that while asleep or resting, Auntie Brownie’s rear leg twitched. This happened several times. I’ve associated this with uterine contraction and hope that it is not a sign of chronic reproductive illness.
Farrowing Day March 1, 2019 Friday
It rained in the early morning, so it was cool, a bit humid. Nest building started at 2:35PM. I’ve added Amovet (Amoxicillin Trihydrate) to Auntie Brownie’s drinking water to help ease the effects of MMA (infection). She ate some feed, some nesting material and 4 chicken eggs in the morning. She lay in the nest. She started farrowing some 6 hours later. I didn’t go near the pen, I just stayed in the house where I could look into the pen, some 20 or so feet away. We have a non-intervention policy during farrowing.
At 8:53PM Auntie Brownie adjusted her position on the nest a few times. She seemed to be in early labor. I could smell blood all of a sudden and knew that she has farrowed. Pinky Boar, housed some 25 feet away, responded with his typical ‘huh’ vocalisation. Pinky Boar always responds when farrowing begins.
At 9:13PM I could see movement in the nest. I could hear piglets fighting. Auntie Brownie chose to farrow along the lower south side of the pen, her teats facing the wall. Because of the fighting, Auntie Brownie got upset and rose, moved nesting material and I could see active piglets underneath her. She lay down and piglets squealed. Pinky Boar responded to the squealing.
March 2,2019 Saturday
9:00AM Observation: A very active litter of piglets. I am not yet sure how many piglets there are. Auntie Brownie nurses frequently, in 30 minute intervals, sometimes shorter. This is an advantage since she seems to have a large litter. I could see 10 live piglets and 2 dead ones. I had the fan on at 9:45AM. By 10AM, the piglets sleep away from the mother. There is fighting at the teats and the mother growls at times. When the mother gets upset, she lies on her teats to prevent the piglets from suckling.
At 5PM, 4 dead piglets collected from the pen. It was not clear whether they were stillborn or born alive and laid on by the mother. 12 live piglets observed.
March 3, 2019 Sunday
2:40AM I got woken up by the sound of a piglet crying. The black and white piglet had gone out through the escape hatch and couldn’t find its way back into the pen. I opened the pen gate and let the piglet in. This piglet remained the most adventurous in the litter.
6:30AM A dead piglet found in the nest, apparently laid over by the mother.
2:00PM A small piglet got caught between the mother’s legs after nursing. It was a very weak piglet that had difficulty finding its teat. It was fighting through its sibling at the back teats. The mother seemed aware that she was crushing a piglet between her legs and did not move. The mother had to be encouraged to move so the piglet could be rescued. We decided to hand-rear the piglet because leaving it with the sow and litter-mates will almost certainly kill it.
Another small and weak piglet was observed. We decided to let it stay with the mother for the next 12 hours and see if its performance improves. Otherwise, we will hand-rear it.
Several times, Auntie Brownie got hurt nursing. She growled and got up. So we decided to cut piglets’ teeth.
Teeth-clipping quickly done at 3PM. At the same time, iron drops were given to all the piglets. Teeth clipping made nursing events much more peaceful.
I am disappointed that we still haven’t solved the problem of the sow getting hurt by piglets’ needle teeth during nursing, a problem we didn’t need to deal with in our first parity. I thought that managing MMA early and providing a fan to reduce heat stress would solve this problem. But it hasn’t.
March 4, 2019 Monday
6:25AM Found a dead piglet, a large black and white male. This wasn’t the weak piglet observed yesterday. It seems that crushing is quite random, until the optimal number of piglets are left. In our sows’ case and history, we learn that this is 8 piglets. There are 9 piglets left with the sow, so we will definitely need to remove a piglet from the litter and hand-rear it (we already have one piglet in our care and she is doing well). In retrospect, we should’ve done this yesterday, which might have arrested today’s crushing incident.
4:00PM During feeding, while Auntie Brownie is busy eating, I took away the weakest and smallest piglet in the litter, leaving 8 piglets for the sow. There are 2 piglets in foster care now, which is better since they motivate better feeding through competition and they keep each other warm during the cold evenings.
Now 3 days old, the piglets have discovered the escape hatch and have been exploring the soil and vegetation in ‘The Restaurant.’ Piglets fight over teats much less now and nursing events are peaceful and successful. Temperature ranges are very comfortable for the piglets, boar and sow, but not so for lactating sows. The electric fan helps in this regard.
March 7-9, 2019 Thursday-Saturday
This is Day 6-9 from farrowing and Auntie Brownie is lethargic and irritable perhaps because effect of antibiotic has worn off (she was given Amovet for 4 days). Amovet recommends 3-5 days for pigs.
March 16, 2019 Sunday
A (Non-Fatal) Crushing Incident
Hot and somewhat humid day because of rain at 1PM. After afternoon feeding, I gave banana leaves to Auntie Brownie and she started eating it with her piglets. I walked off to give water to Pinky Boar and Sow Number 3 when I suddenly heard Auntie Brownie grunting (nursing). I thought this was too soon when she was just eating banana leaves with her piglets. So I had a look, piglets were nursing. I counted only 7 piglets so I looked where the 8th was and found it. Its head and front legs were buried under Auntie Brownie’s backside. I managed to get Auntie Brownie to get up but the piglet wasn’t breathing. I hit the piglet a few times with a broom (made of the fine midrib of dry coconut leaves) and after a couple of seconds, it woke up and jumped. It walked away dazed, frightened. After an hour or so, it looked better and joined the litter fighting over teats.
This crushing event was very disheartening. This was a 15-day old piglet, a rather large piglet, which could’ve been killed. I suspect these types of incidents have taken place before, but the sow got up after several minutes (for example, after nursing which takes 2-4 minutes). The chances of a piglet being able to breath again after being crushed (suffocated) for several minutes is quite high. But a weaker piglet could’ve been killed. I must’ve noticed this pattern before because I always look whenever I hear the sow nursing.
March 28, 2019 Tuesday
Day 27. Auntie Brownie still has this intermittent trembling/twitching leg syndrome while sleeping or lying on her side. I wonder if this is a sign of reproductive disorder or other? She has no other obvious symptoms.
April 7, 2019 Sunday – Piglets are 36 days old. We separated Auntie Brownie from the piglets. Auntie Brownie growls a bit and paces back and forth her pen whenever the piglets call for milk. By April 9, she no longer does this; she rests better and rests quietly. Her only distress is the build-up of milk in her teats, thus we feed sows much less when weaning so there is lesser milk production.
April 11, 2019 Thursday
Auntie Brownie is back in heat. We don’t mate our sows immediately after weaning. We usually wait till 2-3 more cycles, when the sow is in better body condition.
Update on the Hand-Reared Piglets
The two female piglets were 2 and 3 days old when collected for hand-rearing. The first piglet had milk scour at 7 days of age for about 4 days. Perhaps because of the cold evenings (23-24 degrees C). I provide hot water bottles for them to lie on at night.
Piglets are given foster milk every 2-3 hours. For the first 4 days, a small prescribed amount of Amovet was added to their milk. Once a day, the milk is mixed with egg and a small amount of citric acid to acidify the stomach and discourage bacteria colonisation.
I started adding piglet feed to the milk at 6-7 days of age. I dissolve the pellets in the milk and the piglets readily consume that. By 2-3 weeks of age, piglets are fed every 4 hours. They eat solid food by 2 weeks They are also given fresh leaves to eat, ripe bananas and papaya When their siblings are weaned, the hand-reared piglets are placed in the pen to root in the soil. The 2 hand-reared piglets are smaller than their litter-mates but they are active and eating well. I’m very happy that we’re successful in hand-rearing piglets this time, unlike our depressing failure in May 2015, mainly due to lack of experience and reliance on unsuitable information from others.
Below are videos of the two piglets we hand-reared.
Note: Although this was Number 3’s third successful litter, we had to clip the piglets’ teeth because she got angry while nursing. We had the same issue with Auntie Brownie who farrowed on July 29, 2018, during a hot and humid season. Humidity is particularly high, which is more difficult for gestating and farrowing sows. There were 13 piglets in this litter, which is one of our highest, and thus a higher incidence of crushing was expected. Our sows seem to want to keep only 8 piglets per litter.
Gestation 115 Days Serviced by Pinky Boar June 30, 2018. Farrowed October 23/24, 2018.
Nest building started at 5:45PM, October 23. Number 3 took some time building her nest, spent a lot of time just standing in the middle of the pen, looking around, assessing the nest and environment. There might’ve been insufficient nesting material. Must take note of the quantity and quality of nesting material next time.
Farrowing, October 23, 2018 at 11:44PM
Farrowing went on until around 3:30AM October 24. At around 4:10AM, Number 3 got up and lay on a piglet for a minute. She must’ve known she was lying on a piglet so she got up, rooted the nesting material and lay down again, letting the piglets nurse. When piglets are unable to squeal when laid on, the mother is often but not always unaware of what has happened.
October 24 – Around 6AM I noticed one dead piglet, a large male, most probably due to crushing. In the night, Number 3 had already crushed 2 piglets including this one. The second piglet was hidden underneath the nest and I discovered it only 3 days later.
In the video above, Number 3 is very tired and overheating. Trevor tries to cool her down with some water. In hot and humid climate, water might increase humidity. We are installing a fan to correct this problem.
In the video above, the piglets are 1 day old. Number 3 lies on the nest, reluctant to nurse. It is in the early morning and she is panting as the heat and humidity builds up. October and November are hot and rainy months.
Fighting amongst piglets during nursing begins by 12:18PM and Number 3 gets upset by this. Although Number 3 does her best to adjust her position whenever there is fighting, as well as getting up immediately when a piglet squeals, the situation worsens as Number 3 gets more exhausted and stressed by the heat and the pain from piglets’ teeth whenever they fight at her teats. By noon-time the following day, we decided we need to cut piglets’ teeth.
October 25 – Teeth clipping done at 3PM. Nursing situation is much better after teeth clipping. During this time, we saw a piglet had an injured front leg but this got better over the next several days. This piglet remained very active and became one of the largest in the litter despite the injury.
In the video above, day old piglets have discovered the piglet escape hatch and explore the ‘Piglets’ Restaurant’ where fresh soil and green forage is provided. The piglets sample the soil right away and this is their source of iron when iron supplements are not available.
October 26 – While rescuing a smaller brown piglet from crushing, I found a dead piglet, one of the larger ones, crushed during fighting perhaps or during heat stress at high noon.
In the video above, piglets are 2 days old. Video was taken at night. Piglets’ teeth have been clipped so the mother no longer gets angry during nursing. However, the mother still feels very exhausted and may be suffering from heat stress. She is lying and adjusts her position, pushing the piglets with her hindquarters. This and numerous movements make it appear as if the mother is careless. She also doesn’t get up immediately when a piglet is overlaid or stepped on. Note the piglet with a limp. This piglet’s foot was probably stepped on by the mother. Piglets recover well from these types of injuries.
October 27 – I found a dead piglet in the nest in an advanced state of decomposition indicating it may have been crushed on the first day or may have been stillborn.
In the above video, piglet are 4 days old and quite active after teeth clipping and no iron supplements. Soil was spread in the creep space and ‘Piglets’ Restaurant’ which the pigs eat since day 1.
November 2 – I found a piglet crushed, a large male piglet, 9 days old. This is very disappointing. Hot and humid, Number 3 is panting heavily, and the crushing might be due to heat stress. We are implementing some changes which we hope will reduce heat stress and the incidence of crushing.
We separated Number 3 from her piglets on November 28. Piglets were 35 days old but already eating solid food. We had no serious scour problems. Piglets were sold 10 days later.
The Problem of Crushing
For 2019, we are implementing changes which we hope will reduce the incidence of piglet mortality due to crushing. See Piglet Crushing Management.
Here are some videos of Number 3’s piglets
In the video below, while her piglets are out in the garden, Number 3 plays in her pen. I get very nervous when such a big pig starts running like this with little piglets around her. So it is good that piglets are able to go out so the mother has the chance to relax.
Note: This is the first time we had to clip piglets’ teeth because Auntie Brownie, now on her third parity, got very angry whenever she nursed her piglets. No teeth cutting was needed on first and second parity. The months June-July were very hot and humid. I think this aggravated the problem of mastitis, making Auntie Brownie very sensitive to piglets’ teeth. This time, we also had a high crushing number of 4 piglets, with 12 live born piglets. 8 were weaned successfully.
Gestation 111 Days Serviced by Pinky Boar on April 9, 2018. Farrowed July 29, 2018.
During gestation, Auntie Brownie made loud grunting noises indicating call for bath. I gave her a few baths during high daytime temperatures. She also created a pit, cooled it with her urine and lay in it. Unfortunately, high humidity and dew point during these months didn’t help. We have changed feeds, employ wet feeding, installed an electric fan for Auntie Brownie’s next farrowing and see if we will get better results.
Nest building started a day before farrowing. I saw Auntie Brownie pawing the ground so I gave her some dry banana leaves. She took it and began nest building, then rested. She kept at this for the whole day, seemingly too lazy to build a satisfactory nest. This must be because of the heat and humidity.
Farrowing, July 29, 2018 at 10AM
The farrowing was without incident, 12 piglets born alive. However, within the first hour of birth, piglets started fighting which upset Auntie Brownie. Although fighting at the teats within a few hours of birth is not unusual, I found it unusual that Auntie Brownie got hurt so easily, and the fighting was frequent. I think that piglet fighting is an indication of poor milk flow. This may confirm the problem of mastitis or agalactia due to heat stress.
In the video above, Auntie Brownie is very tired and obviously having problems nursing her 1-day old piglets. Intervention is needed when this happens.
July 30 – 2 piglets were crushed to death and 1 was injured by overlaying. It seemed that Auntie Brownie was deliberately overlaying her piglets because she was hurt and upset by them fighting at her teats. Brownie’s teats seemed hard when I pressed them in the morning, but by late afternoon, her teats seemed much softer. It is possible that her teats were sensitive because of mastitis. I also wondered if the piglets’ teeth were sharper than the usual we’ve had before. I inspected the teeth of one of the dead piglets and I saw needle teeth that were thin and sharp, instead of the usual triangular shape with the pointed tip. Not all the piglet’s teeth are like that, and I am not sure if such teeth do make a difference.
July 31 – Teeth-clipping went well this morning, there are 9 piglets left. 1 piglet got crushed last night. Brownie drank water but did not eat. White discharge. Piglets went to the mother to suckle and the situation seemed better, although nursing is less frequent (every 1-2 hours); hoping later nursing will be on regular. I hope things progress from now on and that the mother quickly recovers.
August 1 – It is Day 3. Suckling is much more peaceful since teeth clipping. The injured piglet remains feisty and active. Piglets look forward to exploring the Escape Hatch/Restaurant/Garden after nursing, particularly brightens up sluggish piglets. The injured piglet seem to be the first to want to go out. Nursing was hourly and sometimes 15-30 min intervals. Brownie is drinking and eating well. She is getting Amoxicillin antibiotics in her water (for 3 days).
In the video above, piglets are 6 days old and go out into the garden several times each day, particularly after nursing.
August 5 – Piglet got crushed this afternoon. We were unable to revive it. This was a 7-day old piglet, very active and was seen fighting with litter-mates just a few hours ago. I believe this is accidental crushing, which happens when the piglet is unable to squeal so the mother is unaware that a piglet is being laid over. The piglet may have been very tired and was deep asleep.
The ground in front of the trough has become tough and slippery and this area seem to be where crushing fatalities often occur. This area will need to be dug up and wood shavings spread to soften the ground and reduce slipping.
In the video above, piglets are 11 days old. The piglet with the injured leg fights for milk. She is also the first one to go out of the escape hatch to play in the garden.
Video above shows Auntie Brownie interacting with her piglets, very much aware that I am filming her. With 4 or possibly 5 piglets crushed by the mother, the piglets have developed a very cautious relationship with their mother who at the same time is their source of life and nutrition. Through ambivalent socialisation with their mother, the ability of piglets to develop this alertness at the first few hours of birth is crucial to their survival.
Weaning the Piglets
September 3 – Auntie Brownie separated from her piglets, now about 38 days old. However, we put the runt with her, the one that got injured by crushing. We usually sell piglets at 45 to 55 days old, or after all signs of scour, if any, are gone. There was some scouring in this litter starting on day 2-3 after weaning which was treated with Apralyte. Because of early treatment, scours were gone in a few days.
The Problem of Crushing
For 2019, we are implementing changes which we hope will reduce the incidence of piglet mortality due to crushing. See Piglet Crushing Management.