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.
I got a pig roasted for Trevor’s birthday. A roasted suckling pig is called ‘Lechon.’ This is how it’s often done on our island Bohol. Just backyard roasting. Our butcher Yokyok and his assistant Noel do everything, from slaughter to roasting. Normally, a small pig or weanling is best for roasting, from 15 to 25 kg. 40 kg is also OK. But that wasn’t available. So this is what I got, a 54 kilogram pig. As of now, live roasting pig costs 130-150 pesos per kg (US$2.50-US$3.00), and can get up to 160-180 pesos/kg (US$3.50) during peak season (such as fiesta and school graduation). This one was 140/kg so that’s 7,560 pesos (US$148). The smaller the roasting pig, the more expensive the live weight. Yokyok charges 500 to 800 pesos (US$9-15) for slaughter and roasting. If you order a roasted pig, this size would cost about 9,000 pesos (US$177). It is delivered to your house ready to eat.
Prices may be different in other provinces in the Philippines.
Because this pig is quite heavy, Yokyok needed to make sure the pig is secure. The pig is tied to the metal spit from the inside of the pig (traditionally, people used a straight bamboo spit). The spit Yokyok uses is just a G.I. pipe, about 8 feet long, with a handle attached to one end for manually rotating the pig. There are kits specially for pig roasting, including an electric motor, but we don’t have those. This is the simplest and most primitive but effective for us.
To secure the pig to the spit, it is tied via its spinal column and ribs (shown in photos). Raffia twine is used. To do this, a rib is removed on each side (not sure if that’s obvious in the photos). Legs are also tied to the spit. Seasoning is prepared and rubbed all over the pig, inside and out. If the pig has way too much fat, sometimes the butcher will remove some fat. I think it is more difficult to roast an overly fat pig. Pig is also stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, onion, onion leaves, chopped lemon, fermented black beans. Then the belly of the pig is stitched up really tightly. Notice how sexy the pig is! This process is crucial to ensure the pig will not fall apart or move when it is rotated. Especially a pig this size. Yokyok has roasted a pig of 115 kg! It was not easy and not really recommended! The smaller, the easier and better for everybody.
Anyway, the roasting took 3 hours. During the last hour, a piece of cotton cloth dipped in coconut oil is rubbed all over the skin of the pig to crisp up the skin. After 3 hours, the pig was perfectly cooked all the way through. Awesome flavour, soft meat, and remarkable crispy skin! The skin remained crisp even after the lechon has cooled! Amazing!!
There are regional variations, but here, the seasoning usually consists of: lemongrass, garlic, onion, onion leaves, chopped lemon, fermented black beans, salt, soy sauce, black peppercorns, salt. The most important aromas that enhanced the pork are from the garlic, lemongrass, black peppercorns and lemon.We are still under COVID-19 Community Quarantine. So we cut this up and packed in lunch boxes with pork blood stew, vermicelli and egg noodles and steamed pork buns and distributed to people. Normally we would have a party at home. Still, everyone in the village had lots to eat!
April 7, 2020 in San Roque, Baclayon, Bohol —- We finally did it! Our butcher Yokyok and his assistant Noel came at 7 in the morning. This was Jenny’s pig. Jenny is our next-next-door neighbour. I bought her pig and asked Yokyok and Noel to butcher. I took the meat we need and shared the rest with people in our village. It is very good meat, amazing red colour because Jenny fed the pig banana stalks, scrap fruits and vegetables from the market, kangkong, kamote leaves, and various forage.
I gave the pig’s head, blood and internal organs to Penny. She used those to make a fantastic blood stew for sharing with neighbours. Her husband, Bebe, cooked the head into cracklings, soup and other such things and shared as well. I asked Noel to share meat with people up the hill. Plenty of people, uphill and downhill, benefited from one pig. Imagine so much meat from just one pig. Although our village is transitioning to urban ways, I hope that we will never be prevented from raising our own food. Having a pig or goat, chickens, ducks or a cow should continue to be a way of life here. For us, this is better than buying food from Magnolia or Ligo or Purefoods or San Miguel. Money spent on buying our food stays within our community instead of going to someone who doesn’t know or care about the way we live. Why buy from a big company just so their CEO can go yachting or buy another ski resort?
This is more fun too. Today was also like fiesta except that there was social distancing and Penny and Noel wore a mask when they distributed the meat and meals. Well, this is the closest we can get to fiesta since all fiesta celebration is cancelled now.
Jenny is not rich. There are 3 families in their little un-finished house, there are 9 children in total and a new baby coming next month. The men in the family are small-scale fishermen. But Jenny can raise pigs in their backyard, feed them vegetable and fruit scraps from the market and forage from the surroundings. She still has 2 more pigs. They were intended for sale during fiesta when demand is high. But there will be no fiesta because of COVID-19.
Backyard pig raisers are having a hard time for several years and now COVID-19 has made things worse. Fiesta celebrations are cancelled because of COVID-19. No more school graduation parties either. In both, pork and roast suckling pig are mandatory. So pig raisers are stuck with fatteners that should be ready for slaughter in March-May. Also, the live weight price has gone down 90 pesos/1.78US$ per kilo from the usual peak season price of 130 pesos/2.57US$ per kilo. The price of pork remains high at 240 pesos/4.75US$ per kilo. So buying the whole pig is actually cheaper.
But Jenny’s system is a closed-loop that benefits her and the people around her. It is efficient, low-cost and nothing goes to waste. It may not be pastured pigs but it is a far cry from factory food. The pigpens are homemade from wood gathered from the hills. The butcher slaughters in situ so the pig is not subjected to the stress of transport. The pig is slaughtered very quickly, there is no squealing. The backyard plants are mostly banana, taro, kangkong, sweet potato, coconut. All these plants are human edible, animal edible, and the non human edible parts of the plants, such as banana trunks and leaves are fed to the pigs. The pigs were purchased as weanlings from a more rural municipality 2 hours away where they are cheaper. Transport of pigs are limited now because of COVID-19 (and ASF). There are local breeders (like us) but we are more expensive because we are closer to the city (only 8 kms to heart of the city). I sell piglets at prevailing price but add more value by selling fully weaned piglets weighing 15-25kg, free consultation and medicine if piglets get sick or need castrating (we offer free castrating if buyer wants to castrate).
Our piglets cost 2,800 pesos/55.56 USD and the cheaper piglets cost 1,200 pesos/23.81 USD. While ours weigh a minimum of 15kg, the cheaper piglets weigh a minimum of 8kg.
I know the pigs are kept in not very ideal conditions. This is a low income family with small space (about 500 sq meters). Men in this family are small-time fisherfolk and they don’t even own their boats. Land rights and ownership is an issue in places like ours because of the drastic policies made during many colonial periods (from16th century to early 20th century), taking vast tracts of land away from people. Our own property is not so big either (only about 2000 square meters). There are larger parcels of land around us that are being converted from agricultural to residential and being subdivided. City life is quickly creeping up on us. But I am documenting how important it is that we remain able to raise our own food and make the case to local government before it is too late.
Life of urban poor is much worse because they can’t grow or raise their own food. This is luxury compared to urban poor.
Nonetheless, most backyard pigs kept here are friendly. They are not afraid of approaching strangers. This means they are well looked after by the family.
I also try to encourage people to give their pigs more space, allow the pigs to socialise, and express their natural behaviours. Our backyard farm serves as example when people come and visit. But I also continue to yearn for more space to pasture some (native) pigs. I hope in the near future.
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.