In the morning our pregnant sow (No.One) was eating normally. But by lunchtime our housekeeper noticed that she was pawing the ground -a sign that she was probably wanting to build a nest.
So we gave her a pile of dried banana leaves we'd been saving. Later the nest seemed rather thin so we gave her some palm fronds removed from fallen coconut branches.
As we had suspected she would, the nest was built in the area where she has been sleeping for some time -along the fence that separates her pen from the neighbouring pen.
Much later, around 7 PM, just before farrowing had started we thought perhaps there was too much nesting material -and so we removed some of the coconut fronds. No.One was panting heavily when resting -a problem we've had before with her during farrowing and nursing. In such cases, we try to keep her cool with water or damp cloths on her neck.
In this phase, the sow gets very restless -trying new positions and modifying the nest as a result of her experiments.
A Bad Start:
Right from the beginning No.One insisted on lying too close to the fence -with no space for suckling the piglets when they arrived.
Around 7.30 PM -the first piglet arrived. Fatima wiped it dry -but No.One refused to provide any space between her and the fence. When the second piglet came about half and hour later, we had the same problem. By the third piglet we were getting desperate.
Fatima texted our AI technician -and he told us that the sow apparently needed to concentrate on the farrowing -without being distracted by piglets -and so we should separate them and keep the piglets in a box until later.
Fatima fetched a (small) cardboard box -but it was soon full, with three piglets inside -so she went and got a larger one -which also became full -and so she rushed off to empty nicknacks from a large plastic box -which also soon became full. We ended up with piglets in all the boxes -but it had solved the problem. No.One was gradually relaxing and the farrowing became easier as time progressed. The piglets however, remained very impatient with regards to the delay in getting their first meal.
Fatima logged the following arrival times:
1. 7.30 PM (approx.)
2. 8.00 PM
5. 9.25 (dead -mummified)
9. 10.00 (black -fierce)
10. 10.03 (white)
Placenta starts arriving around 11 PM
After the Placenta appears, the impatient Piglets are
introduced to their Mother again
An uncomfortable start -but the sow soon finds
a better position
As standard practice we provide a "Creep Space" (a hinged metal frame) where the piglets can escape the mother. In practice, its main use is during weaning when the mother needs to be kept away from the piglets food. Otherwise, it is sometimes used as a piglet sleeping space -and sometimes ignored. In the early phase, we hang a filament lamp to provide warmth for the piglets -but unless raining, the tropical evenings are usually warm enough for the piglets.
Because of the problem of No.One lying so near the fence I decided to try and make a temporary "Creep Space" along the fence by hammering bamboo stakes into the ground. Earlier, a few piglets were nearly crushed by the fence -while several others had actually fallen through the fence into the neighbouring pen -from where I had to retrieve them, luckily without incident, and without waking the inhabitant.
Initially, the temporary creep space seemed to work -but it was quickly demolished. However, by 3.30 AM, No.One was now beginning to suckle in different places after each eating session. Meanwhile, the piglets liked to stay in the area of the temporary creep space -presumably because that's where they were born.
Around 4.00 AM, I tried moving rocks into the temporary creep space area -but they were soon bulldozed aside by the sow -who obviously liked the area too... Shortly afterwards the bamboo stakes were completely destroyed. As a result, No.One did lie along the fence again -but this time with teats facing into the pen -so there was plenty of room for the piglets.
Another time, she fed the piglets near the trough -unfortunately lying in such a way as to force the piglets to wallow through the mud caused by spillage from the trough. Not only did they get extremely muddy -they also risked becoming too cold. However, they seem to have recovered without any ill effects.
Move Over Darling:
With the arrival of bits of placenta, it was obvious that labour was over -and we had to start the process of suckling the piglets.
This was difficult -because No.One was still not leaving much space between the fence and herself. To make matters worse, her teats were facing the fence.
The only solution seemed to be putting the piglets one by one into the limited space available -and hope she'd move over.
Luckily, this seemed to work. So we gradually transferred all piglets in a mixture of strong (able to force the sow to move) and the weak (who needed the nourishment). As we added piglets, No.One gradually moved away from the fence to make more space.
Feeding Time at Last:
By midnight, all the piglets were on a teat -although still rather cramped.
While the kids drink, mummy rests.
This then shifts into a cycle -with the sow eating and drinking while the piglets rest -and the sow resting while the piglets drink.
At 7.00 AM, Fatima relieved me -and after feeding No.Three (who had farrowed on Christmas Day) it was time for me to clean up, have breakfast -and try to get some sleep.
Later, Fatima woke me to say she was having problems with No.One suckling along the fence again. So, I looked after the piglets while Fatima went to ask our housekeeper (who is free at the weekends) and her husband to come and move the metal creep space to the site of my temporary creep space -so I could go back to bed.....
Conclusion:All's well that ends well!
A difficult start to the farrowing -but brought to a good end thanks to the cooperation between all concerned -both human and animal.....
One might also add, that although the piglets look frail -and will squeal heartily if upset -they are, apparently, as hard as nails. Directly after birth, some of them had to wait several hours before starting to suckle. Some got trodden on (including by me) while others got walked all over by siblings and some were trapped under their mother or against the fence. Yet all seem to have survived the night, at least.....
No.One also deserves praise, for her patience in dealing with us -and her trust that our sometimes frequent handling of her piglets was in their best interests.
Generally, we try to leave as much as possible to the sow. If we look after her -then she can look after the kids.....