PIGLETS 2016 -The First Week:


June 2016

June 18:

Images of restles pig -just before
        giving birth

Images of Pig shortly before giving birth

Images of newly born piglets with mother

Images of newly born piglets suckling

Saturday 18 June, around 7 PM -Fatima noticed that our pregnant 1st parity sow (No. One) was listless and not eating.... We tried gathering some nesting material -but she didn't seem interested. Then she started digging a hole by the nipple drinker and lay in it.... She often does this to cool off.

After a while the first piglet was delivered. No. One then turned around and dropped another. After changing position again, she lay quietly and produced a total of 9 vigorous piglets with various motley patterns with different mixtures of brown, black and white: Daddy is brown and black and Mommy is white and black....

Fatima assisted the birth -and I attended to the mother -trying to keep her cool by applying wet cloths to her neck.

Several piglets managed without any attention from us. However,Fatima did wipe a few dry -as well as dealing with the occasional umbilical that seemed to be getting in the way..... We suspected that umbilicals excessively pulled (or stepped on) may be the cause of umbilical hernias -but we are still not sure....

Sometime, I guided  a piglet towards the teats, massaged the sow's belly, to get the colostrum flowing -and to help uncover the lower teats -which were sometimes hidden in the dip of the "nest" she'd dug.....

However, No.One seems to be a very good natural mother -and needed only minimal help from us.... most of which possibly wasn't essential anyhow.....

June 19: 

Images of stillborn piglet with

Because I had a cold, I went to bed and left Fatima on night duty..... In the morning, she told me we'd had a 10th piglet born dead with the placenta at about 2. AM Sunday Morning.....

Images of piglets suckling

This morning, Sunday, we also trimmed a few teeth of about three of the most aggressive piglets -but that was all. With 9 piglets and two rows of 7 teats, there is not really a problem -but sometimes the lower row are not easy to access -and then there is a bit of a tussle.... It all depends on how she lies....

I now have the day shift.... Originally we'd made a "creep space" for the piglets, with a barrier against the mother -and were intending to build a barrier against the piglets -so that the sow could have her own retreat too.....

Images of padded barrier to restrain movement of

Images of padded barrier to allow sow to escape piglets

Images of padded barrier to allow sow to separate from

We thought it was too disturbing to try and install it in the night -however, this morning I gave it a try..... At first it worked very well -although I did need to pad the edge so the sow wouldn't scrape her teats over the bamboo barrier.... The only problem was reminding the sow to go inside the barrier before calling the piglets for milk..... Nevertheless, this was going reasonably well, until a few piglets managed to climb over the barrier (which needs to be fairly low, so the sow can climb over it).... but the real end came when I tried to give the sow a cooling shower in her favourite lying place.....

Images of Pig being bathed

Images of sow with new born piglets

She was so keen to get there -she demolished half of the barrier.... Now, we still have the creep space -which will be useful later when weaning -but the piglets can now, once again, roam freely throughout the pen..... This is a bit worrying because of the risk of sunburn outside the roof area.... They do seem to be adventurous little devils -and so young too.... Let us hope the natural resistance to disease is strong too. Our boar was the only survivor from 12 piglets last year.

Images of sow with new born piglets

Anyhow, at the moment, everything seems to be going reasonable well -with very little need for intervention from us..... However, we continue to monitor things....

It seems the first three days are the worst with regards to crushing, then we have a possibly crucial two week period ahead -in which maybe a shortage of iron, or the chances of diarrhea are great..... and after that, then the first two months or so can be difficult -including the weaning....

For now, it looks good -but we're not out if the wood yet.... So, fingers crossed....

At present, it is a happy cycle of feeding, resting and feeding again....

June 20:

Images of sow suckling yoing piglets

Well, No.One really is a "number one sow"!

So it seems the principle is quite simple: She looks after the piglets and we look after the sow....

Until now (fingers crossed) we haven't had any serious crushing incidents -even though sow and piglets can all roam freely. We have had a few squealing piglets, trapped by their legs -but the sow usually responds and if not then we give her a prod.....

Images of tired sow after giving birth

However, that doesn't mean there are no problems. This morning No.One was seriously suffering from heat exhaustion. I really thought we might loose her.... She just lay there, unresponsive and panting continuously. Fatima sent Penny off to get some electrolytes for her. I was on duty and tried to keep her cool by spraying her with water and fanning her. Sometimes dripping a little water into her mouth. At the same time, I had to keep the piglets dry -because that need a temperature above the comfort zone of the mother...

Luckily, No.One responded and slowly recovered. The electrolytes clearly helped -and she gradually got her appetite back. Not only the green vegetables we'd got as waste from the market plus some papaya skins left over from lunch and some cassava leaves from the garden -but especially the "Lactation" pellets from the commercial feedstuffs supplier. Now she's eating like a pig!

Images of sow and rain

Of course, it did start raining this afternoon -and that has helped bring the temperature down -as well as providing a nice cool damp patch outside the roofing area.... but then she, and we, have to make sure the piglets stay warm and dry inside....

However, the normal Eat, Feed, Sleep cycle seems to have returned -and that's the important thing.

Images of young sow

Apparently, the piglets "milk teeth" are not functional for eating -but for fighting other piglets for a place at the milk bar..... So to see, "Mother Nature" aint always sweet and cuddly....

June 21:

Images of Sow and Boar in neighbouring

The Secret of avoiding crushing seems to lie in the pig's own language..... No.One is careful when lying down, or else lies down away from the piglets -and then she calls them with gentle grunting sounds.... and before getting up she often gives a warning grunt....

The piglets are also starting to pee and poo in a separate part of the pen... and starting to root about in the sawdust, just like their mommy.....

In the evening of day two, No.One was still fairly sluggish and often panting heavily. Fatima was starting to worry about Uterine infection -which is apparently another possible danger. Especially after the late delivery of the stillborn.....

However, after a temperature check, all seems well. A slight discharge but that is normal -and should clear up within 5 days. After birthing, we could have used ocytocin to "clear' everything" out the uterus -as well as stimulate milk production -but we both agree that a dead piglet is better than unnecessarily shooting our sow full of hormones and giving it a potentially nasty shock to the body.

Images of piglets suckling at night

So, in the night we were still a little worried.... Luckily, it also rained a bit and that helped bring the temperature down a little.

However, I suspect the real point was that we had underestimated just how exhausted she actually was. The last piglet probably died because she was simply too exhausted to push it out.... That may be why the placenta was a long time coming too.

Her heroic feats of feeding only helped disguise her own weakness..... Although, perhaps just lying there nursing involves less effort than getting up and eating.... The heat stress obviously exacerbated the problem too.

Images of piglets sleeping in creep
        space atnight

Realising this created for us the problem of how much to intervene and when.... Cooling can be achieved by pouring or spraying with water (her favourite), wet cloths or by fanning cool air over her.

...but there is a problem: The sow likes to be cool and wet -but the piglets need to be warm and dry....

So when should we pour water over the sow, use a cloth -or just dribble some in her mouth? Should she simply be left to rest until she is able to fend for herself again? What happens if she is too exhausted even to drink?

One needs water to get energy to eat and one needs energy from food to fight infection and stay active..... If the cycle of exhaustion goes too far -it can be fatal....

Images of sow waking up in the

So we need to understand the sow's language too.... when to feed or water, to bath or not to bath -and when to allow the rest and recuperation process to proceed of its own accord without the stress of intrusive interventions from people.

Luckily, by trial and error, we seem to have found our way through the mine-field. A rainy night and afternoon has certainly helped her -while making things more unpleasant for us. Feeding fresh green vegetables as well as electrolytes and extra vitamins seems to have contributed too. At first she was only drinking lots of water, and then gradually eating more normal solids too -both vegetables and commercial feed....

Now, on the  evening of the third day, she seems back to normal and eating, well, just like a pig!

Apparently, after 3 days mother and piglets can return to the herd -especially if there are other nursing mothers.... No. One is also encouraging the piglets to look out for themselves When she moves.

We don't have a heard -but hopefully, from now on, she and the kids can look after themselves -more or less.... The kids are already quite precocious. Some have even ventured into daddy's pen (and safely returned) while others are snuffling in the bedding and even licking moms feeding bowl.

Although, weaning is still a few weeks away -there's no harm in a bit of practice first it seems....

Just like a bunch of young puppies really....

Incidentally, another example of country life: Sunday evening a neighbour came to our house bearing a Jackfruit (Nanka). It was ours they said that it was ripe and could be smelled up on the road, several meters away. So because they were scared that somebody might steal it -they had picked it for us and were giving it back.

Naturally, the next day Penny cut it up and we have given all our neighbours bits of it... It is really delicious. It seems that some trees produce fruits that are better eaten unripe as vegetables -while other trees are better eaten as fruit when ripe. This is obviously a "fruit" tree -while our other tree is 'vegetable" tree.

Tomorrow, we are going to cook "Binignit" -which is one of my favourites -a boiled mixture of Nanka and various root crops with sago and banana.... delicious.....

...and No.One will get some lovely root crops for breakfast too..... She certainly deserves them!

June 22:

Images of piglets with mother

Images of light tropical rain around pig farrowing pen

Wednesday morning -and all seems fine in the pig pen.... Some enterprising piglets even went to visit their father....

A bit of rain too -just to cool things down a bit.

However, Fatima has discovered (via the Internet) that a probably cause for No.Ones' overheating is the presence of too much rice hull and sawdust in the outside area.

Images of yoing piglets visiting their

It's fine for the covered area -where it will keep the piglets dry and warm.
However, outside, exposed to the rain and the sun an abundance of these organic materials will ferment and produce extra heat.... A giant compost heap. Much better is for the pigs to have direct access to the cooling soil.

I guess the "excess" material was added to even up the floor and fill in where No.One had been wallowing.....

Earlier we had used lukai (fallen dry coconut fronds) -to absorb extra moisture from the rain soaked clay. With the exception of our boar Butlig, all the pigs used to love eating the lukai -but we stopped using them, because one female developed an inflamed vagina -apparently from rubbing it on some concrete left in her pen (which we speedily removed) -but we became scared of fungal infections.

In fact, it seems that local temperatures actually make fungal infections less likely.

Images of tired sow with piglets

Images of excess rice hull being removed from pig
        pensawdust and

So, in practice -it seems that the differences between "good" and "bad" practices can sometimes be very subtle -and highly dependent on specific local conditions (and practices).....

....and in "natural" conditions "hygiene" can be a complex issue with sometimes paradoxical aspects.....

Images of sow eating
Fatima adds:
I think the real problem is spreading rice hull and saw dust in the entire pen. Those are OK for piglets needing warmth but not for the sow. Good old soil is sufficient to keep adult pigs cool --- look at Bootleg, he has no heat stress problems, his pen is all soil. Half dry (with roof) and half wet (exposed) is best.

Images of sow being nicely treated


June 23:

Images of tired sow after giving birth
        a few days earlier

Images of sick piglet

A (nice cool) night of rain but, unfortunately, another worrying morning today (Thursday): With a sick looking sow and also a sick piglet...

So, will all the piglets get sick, or just this one?

Fatima gave it a few drops of iron supplement -and it gradually improved during the morning.

Images of tired sow after giving birth
        a few days earlier

However, No.One is still a big problem: The apparent overheating is strange -because it rained most of the night -and was therefore much colder.... Which is perhaps why the piglet got sick....

On the other hand, the sow doesn't seem to have a temperature and continues to nurse her brood effectively -the kids also seem content with the milk supply until now.... So, it would seem there is nothing too seriously wrong.... but she won't eat or drink much and just lies around panting all day.

It is always worrying when a pig refuses to eat. We have been applying water and damp cloths to her neck -and fanning her to try and keep her cool.

Images of a sow being treated for

Yesterday, No.One's vagina seemed to be returning to normal -but today it was inflamed again -and with a slight discharge.... Fatima has been applying a topical antibiotic..... 

Apparently, there are two types of vaginal infections common among young mothers... Luckily both are supposed to clear up within a few days without treatment -but one of the symptoms is loss of appetite....

Maybe the situation looks worse than it is -again we must wait and see -but how long can she keep up milk production without eating and drinking?

Images of sow with piglets in pen
        being cleaned

Meanwhile, I've been removing more sawdust and rice hull from the pen, so the bare earth is now much more exposed than before -hopefully making it cooler..... The garden should get quite a boost...

The piglets are generally starting to become quite robust now -even the sick one seems to have pulled through ok.... Getting cold is presumably less of a problem (especially here in the tropics)... In fact, they too seem to like lying on the damp earth -which worries Fatima somewhat...

Fatima has read on the Internet that we should encourage No.One to get more exercise..... Fatima was also worried about the kids getting wet and catching cold -and so she wanted to bath No.One outside the pen..... A wonderful idea -except that she is then completely unrestrained -and we are therefore entirely dependant on her "good behaviour" when out on "parole"....

For the first trip, Fatima took her to a small patch of grass between two coconut trees. No.One, obviously enjoyed both her bath and her freedom. So much so that she decided to wander around the garden -mostly following the paths, of course... After a brief snuffle under the house -and a quick visit to her sisters' pen -she returned home to her piglets... Fatima and I were also pleased by the chance to enjoy a spot of lunch together.....

However, later, encouraged by Fatima's success -I decided to try too..... A foolhardy move, I will admit. I'd also been so confident of success that I'd not brought any food bribes with me -or even a "pig board" -a small screen, that one can use, like horses blinkers, to visually block off undesirable routes and direct attention to desirable ones.... All I could do was do a bit of "body blocking" -using myself as a screen -but ideally one needs one person on each side of the head -and sometimes somebody in front with a food treat to lead the way....

Anyhow, after running through a recently planted garden patch, she veered off -and crashed through our hedge -ready to explore the infinite world outside the garden. Luckily, I managed to keep her on the path along the hedge -and back in through the back gate.... After that, memories of her abandoned piglets steered her back to the pen.

However, what I truly do not understand -is why, outside the pen she can run around like a spring chicken -and then collapse into apathy as soon as she gets back to the pen and her lovely kids?

We are also trying to give her "pro-biotics" to see if that helps digestion and helps avoid overheating.... On the other hand, drinking only small amounts means that wastage levels are high -because anything not consumed fairly quickly is liable to get contaminated -or finished up by some other animal. I think we now have a whole bunch of very healthy and well fed chickens....

Several more piglets went on a visit to daddy again today -but after discovering that there was no milk to be found there -they all returned home....

Images of young piglets in pen with
        their father

Hopefully, No.One will recover her appetite by Friday morning.... We've decided to leave food and water available in her trough -but not to try and force it on her -so that she can rest and eat as much (or as little) as she needs...

It's another day again tomorrow..... The pen should be much cooler after the removal of the possibly composting organic bedding materials.....

Fingers crossed -but it is upsetting to see a sick animal and feel so helpless.... Our previous experience with the local standard medicinal practices was, unfortunately, not very encouraging.....

...and now it is raining quite heavily again -lots of opportunity for a nice cool bath in the uncovered area....
Images of organic material being
        removed from pig pen

Fatima adds:

I managed to get some sleep at the pig pen finally, since things have gotten a bit better and need less wakeful watching.

Number 1 has vulvitis, something that Number 3 had a couple months ago when she was in heat: Oestrus makes the vulva susceptible to attack by environmental pathogens. In Number 1's case, farrowing makes the cells/tissues of the vulva more susceptible to opportunistic bacteria. Vulvitis (and vaginitis) can cause decreased food intake which can make it look scary but it is not really too much cause for concern. More important it to treat the vulva with antibiotic (I am using powder) to prevent entry of bacteria into cervix and uterus (which is MORE worrying when that happens!)

Mllk production doesn't go up until over a week when the piglets are bigger and need more milk --- this is when Number 1 will need MORE food and energy to keep up. Then milk production peaks at 28 days and goes down afterward, naturally leading to weaning. Number 1 will lose some weight during this process which is good for her healthwise.

Number 1 ate about half her ration this morning which is great. She will eat more on cooler times (early morning, late afternoon and evening) --- she will eat less but more often. She eats the usual feed, with lactation feeds mixed in (higher protein content), some green veggies, root crops, bananas, etc. Less high fermentable food is good so she doesn't over heat while digesting. She farts a lot.

The sick piglet got better within 24 hours, but has poorly moments. I gave her the second (and last dose) of instant iron drops this morning. I am just HAPPY that it seems to be depleted iron (anemia) and not infection that has affected the piglet.

B. is right about dips in energy for several days, after farrowing. Number 1 remains a very loving mother, always letting the piglets suckle even when she is tired. On higher energy moments she tries to play with her piglets!

June 24:

Images of sow suckling piglets in
        tropical backyard pen
Friday evening and nearly one week after farrowing, everything finally seem to be settling down a bit.

No.One appears to be getting over her exhaustion and any infection she may have had. She is now starting to eat and drink more -especially green vegetables... Perhaps 80% of her appetite is now back.

This afternoon, Fatima and I took our happy sow for another walk and a bath... This time it was fairly easy.... although she did have a bit of an illicit rooting session at the base of a coconut tree.... Apparently causing no serious damage though .

Images of sow being bathed in the

Images of sow having a holiday in a tropical garden

One of the piglets threw up this morning -but we are hoping it is nothing serious, perhaps the result of a bit of sawdust or some-such from a teat ingested while suckling...

Another piglet managed to get its head stuck in the fence -but was quickly freed by Fatima...

Images of sow in tropical backyard

Meanwhile, the removal of the sawdust and rice hull continues. The garden gains extra compost -and the sow and piglets seem much cooler and happier without it. Snouting in the fresh earth is clearly an enjoyable activity.... Wallowing is perhaps even better -but probably dangerous for tiny tots... Today we found a young chick had fallen into a bucket of water.... This is the second time it has happened (although the previous incident was some time ago) -but it does show that one needs to be careful with equipment.

The strange thing about the sawdust and rice hull is that it was being propagated as ideal bedding material for pig pens by an NGO. Unfortunately, I have had other bad experiences with "intellectual mercenaries" who make a career out of propagandising things which it seems they have little personal experience of -but are simply paid to promote (until they change jobs). No doubt, with long and profitable prospects -because of the Sisyphus like nature of their work.

In my experience, one does not need to professionally struggle to promote good ideas.... If they work well -then others, if they see them, will be only too happy to copy.
Images of sow being given water from a


Piglets -2015
Butlig's Diary


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 Baclayon 2016