In the last issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer we promised an update on 4-H pig and lamb farrowings in the Web Exclusive once the February issue reaches mailboxes around Feb 1. You will still see that exclusive. Some have found lambs slow to arrive- the heat last summer didn’t make for efficient cycling and breeding. Several pigs have been pulled in 4-H herds- that’s nothing new with the heavier muscling most judges seek in gilts today. Yet one judge placed a gilt last in a show last summer because he said she was too terminal in appearance. Guess what- she has 13 pigs, had them on her own, and they’re almost ready to wean, doing fine. Think you missed that one, Mr. Judge. I honestly don’t even know who the judge was that made that call.
There’s one pig farrowing story that’s just too bizarre to hold off any longer. I helped my friend again, and we were down to our last sow to farrow. Being a sow, even though she is a York- how they ever got named the mother breed is beyond me- today’s Yorks are high strung. Anyway, one Friday night about 5 pm she showed all the signs, restless, up and down, huffing and puffing, biting the bars of her crate, and so forth. The last sow that acted that way delivered 13 pigs in 2 hours.
So we got ready. About 7 pm, she began pushing. By 8 pm, nothing. By 9 pm, nothing, but it was sleeting outside something affright. By 10 pm, I had already decided that however this turned out, she was going on the truck to market when the time came after weaning- if she ever had anything to wean.
Finally, at 11:30, I slipped back in the barn from the truck and there was one little bitty pig, acting like the Mighty-Mo, racing here and there behind here. Finally, I thought, maybe we’ll be home by 3 am.
Well, she had two more, big monsters, then afterbirth. Huh? She looked like she was loaded with pigs. She acted uncomfortable, but we waited. We gave her oxytocin to put her in the mood. Two more hours passed. By 3 a.m., we decided something must be wrong. We would leave, and if she still acted this way at 6 am, we would call the vet. He was only an hour away when roads are good. My friend started our truck to warm up. I was about to close the crate door, when he said, hey, there’s some mucus coming out.
Sure enough, five minutes late a pig plopped into my hand. Well, now we’re on the second horn. This will go quick. Wrong. By 5:30 am, she had seven pigs and more afterbirth. We had checked her and concluded nothing more was coming out. There had been some afterbirth. She had calmed down a touch.
I slid home at 20 miles per hour, fed and was in bed by 6 a.m. My friend napped for an hour and went back. His sleepy eyes counted 8 pigs. Wait a minute- what the heck?
He called me Saturday evening. “Guess how many pigs she has,” he asked. “I supposed she had another one,” I answered.
Not one- but four, and three of them alive. She was up to 10. The next afternoon, he called me again, she passed one more live pig and one dead one Sunday afternoon. She had been in labor 40 hours, with 11 live and 2 dead pigs.
On Monday morning, she passed one more dead pig. Fourteen born, 11 alive, spread over more than 60 hours. If you can top that one, we would like to hear about it.
Our minister Sunday morning talked about talking sweeter, using more kindly words. I told my friend I didn’t think some of our words Saturday morning qualified. He just laughed. Guess the minister wasn’t in the barn all night with sleet outside and a sow way behind taking her sweet time to have pigs. He might have been tempted to address her with a few choice words herself.
It’s all part of farming. You never know what to expect. The beat goes on. But this beat ought to be a candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records!