Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Piglets!

Well, Big Mamma finally had her piglets. We were hoping she would have them over the weekend but of course she had them on Monday while I was at work. This meant Hollie had to keep an eye on her by herself. Big Mamma is the proud mother of 9 healthy little piglets. She had 6 males and 5 females. We lost two, leaving us with 5 males and 4 females. They are very cute and active and seem to be doing well.

I have to take my hat off to Hollie for her tremendous effort and dedication to our farm. We are constantly learning new lessons on our farm and unfortunately, we learned several lessons all at once during this last farrowing. (Pig term for giving birth.) Big Mamma is well, big; perhaps a little too big. Comparing her to some of our other sows I am realizing that she is overweight. She has the same access to feed as the others, but just like people, it appears she is more prone to weight gain than others. In our ongoing study of raising pigs, we have read that overweight sows will struggle more when farrowing than “normal weight” sows. Poor Hollie saw this first hand.

Hollie decided to run out and just check on the pigs before jumping in the shower Monday morning. She ran out and never made it back. Hollie told me that when she went out, she found Big Mamma in labor and two little piglets running around. She quickly realized that Big Mamma was struggling and needed help. She called our good friend and neighbor Brooke who recently had a sow struggle during her farrowing. Brooke was kind enough to come over and give Hollie some pointers and moral support. We think that Big Mamma went into labor during the night because after the two piglets, she seemed to have nothing left in her. She was trying to push but didn’t seem to have the energy to push the piglet all the way out. Once she stopped pushing then the piglet began to slide back.

Hollie being 8 months pregnant washed up and went in after that little piglet. Keep in mind that this isn’t done on a clean table but on the ground in a pen. When she was nearly to her shoulder she found the little guy and was able to pull him out. She said that Big Mamma seemed to realize that Hollie was helping her and just relaxed while her arm was inside. The labor dragged on throughout the day. Hollie called me once an hour at work to give me an update. Hollie ended up pulling 4 of the piglets. She didn’t have the time or the stomach to eat and survived on Dr. Pepper. I came home at 6:30pm and Hollie was still out there. She had just delivered the last piglet and both Hollie and Big Mamma were exhausted!

My sister Amee and her husband Stan came over to help us out. Stan helped me outside, while Amee cleaned the house and prepared dinner. Stan helped me gather the piglets under the heat lamp from a very agitated mother. She was so exhausted that she was having a hard time being an attentive mother. So we moved them into the creep for their protection.

A big thanks to Stan and Amee for their help and for going above and beyond with the house cleaning and to Stan for risking his limbs to gather the piglets. We also would like to thank Brooke for her encouragement and good advice and for taking the time to come over twice. We learned the importance of maintaining a healthy weight in our sows. We also didn’t have the heat lamp set up in the hut which really agitated Big Mamma when I had to kick her out to install it. All part of the learning process I guess. This morning, Big Mamma had settled down and was being very attentive and cautious around her little piglets.

My biggest thanks goes to my beautiful wife. Hollie is my hero. I can’t believe that she spent 11 hours outside on the ground next to a 700 lb sow. She even gave mouth to mouth and CPR to two of the piglets. She saved one of them and worked on the other one for 45 minutes before she decided there was nothing more she could do. She made sure to take care of our two boys while delivering pigs all while being 8 months pregnant. She is absolutely devoted to our family and our farm. Thanks Babe!

PS. Leanin’ H Ranch our beef counterparts have half of a grass fed beef for sale. The steer will be slaughtered in a few weeks. Leanin’ H Ranch is run by Darryl and Angie Holden who are 5th generation ranchers. They hold the same philosophies as we do in the way animals are raised. They raise their animals humanely with lots of love and care. They don’t give their animals antibiotics, hormones etc… These are delicious all natural grass fed beef. Give them a call, you won’t be sorry!

Darryl and Angie Holden
Vernon, UT
435-839-3408 home
435-830-2353 cell