Despite getting up bright and early last Saturday morning, I was still caught out by the slightly early arrival of Sissy’s litter. According to my calculations she wasn’t due until that night at the earliest but apparently she had other plans and had done most of the hard work by the time I checked on her at 6:30am
However when I first tried to open the shed door I could see there was a single tiny, cold piglet well away from the heat lamp and blocking the door from opening. Luckily we have another entrance to that shed so I was able to get in and check whether it was likely to survive. At first glance I didn’t hold out much hope as she was hardly moving but being a lifelong optimist I felt we had to try.
The almost lifeless piglet was immediately named “Sick Note” and put into intensive care using our previously successful methods. It’s nothing fancy and doesn’t involve expensive equipment, just an insulated bag with an ordinary hot water bottle wrapped in a towel at the bottom because the most urgent thing is to warm up the piglet. If you can get that far then the next step is to get the newborn to suckle from the mother so they get the best start possible.
Within about an hour she was very obviously recovering and must have been stronger than I had originally thought when I first found her. Before long we were able to put her back in with the others under the heat lamp and by midday she was happily suckling alongside her litter mates as if nothing had happened (on the right below)
In the end it was a smaller litter than we had hoped with only 5 alive and 2 born dead but with pig breeding you have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes. Having saved one this time around I realise that it’s important to recognise the successes because they definitely help when dealing the inevitable tougher aspects.
After the big snow fall a couple of weeks ago we thought we’d probably had the last of it. However as is often the case, there is generally a late burst here which catches people out. Even though the current snow isn’t as bad this time around, it would certainly qualify as a significant amount for any other winter that we’ve had here!
Our neighbours here in the North Pennines haven’t started lambing yet but it’s not far off so I’m sure they’re hoping that this is last of winter for this year. In our case, the Dexter cattle calve in late Spring/early Summer and the pigs usually farrow in a shed so there’s less worry with the weather.
Just as the snow started on Saturday, I decided that it was better to bring Sissy indoors a little early rather than wait then find it was too difficult due to drifting snow. There’s one good decision that I can be happy with at least.
This morning the feed rounds included a short burst of snow clearing as well just to get to the various sheds in our courtyard. Thankfully the snow is dry and powdery at the moment so any drifts are easy enough to clear with the snow shovel.
The problem is that the strong gusty winds just start to drift the snow again so that within 10-15 minutes any tracks I’ve made are already starting to disappear. This means there’s little point with making any major efforts to clear the snow until the wind dies down later today.
The prevailing wind here is generally from the west so this recent bad weather which features strong winds from the east is proving to be very challenging. Unusually for us, the east facing outbuildings have been getting snow blowing round the doors and drifting inside.
When feeding Esther with her 2 remaining piglets in the woods, it was clear that the drifting snow was causing problems. Their pig ark is carefully positioned to protect them from the prevailing winds but that means it faces east and the current snow can blow in.
The addition of another half bale of straw makes all the difference both for their comfort and apparently for entertainment value too.
The benefits of keeping native British breeds is never more clear than at times like these. They really don’t seem to mind the snow and cold wind just as long as we give them decent shelter with water and food at regular intervals
About a week ago we brought Esther and her litter of 9 piglets into the pig shed to start the weaning process and in preparation for collection. At this stage they were just over 7 weeks old and had been on hard feed for a while so it was a good time to start.
This can sometimes be a tricky procedure once they’ve had a taste of life outdoors in the woods but this litter seem to be better behaved than some of our previous ones.
The initial batch of 4 piglets were collected first which left 5 piglets in the pig shed and therefore a bit more room at the trough for mealtimes. It can be very crowded around feed troughs with 9 mouths to feed even if we split the food between two troughs.
The remaining 3 weaners that we had sold were picked up a couple of days later and that left us with 2 to raise for pork ourselves. This was pretty much as we’d hoped before Esther had farrowed but you can never be sure in advance exactly how much interest there will be in weaners.
Esther and the remaining 2 that we’re keeping as meat pigs could then be moved back to the woods. This was very much appreciated by everyone because it means we don’t have to muck out the pig shed and they prefer live outside anyway.
There is no time for us to rest though because we have to clean out the shed ready for the next litter which is due in a couple of weeks. I’m pretty sure that Sissy will be very glad to get indoors for a few weeks given the muddy state of her current pen