Piglets move into the tub

  • Bottle feeding the first “squished piglet” in the bathtub. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Monday, April 16, 2018

There are seven baby pigs in my bathtub. I thought one or two would need help, but three days after their birth it seemed wise to move the surviving seven to the farmhouse.

Even though she was an attentive mother with her previous litter, Lucky was not so conscientious on this occasion. Fourteen had been born, only seven were still alive. I had to take action.

Lucky is a very calm sow. She never objects when I handle her babies, and they squeal. Typically, mothers become aggressive when their young cry out, but not Lucky.

After giving birth, Lucky seemed lethargic. I discovered that she was running a high temperature of 104.1 degrees and needed medicine. As she had also developed mastitis, it was time to administer penicillin. She barely complained when I jabbed the needle into her neck.

After receiving two treatments, her temperature came down to 102.5 degrees, but she continued to be lethargic. She hadn’t moved all day while her young nursed.

Despite my pushing, shoving and coaxing, Lucky would not stand until I offered her a bucket of water. Giving water to a prone pig is like trying to drink while lying in bed; not very efficient. As the water poured onto the floor, thirsty Lucky perked up and struggled to her feet. Her thirst proved motivation to get her up from her bed. After guzzling two gallons of water, she carefully settled back down with her babies. All seemed well until the following morning.

Both piglets were still breathing when I found them, although one was extremely cold. They were apparently squishing victims of a 700-pound careless mother. Despite my efforts to help them, both died.

Later that morning, I found two more wedged between Lucky’s front legs and a board. One survived. Only seven of the original 14 newborns remained, so to save these seven I decided to relocate them to my warm bathtub where there would be no more death-by-mother-squishing.

Lucky will be given her remaining course of penicillin and then move in with other adult pigs.

The lucky seven survivors will spend at least a week in the bathtub, and then move onto the porch with my house pig, Tazzy, until they are able to eat solid food. When it’s warmer, they’ll move to outside housing.

A bull calf arrived the same day as the piglets. Misty, a Scottish Highlander cow, gave birth to a healthy red boy named Alan, all without any cow-drama. We brought mother and son into the holding pen to keep an eye on them. Alan is the first of 17 calves expected this summer. May all the bovine births go as smoothly.

The pig drama continues. Bruce and I now have to bottle-feed seven ravenous babies three times a day. Does anyone want to lend a hand? It’s hard working with pigs because whatever you do they are likely to squeal on you!

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)