Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Year, New Life

The best days on the farm are "new baby days".  Warm, sunny days when you walk out to check the animals and find a cow licking her new calf, a wet lamb struggling to stand and nurse or a sow having pigs.  You feel blessed to be a part of such a rich life.
Most people do not think of January as warm and sunny, but we have had several nice January days with today being another one.  The new babies have a much easier go of it when they are lucky enough to be born on a warm day.
Rosie, a Gloucestershire Old Spot gilt, had her pigs in a sunbeam in the doorway of the barn.  She is a young, first time mom and just had four pigs.  The next time she farrows, she will probably have eight or more and the bigger she gets, the more pigs she will have in each litter.  She is being a good mom and all four pigs have survived and are thriving.
Pandora, an American Guinea Hog, had her pigs in another barn, out of the wind, in a big pile of straw.  While being a good mom is mostly instinct, the ability to care for offspring does not always come to every animal. 
Pandora had her first litter in a puddle after breaking out of her farrowing pen.  Needless to say, none survived.  Her second litter, she had out in the woods (after yet another breakout) and came back with only one surviving pig.  She immediately pawned her one offspring off on another mom and went about the business of getting bred again to a boar that was on the other side of the farm. At this point, my faith in her mothering abilities was pretty non existent.  Pandora was looking like a good candidate for sausage.  The time came for the trip to the processor and I could tell that she was starting to get milk.  A look at the calendar and spreadsheets told me that she had to have gotten bred immediately after dropping her second litter.  Bad little piggy.  So she was spared and locked in a pen that would hold a buffalo=or so I thought.  After a week or so in that enclosure, she started to tear things up.  In frustration, I let her out and back into the pasture, figuring that I would never see this litter either.
The next morning, on a rainy Saturday, complete with thunder and lightening, she had made a nest in the old barn.  She popped out seven black pigs and was the model pig mom, lying down carefully and grunting softly to them while they nursed.  She runs to the feed trough , eats, and runs back to her babies.  She takes them out to sun bathe when it is cold under the eves of the barn.  I swear she smiles and winks at me when I go down to check on her and the babies.  She knows that she is not going anywhere now.

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