Agriculture

Farrowing Day

I always get excited when new animals arrive on the farm! I mean, obviously… I have a bit of a bad habit of acquiring animals. For example, last week I brought home 9 new chicks.

Today I brought home 9 more.

I thought about not telling William and just waiting to see if he noticed, but I was too excited and spilled the beans. No worries- he still loves me.

Anyway, Marshmallow- the only pig around here with a name- finally had her babies yesterday! The gestation (pregnancy) period for pigs is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. Since William artificially inseminates most of his pigs, he usually knows exactly when they will farrow, or give birth. But Marshmallow was bred by one of the boars, so while we had a rough idea of when she would have her piglets, we didn’t know for sure.

To be safe, the boys moved Marshmallow into the farrowing crate last weekend. Personally, I would much rather put the sows into the crates a few days early than a day late. Last spring one of our Duroc sows farrowed early. Some pigs are perfectly capable of birthing on their own, but she laid down by a puddle and over half of her piglets drowned. By the time we found her and got her moved into the barn it was a little too late and we weren’t able to save the rest of her piglets either. To me, when it comes down to saving or losing a litter of piglets, a few extra days in the crate isn’t all that bad.

We anxiously waited all week for Marshmallow to farrow. Finally yesterday morning she started milking, and we knew we’d have those cute little bacon bits by evening. I had to go into work at 2 and didn’t want to smell like a barn, so I didn’t get to be there to help out, but by 4 o’clock she had given birth to 9 healthy little piglets. (She had 13 all together, but due to some complications, 4 of them didn’t make it.) The piglets will stay in the crate with Marshmallow for a few weeks before being weaned and moved to a separate pen. But for now, the little cuties are thriving and enjoying the fact that the Illinois weather seems to be getting it’s sh** together and warming up. (Knock on wood!!)

And of course I couldn’t resist photographing our new babies!

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Marshmallow ended up with 2 gilts (girls) and 7 boars (boys). Ideally we would like more gilts, but I’m just happy they are healthy!
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Fun fact: pigs always stand up on their front legs first!
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Some farmers choose to farrow their pigs in open pens. We prefer to use farrowing crates. Here you can see just how big Marshmallow is compared to her 2-3 pound piglets. Marshmallow has easy access to food and water. She can stand up, lay down, and move forward and backward. The bars beside her are high enough for the piglets to run under, but keep her from laying down on top of them. The crate is raised off the ground, so anytime the pigs need to use the bathroom, it falls through the spaces and keeps the crate clean.

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