Farming isn’t fun.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “This girl always tries to prove how great farm life is, and now she’s saying it’s not fun. She has officially lost it.”
But it’s true. It’s not always fun.
We’ve had a Crossbred gilt (a girl pig who hasn’t farrowed yet) in the crate for the last week. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of her piglets. Like I said in my last post, once we know a gilt or sow is close, it feels like forever until she finally has them.
We were getting ready to head to dinner with William’s mom last night when he noticed the gilt was finally milking. Pigs start to milk only just before they farrow, so we knew it was about time. When we got home from dinner she still hadn’t had any piglets yet.
So it was time to help her out.
Reaching elbow deep into the birthing canal of a pig probably isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. But when Momma is looking a little stressed, it’s our job as farmers to give her the help she needs.
William felt a piglet inside and started pulling. On the way out, the piglet’s toe caught onto Momma’s insides and caused a small tear. I’ve never seen something swell up so fast. And once things start swelling, farrowing becomes even more difficult.
William managed to pull 4 more piglets out of her before deciding to give her a rest. Quite honestly, I think he was giving himself a rest too. Pulling pigs doesn’t sound hard, but when a sow contracts and squeezes your arm, it doesn’t take long before you’re sore and exhausted.
I pulled the next piglet. It’s a strange thing to be proud of, but any other time I have tried I have failed. The piglet was on the other side of Momma’s pelvic bone. Usually if I can get in there and get a hold of the piglet’s head, the combination of my hand and the piglet becomes too big to pull back through. Not to mention it is really hard to get a good grasp on a slippery, stubborn piglet. But I got that little girl out, and it wasn’t long before William pulled 3 more.
And that’s when the trouble started.
The 10th piglet proved (and is still proving) to be the most stubborn. By this time, Momma was tired, stressed, and unbelievably swollen inside and out. The first nine presented themselves all over the course of about an hour. For the next hour William and Collin tried to get Momma to cooperate and give a few good pushes, but she just wouldn’t do it. Just when she would get the pig up where it needed to be, it would go back down where we couldn’t reach it. We finally decided to go back to the house and give Momma some rest.
Tired, and knowing their daytime jobs would have them up early the next morning, the boys went back out at 11:30 last night to check on her and give it another try. I’ll admit, I showered and went to bed. There wasn’t much I could do at that point.
It wasn’t long before I heard Collin’s truck start up and head for home, and William came upstairs.
Farming isn’t fun.
It’s not fun watching a sow swell up and give up.
It’s not fun trying for an hour to pull one stubborn piglet.
It’s not fun knowing that if you give up and go to bed, the sow could die.
Farming- whether it be crops or livestock- is always a risk. For once we had a strong, healthy litter of 9 piglets, and one was about to ruin it all. The piglets need to drink their mother’s milk right away and get their colostrum if they have any hope of surviving. If that one little piglet were to kill the Momma, it would only be a matter of time before we would have to say goodbye to the other piglets as well.
But there comes a time when you have to give it a rest and hold onto the faith that when you wake up in the morning, everything will be okay.
Luckily the sow was alive this morning when William went to check on her. But she still hadn’t gotten the last piglet out of her.
As I’ve been writing this, the vet showed up and finally got it pulled out. The piglet was stillborn, but Momma is alive, and we have 10 other thriving little piglets. (Yes- 10! Somewhere in the middle of the night Momma pushed one out. We aren’t sure if it was the one she was struggling with, or a different one, but she did it!)
Like I said, farming isn’t always fun. It’s hard, it’s stressful, it’s exhausting.
But it is so rewarding. Farmers are by far the luckiest people on Earth. The stressful days and sleepless nights are worth every minute when we see that sow and her piglets doing well. Or when the corn and soybeans sprout up through the soil. Or when we sit down to dinner and know the food is on our table because we were willing to put in the time and work to grow it.
Farming isn’t fun, but we love it.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.