Day One Care is my absolute favorite part of being a pig farmer. What is Day One Care, you ask? It’s the special care we take on a piglet’s first day of life to make sure they get off to the best start possible. From the minute our piglets are born, there are a few things we can do to make sure they have a good, healthy start to life.
Our sows (momma pigs) give birth in farrowing stalls. These individualized pens allow us to provide a clean and safe area for our piglets to be born. Our sows don’t have to worry about fighting for feed or water, as feeders and drinkers at the front of their pens allow them access to both at all times. The bars on either side of the sow prevent her from laying down too fast, and risking squishing her tiny piglets. Heat lamps are set up on either side of the sow to provide a warm place for the piglets to lay.
Prior to moving sows into the farrowing stalls, we make sure they are clean and disinfected, and that everything (drinkers, heat lamps, heaters, etc.) is working properly. Something as simple as a heat lamp burning out can affect a piglet’s health tremendously.
Did you know the gestation period of a pig is roughly 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days? Not only is this a cool fact, but it helps us to know exactly when to move our sows into the farrowing stalls. A few days before her due date, we will move a sow into a stall and prepare for new piglets.
Although our sows are typically able to give birth just fine on their own without any complications, we like to make sure we are in the barn and prepared to help her and her piglets out. As soon as a baby pig is born, we have 3 goals: get them dry, warm, and fed. See that piglet I’m holding? As soon as she was born, I used a towel and a clay-based powder to help dry her off. Then I laid her down underneath the heat lamp to help keep her body temperature up.
Once we know a piglet is warm and dry, we monitor it to make sure it gets a good drink of its mother’s milk. The first milk a sow produces is called colostrum. Colostrum has all the essential nutrients and antibodies that a piglet needs to get off to a great start at life. If we notice a piglet isn’t getting up to drink, or is having a hard time figuring out where to go, we will move him or her towards the mother and show it where to latch on.
Once a piglet is warm, dry, and has gotten a good drink of its mother’s colostrum, it is time for a good nap!
The sow will continue to have anywhere from 8-12 piglets (sometimes more!), and we will continue this process with each one.
The sow and her piglets will remain in the farrowing stalls for 21 days, until weaning time. In that time they will grow from about 2 pounds to 15 pounds! The piglets will continue to drink their mother’s milk during these three weeks. We supplement the milk with water and dry feed in the days leading up to weaning.
It’s easy to see why Day One Care is my favorite part of being a pig farmer. Farrowing can bring on some busy days and late nights, but it is incredibly rewarding seeing our sows and piglets thrive in these first crucial days.
Have questions about the care we give to our sows and piglets? Leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer!