“Are you tired of repetitive news about difficult farrowings? Me too. But difficult things happen, and I’ve always thought it important to share the bad news as well as the good. So, the third gilt farrowed on Saturday morning and it was the same story all over again. Two piglets out, but dead, and the next one stuck fast, the gilt straining and straining until she was exhausted. I got the bucket of warm soapy water, the iodine, the industrial-size bottle of lube. With all this practice, I’m getting better at porcine midwifery. The piglet was head first and already through the cervix, so I could get two fingers around the back of the ears, thumb under the chin, and pull. It took a while but it came, a four pounder, which is a big piglet for sure. The next one was breech, with just the tail presenting. No way it was going to fit like that. I hooked a finger under the hocks and pulled the slippery back legs straight, then gently, gently, past the pelvic bones and out.
This string of bad farrowings is not normal. Pigs usually birth with no trouble, needing help less than 1% of the time. I reached out to everyone I could think of this week; vets, pig farmers, and the hive mind of the internet have generated no obvious answer. The trouble could be anything from selenium deficiency to overfeeding, a bad mismatch of narrow-hipped gilts with a big-headed boar, something contagious, or a combination of things. The woman who sold us this boar, Scooter, is having difficult farrowings this year, too, though the boars she used on her gilts are not related to ours, and are of a different breed, so that’s a confusing data point to add to the mix. We sent a piglet off to Cornell for necropsy and tissue analysis, so maybe we’ll get a definitive answer…” Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.