On August 11th, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, Willamina gave birth to 10 beautiful black guinea hog piglets.
This liter was the first of Windward's in many years and I am glad that I got to conduct Willie's process. I have been around market hogs all of my life seeing as my two older brother's raised them for the county fair when I was younger. It was finally my turn and I raised and showed my own four pigs throughout high school.
This was the first farrowing I have been apart of though so I was excited to share my pig knowledge as well as learn with everyone to make the birth of the piglets go smoothly on the helpers end.
Mama Willie taking a quick swim between birthing some piglets.
How to help with birthing:
- Lay down straw for the sow to make her nest to give birth in. Give her enough that the ground is completely covered, but not so much that the piglets get buried underneath. If a small barn or three sided structure with a roof is not available, put a piece of plywood behind the fence to make her feel secure as well as provide shade.
- Make sure their is a clean water source near by. A kiddie pool works great, so that she can take a drink and cool off before, during, and after the birthing process.
- The sow will start breathing heavily in her nest when she's ready to give birth. It is not very loud and she will not make loud noises, so don't count on her squealing when she's going to begin. Her vulva will also swell.
- Wait until piglet comes all the way out of the vulva and is on the ground. Do not pull umbilical cord out, instead wait for it to fall out of the sow naturally.
- If a piglet appears to be stuck or breached, meaning presents rear first, gently pull piglet completely out and set it on the ground, but again, let the umbilical chord fall out naturally.
- Clean off piglets with a clean towel making sure the sac it was encased in is off so it can breath right away even when the chord is still attached.
- Tie floss around umbilical cord about a half inch away from the baby's stomach, spray iodine around the area you tied to prevent infections, and snip the chord with sterilized scissors about and inch and a half below the floss so that the piglet doesn't step on it. The chord will shrivel up and fall off the piglet naturally in a few days.
- Wait until the sow is completely done giving birth then direct the little ones to her teats. She will lay on her side and let the newborn piglets take their first drink when she is fully done giving birth.
- Feed the sow oatmeal with goat milk after the piglets get their first full meal of the sows milk.
- The sow will release her placenta in the next few hours after giving birth and will gain nutritional value in consuming it.
- If it is a new mother, watch the babies so they don't get stepped on on for the first night after farrowing if there is no access to a farrowing crate. Pigs are smart and the sow will soon learn not to squish her babies without human intervention.
- Set up a light at night so the pigs can all see each other.
The farrowing went incredibly smooth with only one piglet being breached, being born rump first, and each precious piglet arriving about every eight minute interval or so. The result was ten piglets, six boys or boars, and four girls or guilts, in about a hour and a half.
Unfortunately all ten did not survive the first night. One little girl venturing off far away from her siblings and her mom in the middle of the night became too cold and didn't make it. Another guilt obtained a large cut from the sow stepping on her, became too weak after a day of bottle feeding and also didn't make it.
We lost another piglet due to being sat on a few nights after the birth. After a smooth birth but three unfortunate losses, we now have seven strong baby piglets at Windward. Some say seeing a baby being born, human or animal, is unforgettable. In my case besides the piglets, I witnessed my first niece being brought into this world nine years ago.
I truly believe I was changed that day. I had gained a nurturing side and appreciation for life itself. It's amazing how I was not the one to give birth, yet I developed maternal instincts as the aunt. This is how I feel about helping Willamina give birth to her litter. With this new batch of piglets I was once again reminded of my abilities to nurture.
Since the farrowing, you will find me on any given day, sitting in the pig pen observing these adorable life forms. Bringing in new life to the world, even if it's just aiding the mother, is truly a beautiful thing.