Sarah, in true pig form, is ready, very ready to be a mom again. This will be her second batch of babies and the first batch born in winter on the farm. Her first batch of piglets are six months old and some are already in the freezer. For being so small when they are born, piglets grow quickly.
Back in August two sows, Chipmunk and Sara, gave birth within one day of each other. Chipmunk, a black pig had four babies; Sara had ten. All of the babies survived which isn’t always the case. Sows (female pigs that have given birth) can weigh 300 pounds or more. Piglets, when born, might weigh one pound. Imagine a 300+ pound sow moving around in a pen with ten, sometimes more, tiny piglets scurrying around. No matter how careful she is, it is likely that the sow will squish one or more of her babies. I watched Sara lie down with her ten squiggling new born piglets squirming around. Sara moved very slowly and carefully each time but one time she made a mistake, she laid on one of the piglets.
Fortunately, Duncan, one of our farm workers was nearby and heard the squealing piglet. He rescued a lifeless baby from under Sara. He was quite sure it was dead. But after holding the piglet for a minute it started moving and within minutes was fully recovered. We named that pig, “Squishy.”
There are ways to ensure sows don’t lie on their babies. Gestation or farrowing crates restrict the sow from moving but allow piglets access to her nipples to suckle. Factory farms use these crates extensively and keep the sows restricted for months. Some farmers use the crates only at farrowing (giving birth) and for a few days after. Once the piglets are a three or four days old they learn to get out of mom’s way when she gets up and lies down. Given enough room and a “safe place” piglets quickly learn to scurry away from mom when she moves around.
We don’t use gestation or farrowing crates at Miles Smith Farm. In each of our pig pens we built an area where the sow can’t go but the piglets can. We also put boards around the pen for the piglets to hide under when mom lies down.
In early February we’ll have a new batch of squiggling piglets. With luck we’ll have a February thaw and all the little squigglys will survive. There’s nothing cuter than a batch of piglets especially when they all learn to run from mom as she lays down.
- 1 large sliced onion
- 5 lb pork roast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ½ cup water
- Place onion on the bottom of a crock pot
- Add bay leaves on top of onion
- Rinse pork roast and place on top of onions and bay leaves
- Add water
- Add salt and pepper
- Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours until pork falls apart easily.
- When done take out pork and slice or pull apart. Add BBQ sauce to taste.