One of the piglets scurried back and forth on the floor, another tried to leap twice his height into the box holding the milk while the one I was feeding chomped his razor sharp teeth into my finger. It was piglet chaos. I never planned on being a mother to eight piglets but nature apparently had other ideas.
We had been waiting patiently for three months, three weeks and three days for Chipmunk, a sow, to have her piglets. The counting starts after a sow has a date with her boar-friend, in this case, Bucky, an eight hundred pound boar. Chipmunk had two previous litters (or drifts) of piglets without incident and on the morning I opened the pig-shed door and found nine live piglets and a hungry Chipmunk I thought this would be another problem-free delivery. How wrong I was.
That evening Chipmunk was not interested in dinner but with a temperature of only 103.5, a pig’s normal temperature is 103, I wasn’t worried. The next day she still hadn’t eaten but had a normal temperature and the vet thought she might have been chilled and stressed after giving birth. The second night, with a temperature of 105 we determined that Chipmunk had mastitis which is painful but it also meant that the piglets had not eaten in almost 24 hours. That’s when I became a pig momma.
Did you know that piglets have really sharp teeth? If I wasn’t quick enough with the milk syringe either my fingers or arm got chomped by hungry piglet teeth. They would pile over each other jumping into the box with the milk. Three of them rolled the round glass milk bottle across the floor. Some took quickly to sucking milk from the baby bottle, others preferred getting milk from a syringe. Some were messy eaters, drooling milk on my jeans and tee-shirt, some not so much. After the third feeding, the piglets followed me out of their pen into the hallway, away from a sick but still protective Chipmunk. They didn’t care if Chipmunk Mom or Carole Mom gave them food, they just wanted to eat.
Once the piglets were fed, we tube fed Chipmunk yogurt and electrolytes to keep her hydrated and then would compete with the piglets, who were trying to nurse, while we massaged her teats. If I wasn’t paying attention a little piglet might sink his teeth into one of my fingers or nip at my arm.
At least the piglets are fed and lively. Chipmunk should recover but might not have milk for her babies. If she stops producing milk I’ll be a pig mom for a few more weeks, at least until we get all eight eating solid food. I sure hope Chipmunk takes over soon. Being a pig momma to eight babies is harder than I imagined and I’m not sure my fingers can survive those sharp piggy teeth much longer.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, NH, where she sells locally raised beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other products in the on-farm solar powered store and at farmers markets, restaurants and retail stores in NH. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.