Piglets Learn from their Mothers

By on Jul 13, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

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Chipmunk, the sow, jumped to her feet, growled and grabbed Herman tossing him into the corner. Herman, a piglet injured at birth, had been away from his mom while he recovered from a birth injury. The skin on his back had split during birth but after four weeks under the care of a nine-year-old 4H girl, he had only a small scar on his back. He was a fully recovered, very active four-week-old piglet ready to rejoin his litter at Miles Smith Farm, or so we thought.

Every farm animal has to learn appropriate etiquette when they are young. Baby calves learn how to approach older cows, chickens learn the “pecking order” and piglets learn not to pester their mothers or chew on her ears which is just what Herman did before he got tossed. Without animal basic training the babies will not survive in a larger herd. Babies that are bottle fed by humans are the biggest offenders. When fed by humans, babies rarely learn appropriate animal behavior.  After being separated from his mom for four weeks, Herman wanted his mom’s attention but didn’t know how to ask, “Piglet style.”

Herman and his siblings

Herman, the piglet with a scar, socializes with his siblings as well as human visitors. Photo by Carole Soule, Miles Smith Farm

Herman was young enough to learn from his siblings if his mom didn’t kill him first. Because the piglets were old enough to wean we removed Herman’s mom from the pen. We then put Herman in with his siblings where he could learn “pig etiquette” from piglets his own size without annoying his six-hundred-pound mom. He’s learned his lessons and now is fully integrated with the litter. Except for a scar on his back Herman looks and acts just like his brothers and sisters; squiggling, squealing and digging in the dirt with his snout.

Herman survived his brush with death at birth and his encounter with an annoyed mom. He should grow up to be a well-adjusted pig even though he still is a hog for attention.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, NH, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.