Sunday, December 18, 2011

The saga of Trudy's second Bluestem litter

Trudy delivered 9 lovely babies on a chilly Tuesday, November 22.  The smallest was only interested in keeping warm and never tried for a teat so we didn't expect him to make it.  Another pig (#8) had some trouble breathing at first, but pepped up after an hour.  In all I was hoping to see her raise 7 or 8 nice pigs like the last bunch!
But with the Thanksgiving holiday and an over abundance of trust in the process, I did not spend my usual obsessive amount of time with the new family and after a few days things were not progressing as they should have.  Somehow by Friday one pig (a gilt we named "Bertha") was gaining steadily on a productive teat, and the other remaining pigs were still scrabbling over a few minimally productive teats at the milk bar.  They did not seem to have grown much and Trudy seemed to only have substantial milk in a single teat!  I don't know if the babies somehow didn't learn to suck well and the milk dried up, or if the milk dried up first and it hampered their learning to suck... All I can say is that I should have been there.  By the first night each pig should have established ownership over a teat.  Trudy did seem reluctant to stay on her side long enough for even Bertha to drink her fill, so it's possible that her mothering abilities were not kicking in this time, but she seemed in all other ways to be attentive to her brood. 
My folks were visiting for the holiday, so Mom helped with the first few days of, what we hoped would be, supplemental feedings of pig milk replacer.  Our goal was to keep the piglets' strength up while they figured things out with their mom.  Several of the litter had been crushed by Trudy as she laid with them.  The is common with hogs, but not supposed to be a problem with Guinea hogs.  I think they little ones were too weak from not eating enough to get out of the way.  We hoped to save the remaining 5 by giving them their own heated sleeping area away from Trudy.
But as the situation did not improve, we went to plan "raise the pigs in the bathtub."  This was Scott's idea, but he assures me that he was completely joking!  Still when you have to get up every three hours to feed, proximity is key!  Two of the pigs were adept at the bottle from the start, but three were still unproductive after few days.  After reading tips online, I switched everyone over to drinking milk from a dish and that did the trick.  The littlest two had trouble with scours (diarrhea) and needed two rounds of antibiotics to clear them up, but all five are healthy and living in the barn now!  Of the biggest three, Bertha will likely stay here as a breeder, and Wilbur or Nigel will be traveling to a new home in Gardener, KS to grow up to be a herd boar.
Here is Nigel at his first day of preschool at age 2 weeks and 2 days.  He and Wilbur were a hit and "hammed" it up for the crowd.  For photo credit, Katherine took this picture.

At present the 5 piglets: Bertha, Wilbur, Nigel, Annie, and Pip are 3 weeks and 5 days old, spending their days in a protected area outside, and sleeping under their heater in the barn at night.  They've been reunited with their mother and have been getting to know their older siblings.

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