After the longest labour I have experienced with a sow (five hours) Poppy gave birth to her sixth piglet. After an hour of cycling them in and out of their box having a good drink so there were at least three on her at one time, I decided that she must be finished. It was almost 2am and we had been in the birthing chamber since 7pm (with her beginning to pant) so I figured that must be all.
Surely the afterbirth would be next and Poppy and i were both exhausted so I went to bed leaving six well fed piglets feeding and their mother dozing. At 5am I finally gave in to the temptation to take out her water and more food and found nine piglets all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Nine. Clever girl.
When she heard me Poppy carefully got up – she does this in three stages, a small roll that scatters the piglets, then onto her belly, then heaving herself up. She went to her food corner and ate and ate, and drank and drank. I corralled all babies away from her feet and into the hot creep, removed the afterbirth, replenished her water, filled her feed bowls to all-you-can eat level and then waited with the babies.
Once she had finished her breakfast she turned back into the room and began to bark loudly and aggressively -calling for her piglets. I opened their creep and they all came to the door of the creep and paused there, calling back to her- “here we are, we did not run away!” Little tiny dog nips to her big bark. They cautiously came out and ranged themselves at a distance from her watching and calling. Then Poppy went to her favourite wall, pushed stuff round for a second so they knew she was about to lie down there, then nose first she slowly lowered her enormous self onto her belly and as I exited the scene she was sliding her belly with its great full udder outwards going onto her side, legs were outstretched, head laid down and her call changed to the soft feeding sound that had them running for their own breakfast.
Soon I will go out to bring the cows in and start the milking. I milk in the other side of the barn but it is not far from her. I make soft murmur sounds to the cows just like I always do then turn the Gentle Milking playlist on loud just like I always do, and soon she ignores me again. This is why I keep the sows feed bowls full after the birth so she does not jump up to eat when she hears me she has a full belly. In the weeks she has been in the barn I ignore her when I am milking and afterwards too – I train her to eat first in the morning, then she does not become agitated at milking time she knows those noises are not for her.
Once I am done with the milking I will leave her and her babies quite alone for the whole day – this is very hard for me as you can imagine but for the first 24 hours the babies feed almost continuously. If I see her up and about I will take the opportunity to top up her water and feed. But mostly the barn stays quiet and still.
It is raining. Of course it is raining – I am Late bringing the cows in this morning. It is quite dark. Hopefully the cows are waiting at the barn door.
I will take photos of the babies later today and do my usual EXTRA post if I get some good ones, though they have two red heat lamps in there which makes images look like they are all under murky water. So I might see you again later.
Have a lovely day.
ps – image of Poppy from the day before yesterday – I was just too anxious to take photos yesterday!