This week we’ve had some ups and downs in the barn. Before I go into that, I want to clarify the situation we’re going to discuss. The following story relates to the breeding pigs we keep for the purpose of showing in livestock shows and Fairs throughout the summertime. This is not part of our modern pig farming, or a means of farming that earns income for our family. Our ‘show pigs’ are strictly our hobby, and their lovely presence occupies quite a bit of our time, energy and in this case… emotion. When you own animals, become attached (like I do sometimes), things of this nature can happen and leave a person pretty heartbroken. The miraculous, then devastating story of one little pig and the complicated farrowing of a gilt, was something I wanted to share. I had really hoped we could save this little pig, like we did the “4 Orphans” that we raised in our garage. Apparently the injuries she sustained during birth would be too much to overcome. Here’s her story and the constant reminder that life is fragile, yet beautiful. Cleo is in labor… Cleo is a nice crossbred (pig that has many different breeds in her pedigree) gilt (female pig that has not given birth yet) that we bred to a boar named Crazy Bone from a local boar stud. On Wednesday at 4 a.m., my husband went to check her progress to see if she was having pigs or not. When he arrived to the barn, she was, but he could see hind legs presenting and immediately came to her aid. As the birth of the piglets progressed, only a couple of the 9 born were presenting evenly coming out of the birth canal. The last of the pigs born was finally coming out head first, but totally upside down. This pig was stuck. My husband tried everything he could to get this pig out and nothing worked. (Walked the Mama, rolled her over, scratched her belly to flip her, more walking, etc.) In the meantime, we summoned the vet, just in case. Dr. L. was in surgeries and was unavailable for another 4 hours. At this point, there was nothing to do other than wait. So we all hung around the barn until then. Dr. L. arrives… The vet arrived and was able to free the pig and laid it in a clean pile of shavings. After nearly 5 hours in the birth canal, a person would never think the piglet would be alive. But… it was. She was, and she took a pretty weak breath. The vet gasped, saying “My goodness, that pig is alive!” so my husband immediately went to work, trying to assist her breathing, rubbing her body, and getting her plenty warm. Once her breathing became less spastic, my husband text me the news. Overnight I hoped she’d make it… my husband was unsure but she spent a few hours by herself, and she was alive the next morning, miraculously. (*The abrasions on her ears were made by the ‘pig puller’ device that was used to free her from her Mama.) Tuffy pig… I knew that if this pig was going to survive what it did prior to being born, we’d give her the best chance to survive, even if it meant extra effort on our part. I took my son to the feed store and purchased lamb milk replacer (to supplement her, after I helped her latch on to her Mama). I got a few liquid syringes from the local pharmacy, they even gave them to me for free when I told them what I was doing, and we set off to the barn for the day. Feeding routine… For the better part of 2 days, I kept this little miracle pig on a strict schedule of feeds every couple of hours. I tried to keep the mentality of a newborn infant by assisting her in sucking on her Mama for about 1/2 hour (she wasn’t the best at this, looking back, it could have been a bit of brain damage from the birth and getting stuck), then supplementing her with a liquid syringe which took about 10 or 15 minutes. She did pretty well for quite a while, but then ultimately ended up passing away suddenly. Finding Tuffy… I was on my way to give her the early afternoon feed, with a quart jar half filled of hot water and the milk replacer. I got to the barn (my in-laws place) and realized I had forgotten the syringes, I started crying helplessly,(I had a bad feeling) ran into the barn, put my boots on (to check to see if she was alright before I went home for the syringe) and found her, passed away. Immediately I screamed. (I didn’t know I was this dramatic, but at the time I felt it.) I grabbed a t-shirt that my mother in law gave me to use earlier, and wrapped her up in it. I then placed her under a warm lamp near a sow that hadn’t farrowed yet, and decided it’d be up to my husband on where to dispose of her body. (I know, I know… but even this was hard for me.) I stood in the farrowing house and sobbed like a baby. Like a gosh darned baby. My son was with me and he wandered back to the farrowing pen and said, “Mama, there are more Tuffys to love”, reached over and pet a few of the littermates. You may think… One may think that because we are involved in modern pig farming, that animals are numbers to us and we don’t become attached, ever. I can say this is not true, and any pig in any of our barns, that needs attention for any reason, is tended to. It is in our best interest because they are an investment to our family, the food that nourishes us and another being that needs our care to survive. I’m sure there will be some seasoned pig farmers that read this post and roll their eyes at this Mama. Let me tell you, I have experienced things in my life that align with this loss a bit and it wrecked me, even if only for a while. It is disappointing to pour every effort into something, only to have a negative result. But ultimately, I’m not in charge… fist pump and nod to the guy upstairs.
That little pig… Tuffy Pig, was named because she was a “toughie” and survived a traumatic birth experience. After giving her every chance we could, she just couldn’t hang on. Sometimes the toughest lessons to learn are the richest ones in life. But I’m not ready for many more of those in the near future. No recipe today… I have a candied bacon recipe for you this week but didn’t feel that it fit appropriately in this post.