Food & Swine

Christmas Pigs Part II


Many of you have asked if I would mind sharing what happened to the sow-Mama of the “Christmas Pigs” (for those of you who are not ‘caught up’, we have 4 Yorkshire piglets staying right outside our entry door in our heated garage under a heat lamp that we feed every few hours via syringe and bottle.).  I don’t mind sharing some of the story but just a little FYI it isn’t for the faint of heart.  After all, it is sad any time an animal big or small is lost on the farm.  I’ll do my best to tell it right for ya.  Here it goes…

We had a Yorkshire sow we purchased a while ago from a man in Wisconsin.  She wasn’t very old at the time but she was a proven sow who had had a couple of litters before we bought her.  Very nice, big gal with a sweet temperament and a voracious appetite.  Her name was Queenie because on her pedigree there was a reference to something similar.  Easy choice.  My husband calls every sow “Mama” so the names are really just for the kids and I.  For those of you who inquired this pig is not “Oink” (our first sow) or “Cinnamon” (our Duroc gilt due to pig on 2/15) the two pigs I frequently talk about on here.  They are safe and with pig.  No worries.  “Diamond” another York gilt is a daughter of Queenie.  We can continue on that type of breeding with her.  She is very nice.

Here is Queenie: (I’m not a pig-photography professional at all, but I have this one.)


Back to the story.  Queenie went into labor on her own  in the overnight of 12/22 (good girl) and she had 7 pigs, 4 live/3 dead. My husband checked them at about 4:30 a.m. I was quite happy with her litter because she fell ill in October with something unknown and she came out of it miraculously. I mean, we really thought she was going to die.  Totally baffled.  Couldn’t diagnose her. We weren’t sure if she’d survive, but she did.  Sometimes when sows get sick during their pregnancy they can have a bad result by an early delivery, or stillbirths due to infection.  We were happy with the 4 little piglets that came.  Three boars and one gilt.  Fast forward back to 12/23 in the mid-morning. My husband came home after doing the early-check to get our daughter to go see the pigs and when he returned the sow had prolapsed. (roughly meaning her reproductive ‘innards’ came out) It was pretty major. Our vets (we consulted 2) did not think surgery was an option.  The risk was so great and the outlook was so poor that not doing the surgery was the best bet to get the piglets as much milk from her as possible so we could at least increase their chances of living.  She lived for about 20 hours, was up drinking water and doing her best until suddenly, she quickly failed and peacefully went to sleep.  During her living time when we knew she was not going to make it we milked her out a bit so her piglets would have some colostrum going forward.  (This initial milk is so important for their little tummies).  Being the super-mom I am I lent my breast pump (TMI– I know, sorry) to Mike and Halle.  I knew if we were going to raise these little things, the best chance they had was getting plenty of their Mama’s milk.  The pump ended up not working the best so manually the milk was expressed and stored.

*Note: In typical farrowing situations you would take these orphan piglets and put them on another good and productive (milking) sow who has very recently pigged.  She will pick up the slack and take care of the new pigs.  We are not in that type of situation with our pigs at the moment.  This sow pigged in a window where we don’t have any of that type of support.  We own finisher barns as well (where the pigs come to us at 70 # and we raise them to 275#), not any large farrowing operations (mamas and babies) so we wouldn’t have a place for them anyway.  Plus from a biosecurity standpoint you never want to mix populations of pigs because of disease.  Not a good thing.  So this is why they are outside my door!

My husband brought the piglets home late that night (12/23) and we set up a living area on the landing in our garage for the newest members of our family.  We had a nice red tub, some newspaper bedding, a heat lamp tied to a ladder, strapped to our son’s new John Deere toy tractor, a snowflake fleece blankie and a ceramic heater blowing on the tub.  I also warmed up plenty of towels and my rice filled fleece hot pack to put by them for the first hours they were home to keep them warm. We used our infrared thermometer to detect the temperatures in and around the tub.  We had the colostrum prepared and ready in small Medela bottles in the refrigerator.  We warmed it just like you would a newborn baby and gave it to each piglet by syringe.  They did not want to take the first few feedings, but after those few feedings they suddenly got the hang of it.  The first few days we fed them every 2 hours, only a few teaspoons full.  Now they eat about every 4 hours (12/27) and they squeal and jump with delight when they hear their “Mama’s” voice (my husband).

These little animals are so interesting.  My husband is great with them.  He works daily in the swine industry and I can tell you that the joy this little project brings him is amazing.  Sure, it is mildly annoying to wake up in the middle of the night and get squealed at, but why not?  Our kids get the biggest kick out of having these little cuties right outside our entry door.

Here is our daughter showing our son the piglets for the first time after he woke up on 12/24.


She’s always encouraging him to get closer and investigate. He gladly obliges most of the time.


The pigs are currently eating a mixture of Manna Pro (colostrum supplement) and bovine (cow)’s milk replacement powder.  You just mix the appropriate amounts of powder with warm water to make the milk, suck it up in the syringe and place it gently into their mouth and slowly plunge it down.  Randomly on 12/24 I gave my husband a bottle to try, that’s why 2 of the 4 piglets prefer the bottle.  They are as finicky as newborn humans… some like it one way, the others… not so much.  Hopefully we’ll get them all on the bottle soon.


Here is the gilt, propping her feet up while she eats.  Lots of love and attention for each one.


Here are some interesting tidbits about each piglet:

The gilt: (only female)  The smartest, most voracious eater, is very snuggly and loves to put her front feet up on your hands when she eats.  She doesn’t thrash around too bad when she eats which is nice.  She pees on you every time she eats.  Awesome.  We love her.

The ‘smart’ boar pig: This is one of the three boar pigs that takes a bottle.  He drains it incredibly fast and can really eat a lot.  He’s big and scrappy.  My husband likes him.

The ‘hammer head’:  Definitely not the brightest pig in the bunch, he is a super-squealer.  He is wiggly too and may be the pig who tried to bite my ear off.  Possibly the one I dropped on the floor (10-12 inch padded fall.)  He wiggles around if you aren’t pushing the syringe fast enough.  STRESSFUL pig.

The ‘other one’:  This pig just flat out wants the syringe. Feed. ME. NOOOOW.  A little pisser as well, this one has ups like Jordan and can get some serious sky when he hears his “Mama” coming.  His little head bobs up and down out of the tub when he’s jumping.  Quite funny for now until those little suckers can jump out and we’re chasing them all over the garage!

Today I was thankful for my cousin and his wife (I call her my cousin too) because they came and took care of the feeding today. (I had pitching lessons to give).  They are both great with animals and they did a bang up job!  The pigs were still sleeping peacefully when I finally got home!  Thanks guys!

It was certainly a very Merry Christmas.  We wish many blessings for you and yours in 2014.

Christmas 2013

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  • Reply JoAnn Hansen December 29, 2013 at 2:30 am

    So glad to hear babies are doing ok, sorry for the loss of Queenie. Enjoyed your update!

    Sent from my iPad


  • Reply Carrie B August 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

    So glad I came across this post today. We have a very small operation (only 2 gilts & 1 didn’t settle when we bred her in April) & we raise show pigs for my niece & nephew for our state show here in GA. Our York gilt farrowed last Thursday but was only able to have 2 pigs, the others were too big for her to pass & we couldn’t reach them to pull them out. Sadly she died Saturday night so we’re tasked with raising her 2 little gilts. Miraculously they’re doing great on the milk replacer powder (knock on wood), however we don’t use bottles. We’ve always used a small pan so that they can drink out of it & they attack it. Hopefully our 2 will prosper like your little orphans did!

    • Reply Cristen August 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      So glad to hear you found me. I hope to help any way I can. Best of luck!

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