Food & Swine

the 4 piglets that could

the 4 piglets that could

I’m going to write a note today about our four little orphan piglets.  I’m losing track of the timeline of their health.  I meant to post sooner but I just couldn’t do it for fear that in the meantime we’d lose one of the little boogers.  We haven’t yet, but I cannot say that we are totally out of the woods.  They are requiring a lot of TLC lately.  The proteins in the milk replacers we have to use are not easily digested by the piglets.  In turn, it is hard on their tiny tummies and digestive systems and they scour (have diarrhea).  As in humans, when you have a prolonged bout of these issues, a person will lose too many fluids and somewhat deteriorate.  These pigs have done that.  They’ve taken the step backwards that we feared.  It was not without much care, petting, help, cleaning, bedding, feeding, loving and downright praying.  So I’ll take you through the past week, because up until that point all of this was a fairytale.

12/23 born, 12/24 Mama dies, piglets come ‘home’ eat Mama’s colostrum for a few feedings, 12/25 piglets eat MannaPro colostrum supplement, 12/31 we introduce the more common milk replacer, 12/31 things are still going well, pigs eating ever 4 hours at this point, roughly 1 1/4-1 1/2 ounces each of a combo of colostrum and milk replacer. my husband brings a special gel feed supplement home and introduces it. 1/1 one piglet begins to scour.  we become afraid and use more of the gel feed supplement and administer medication to aid in ‘tightening up or drying up’ their stool.

1/2 the piglets get new digs… a larger custom house with a nice floor underneath.  my husband and daughter built it in about 30 minutes from scrap wood and other materials we had saved up.  they still have their heat lamp, plenty of bedding etc.  they no longer look pretty, pink and healthy.  their appearance has changed and things are not too good.

1/3-1/4 the delicate dance takes place, trying to withdraw the milk that is messing their systems up and replacing it with the feed they need to grow, get stronger and SURVIVE.  For some odd reason (yeah right) the pigs have no interest in eating from the handmade trough we have.  They want to be fed.  Personal attention, you name it.  They still want it.  This day was a challenging day, they need to eat the feed supplement but won’t.  They want milk and their “pseudo” Mama (my husband).  I could tell at 10:30 p.m on 1/4 my husband was feeling a bit defeated.  For 10 days he had given up a ton of sleep, extended his working days by hours (coming home mid day to check them), worried, researched and was running out of answers.  I felt so bad for him.  So we talked about a million different ways to save these little pigs, why some of the things I came up with wouldn’t work, and so on.  We have a bunch of amazing people that work for us, one of them is a woman named Robin and she saves pigs who are in the worst of ways.  She is a miracle worker and one of the nicest people I know.  She cares for a few finisher barns for us and is always trying to get the ‘fall behinds’ (pigs that aren’t keeping up from a weight standpoint, sickness, injury etc.) to catch up with the rest of the pigs in their group.  She has amassed quite an amount of information about what kinds of common household pantry items will help in curing different things with different pigs.  MASHED POTATOES and CHERRY JELL-O.  Seriously, yes I know.  It is insane.  INSANE.  The pigs like it, the potatoes give them the carbs-energy they need to be up and around eating and getting to their water source.  The Jell-O is an incentive to eat it… Cherry flavored Jell-O is what Robin swears by, she has tried every kind.  Well Robin, kudos to you because it is working.  After we discussed these little things my husband shot out of his chair, mixed a loose paste of many different things and took it to the pigs.  They devoured.  Thank goodness.  We have a ways to go before we can breathe the proverbial sigh of relief but at least they are eating and feeling better.  (*update:  this cheery-cherry outlook lasted about 3 hours.  things aren’t looking great right now 1/5/14 4:00 PM)

We’ve also turned away from the milk replacer to Similac Alimentum, which is a formula that is for babies that have a protein sensitivity. The proteins in it are significantly broken down. It is plenty expensive but worth it because the piglets are getting along well with it while we try to get them off milk all together.  It is a Catch 22.  The piglets want the milk, it hurts their tummy.  We take the milk away, they lose some vital calories they need for their growth right now, but their stool gets better.  Jeepers, I didn’t think it would be easy but didn’t think it’d be this hard.

I will always remember on the morning that “Queenie” the Mama pig prolapsed and it was apparent that she would die and we would be receiving house guests, our daughter said “Well Dad, what are we going to do?” and knowing what was ahead (not a great prognosis on piglets that lose their mother so quickly).  My husband responded simply with, “Honey, I don’t know.”  Our daughter rose up from the piglets in the nursery, replied, “but Daddy you know everything” in the most desperate tone. The innocence she brings to this situation and the love for the piglets no doubt, keeps them alive.  It also keeps my husband consistently changing to try and make things better for them even though the outlook is poor sometimes.  Cross your fingers, say a Hail Mary, do what you need to… they could use it.  I’m so glad they are getting a bit better (knock on wood).  I’ll update soon when things turn around, hopefully for the better.

We’d never known the grocery list that these little things have come to need… it is not limited to:

MannaPro Colostrum Supplement

Milk Replacement Powder

Idahoan Mashed Potato Flakes-Plain

Similac Alimentum Human Infant Formula (for babies with protein sensitivity)

BlueLite Formula (an electrolyte formula that prepares scouring pigs for dehydration and delivers critical nutrients)  This stuff is neat, smells pretty good and mixes up like a jelly paste

Pig Starter… a special pig feed concoction for little babies, a dry product that they need to get accustomed to eating sooner than later.  This will help them tremendously.  Young pigs with a  typical upbringing get flecks of their mother’s feed on their nose from what she dribbles out of the pan.  They lick it off of their nose, enjoy it and slowly assimilate to eating dry feed.  We didn’t quite have that situation.  So we’re paying for the TLC we’ve given these little guys… trying to get them used to eating feed.

Cherry Jell-O

New Gerber bottles

We’ve sacrificed many bottle nipples cut to different degrees, syringes (I knew I saved those for some reason after the kid’s antibiotics ran out).

I hope that isn’t too confusing.  We’re just hoping they get a little better soon.  We’re certainly trying and they are too…


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  • Reply r January 6, 2014 at 2:43 am

    We will be praying the little buggers do better. Isn’t it funny how fast they grow on your heart?

    And I have used baby spoons to transition from bottle to feeder pans. Sometimes it worked sometimes not so much.

    • Reply mikeandcristen January 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      This means a lot coming from the inspiration for the recipe! Thank you! I’m pleased to report they are really doing well out of these little glass bowls. Good to know about the spoons too, we’ll always default to your wisdom! (Mike is wondering why R, are you up at 2:43 a.m.?!)

  • Reply r January 7, 2014 at 12:03 am

    actually I posted it between 8-9 pm. I was up at 3-4am too. Thinking about your little Super Troop. So happy to hear they are still with you. You are way too generous by the way.

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