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It’s not often that Dale is away from the farm and the boys and I have to do chores. But when it does happen there always seems to be some type of adventure involved. This past week Dale had the opportunity to attend a marketing seminar and tour the Board of Trade in Chicago. No problem, the boys could do chores while he was gone. Did I mention that the sows always seem to farrow when he’s gone?

Sure enough Wednesday night a sow that had taken almost all day to have 4 pigs needed some help. There was still one inside her that was having trouble getting out. Brett and I prepped ourselves for assistance. He gave his best effort with no luck. I gave it a try. Newborn pigs are slippery no matter where they are at. Getting ahold of them and keeping your grip while helping the sow is tough. Did I mention that about this time we called Dale on his cell phone for tips? Yes, we’re in the barn and he’s in the restaurant in Chicago. I love technology.

Determined to help that pig be born, the sow and I combined our efforts. We were successful. Fearing the worst, Brett and I both yelled “it’s alive” as the pig opened its eyes and started to move around. Instinct took over as the pig gained strength and went to look for Mom and a meal.

Brett and I both felt good about our efforts and results. During this time another sow in the barn had started to farrow and there were new pigs on the ground. We’re hoping these will be our State Fair pigs.

When’s the next time Dale will be gone and we’ll have to do chores? I don’t know. But I’m willing to bet the kids and I will be involved in another adventure.

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Christmas day was extra busy for Dale as a new group of sows started to have little pigs. A sow’s gestation period is about 114 days ( 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days as we learned in our Intro to Animal Science class) so these sows were bred last September.

Quite a bit of observation goes on during this time. Dale is making sure the sows are comfortable in the farrowing room. Once a sow starts to farrow, he makes sure she isn’t having any problems and that the pigs are being born on a regular basis, about one pig every 20-25 minutes. If it takes much longer than that, he may have to help.

Dale likes to keep the farrowing room cooler for the sows, about 70 degrees, but the little pigs need it warmer, so we use heat mats (think in-floor heating), to provide a warm surface for the pigs. We’ll also use a heat lamp over them if necessary to provide additional warmth.

It’s critical to make sure the pigs nurse on the sow right away. The rich colostrum provides energy and immunity for the young pigs. Pigs that eat well the first few days will grow better the rest of their life.

Farrowing pigs takes extra time and effort. But the reward is having a group of sows with many healthy active pigs.