British Lop Piglets

Came out into the yard around 5-00 thus evening to check on Sally our pedigree British Lop Sow. She has been threatening to farrow (give birth) for the last few days so Leo bought her in to watch her more closely.

We have had three other litters born in the last couple of weeks. The first Saddleback had just one piglet, a new event for us. Her sister had 10! They both farrowed outside & have so far reared 100% of their broods. Rusty, our Tamworth had 8, but something has been attacking them during the night & she now only has three left. We think it is rats, but are not sure. Sometimes mothers eat their young, but she seems so calm that I don’t think that is the case here. It is very upsetting, not to mention, represents a huge loss to the farm in financial terms.

The British Lop is the rarest of the Rare Breeds, so every piglet that survives is really important in so many ways. We will be keeping several back for breeding from her last litter, so we hope to increase our pedigree breeding stock quite considerably.

The largest litter I ever helped (me & the pig) deliver was from our Princess Frieda Gloucester Old Spots Sow on 1st Jan 2000. It seemed like a great omen for the dawn of the new century. I wrote a popular piece about Frieda getting very drunk a few years ago.

Sally has 15 healthy piglets suckling hard as I write. She had two more but depite my best efforts, I could not revive them.

Piglets pop out very quickly, a bit like sqeezing peas or beans from a pod. They pretty much hit the ground running; well squealing, grunting and searching for the milk bar. For various reasons, sometimes they pop out and don’t move, or hardly move. Sometimes this is because they have been stuck for a while, sometimes they might simply be dead or they might have been stuck while the umbilical cord has broken and so they can neither breathe nor be sustained through the cord.

Most important is to clear their mouth, then rub them all over with clean straw. Normally this will set them going again, but if not, holding them upside down, swinging them gently back & forwards will help. I have revived them using mouth to mouth before, but only as a last resort.

Towards the end of the delivery three came out in quick succession, all looking dead. Despite my best efforts, I could not revive two of them, but the third came back after a huge amount of all of the above tricks and a couple more. When they come out as quickly as that you have to make decisions about which ones to help as well as how long to try for. A bit like a dramatic scene from E.R. or Casualty, there comes a moment when you have to call time of death & move on.

Today, I was lucky enough to have young Alva, who was watching and jumped into the pen and followed my instructions to the letter and helped revive the one.

Least pleasant, ocassionally piglets die long before farrowing starts. Amazingly the pig is normally able to mummify the dead in such a way as it does not affect the others. Pretty vile when it comes out though!

I must go and find my sleeping bag, hot water bottle & camp bed. A long night awaits, fighting of rats & sorting out scuffles between 15 ranbunctious little sharp toothed piglets all fighting for survival and the teat.

You can see my tweets on thios and more: northfieldfarm, on Twitter

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Author: janmccourt

Farmer, owner of Northfield Farm known for his & its pioneering role as a champion of local food, rare breeds, Borough & Broadway Markets.

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