Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Honky Needs a Job

entente cordiale with the dogs
Honky Tonk is a 5 week old piglet who was rejected by her mother at birth. She then developed scour and had to be nursed back to health for the first 3 weeks of her life. She had to re-learn how to walk. She had been immobile for so long she seemed paralysed and at first I thought she had had a stroke due to dehydration. But slowly she recovered beginning to push herself up into a sitting position for her bottle. Then she began to stand on all four very wobbly legs, usually with temper when I washed her. Then she staggered a few paces towards her bottle.

Sitting up for her bottle

Outside completely helpless

Her first steps towards her bottle
She learned that the ping of the microwave means food
She soon rejected her piglet bed in my sun porch deciding she was more comfortable stretched in front of the stove in one of the dog's beds. Gradually I got her moved out into the kitchen with the dogs and then out into the downstairs bathroom. Mopping up the inevitable every morning was becoming very wearing. I tried to put her out in the makeshift run with her siblings during the day but they bullied her unmercilessly. Then I allowed them outside their run with some electric fencing but she just darted under the fence to get away from them.

Loubie Lou not impressed at her taking her bed
Last night as her siblings had been moved, she slept outside in their house in their run alone but with her dog bed and blankets on a big bed of straw. I went out to check her and she was warm and snug. Success but then when I opened the run she was straight up to the patio doors demanding to be let in, honking loudly. When she comes in she greets the weird cat and each dog individually with a quacking noise that we have come to realise is her "happy" sound. She tries out each of their beds individually, evicting them as she decides which bed she will settle in. Then she sleeps off her morning bottle for a couple of hours.

Honking to be let in with a mucky snout
An expert at making herself cosy
Now here is the thing. Honky needs a job. Honky will not become rashers and sausages. I couldn't bear to sell her or slaughter her. I could breed from her but our boar is her daddy and I have no intentions of feeding another boar. She needs to earn her keep.

Honky is used to dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, children and adults. She thinks she is one of the dogs. She robs their nuts out of their bowl when she thinks I'm not looking. She robs the chicken food. She knows her name and comes when she is called. If you lock her out one door she goes to the other.

Robbing chicken food as chickens look on

So come on anyone? A job for Honky? Film, TV, advertising, education.........

Can a piglet join Equity?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ten and Honky Tonk

The Kells 12 are one month old today. The 12 are now sadly 11. Well 10 and Honky Tonk. (When my mother was a child her uncle when asked how many children he had always answered 9 and *Frankeen.)

I lost one little boy to the scourge that is scour. He literally melted in front of my eyes as he dehydrated and lost so much weight. I did my best to save him but despite rallying initially he just gave up. I was so sad because I have fed all of them from the day they were born and can tell them all apart and know their personalities.

I started them on solid food at two weeks old mixing organic chick starter with their milk. I couldn't get organic creep feed from my supplier despite them making loads of calls looking for it. The chick starter is 21% protein and it was what I used for the last litter. Initially they fell over it, walked in it, basically did everything but try to eat it. But then lo and behold on the second day the penny dropped. I am still giving them a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night because losing one so suddenly worried me. He had obviously not been eating although he had been having his milk in a bottle. I figured the last lot were with their mother eight weeks so it is no harm to keep it up. It actually doesn't take long as they all gulp down a bottle in jig time almost sucking the bottle inside out. Now a few of them have got really heavy for lifting and holding I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it up.

The sick boy and Honky Tonk

Lady Hope aka Honky Tonk
Lady Hope now known as Honky Tonk because of her continual honking and also because when we commented on it one night, The Rolling Stones song of the same name just happened to come on the radio. She has recovered completely from scour and is back walking and running and generally terrorising every animal species in the place. I tried to put her back in with the others but they bullied her. She refuses to eat solid food and has a melt down if she doesn't get her food in a bottle. I reckon she's about 2 weeks behind the others so for now I am humouring her. Needless to say this is one little piggy who won't be going to market!

After feeding time they love to climb all over us
Oly loves to sit with me when I'm feeding them

The first born and biggest male

The one who lost her tail 
Honky Tonk makes herself cosy in the dog's bed
Long ago sows were put in farrowing crates in the belief that they lay on their piglets and squashed them to death. I'm sure this happened and also that plenty of sows rejected their piglets, but I hate the idea of pinning any animal into a crate. However, next time I intend to put her into the stable a couple of weeks before her litter is due. And if she rejects them, I will use a crate for a couple of weeks just to get them started. It's no joke trying to feed 12 piglets and cow's milk is for calves not piglets.

*Frankeen is the diminutive of Frank from Irish.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

What They Say

Courtesy of Marie McKenna
They said it couldn't be done.

When I was a child my mother met my teacher in the local supermarket. She told my mother I was an average student, I would never get more than 50% . I was in primary school. My mother came home and told me. I got thick. I got mad. I decided to prove her wrong.

I got oodles of advice about rejected piglets. I listened to it all. I did what I usually do and made my own mind up. To date this has served me well. I have 12 piglets alive and kicking but I'm not counting my piglets...... just yet.

The things I have learned.

1). If you suspect the sow is rejecting her piglets, she probably is.
2). Remove them and keep them warm.
3). Go get colostrum. Sheep, cow anything is better than nothing.
4). Cow's milk is lower in fat than pig's. I added a glug of cream initially.
5). Feed on demand for first week.
6). Don't listen to people who know about Landrace pigs (pig breed raised intensively).
7). Listen to old people who raised pigs long ago.
8.) Vets know little about pigs.
9.) Rare breed pigs can survive outdoors without a heat source. They just need shelter.
10.) Go with your gut feeling always.

For the first week you need to feed at night. After this feed as late as possible and they will go through the night. As they get older they reduce the number of feeds but they take more at each feed. They will get *scour (very watery diarrhoea). Watch out for it. Be ready to intervene if they show any signs of listnessless or sleeping while the others are jumping around. Remove affected piglet and make up a solution of 1 pint of warm water and add a teaspoon of sugar and salt. Syringe drops into piglet every half an hour. Have a sachet of Sulpha 2 from the vet on hand to dose just in case. Use the tip of a teaspoon and add to 100ml of water. Give 20 ml per 250ml bottle twice a day.

(*Scour can either be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It can also just be caused because you are feeding them milk meant for a calf and they need time to adapt to it. The bacterial/viral one tends to be foul smelling. Don't panic. I did initially and when I saw them with it, I dosed the lot. I calmed down and just noted which one had it and watched them. Generally the next day they were back to normal. As long as they are drinking and active it won't do them any harm).

You will get very good at noticing piglet pooh!

Get them out onto soil as quickly as possible. They need to root and nudge in soil and they will even eat it. This prevents iron and B12 deficiency and helps combat scour. It also balances their intestinal flora. Try to keep their bedding area clean and dry.

If you have rejected piglets and you need advice feel free to contact me. I know from experience you are on your own. And don't listen to people who tell you it can't be done. It can, it just takes patience, and a lot of stubborness. And I am writing this from my own observations. I am not saying they are right. I am sure loads of intensive pig farmers will disagree with it. However, rare breed pigs are a very different type of pig. They are hardy and used to being outside and they have a thick coat of hair to keep them warm.

I am hoping to start weaning this week. I have ordered chick starter as I couldn't get any organic creep feed. I used this for the last lot and they thrived.

I will keep you posted.