Posted 05-11-2003 at 04:57:14
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Everyone has different opinions. I have been with every sow we have while birthing except for two, and basically didn't help a bit. On several of them I caught piglets and wiped them off and and set them up to nurse. On a few of them I didn't.
The ones I didn't help got along just fine. The babies made their way around to the sows belly just fine and wriggling all over each other they cleaned themselves off. The two I was not present for had a higher incidence of squashed piglets, but none of my pigs have ever delivered in a crate and these two were in small pens. They were restricted.
I have heard stories of piglets getting stuck sideways but have never seen it happen. That's not to say that it never will. I had three that delivered on pasture and had NO squashed babies, one of them I was not present for. I got out there after the fact and she had twelve live babies and no still born.
This season we will have fourteen sows delivering between August and early September. They will all farrow on thier own in a five acre pasture with huts. I feel confident that they will be fine. If it's convenient to be with them I will be, if not, I wont.
There are no guarantees that everything will be fine. There is no reason to assume that everything will go wrong. The best I can tell you is that to improve your odds of successful farrowing, based on what I have seen, put them on pasture.
If you have a couple of acres to let them run on, you and they will be better off. They get exercise, they get to graze and supplement their diets with grass. They get to choose where and how they farrow. The closer they can be to a natural state, the better they will do. That has been my experience.
Someone else may tell you to crate the sows. I can only tell you what I have learned.
Another thing is the type of sow. If you can, get yorkshires. They have longer bodies, larger litters, easier births and are excellent mothers. Durocs tend to be more aggressive to their young and hamps tend to take longer to farrow. Our hamp sow has a short body and her piglets took up to fifteen minutes between. Scared me to death. I had my arm up her three times searching for a stuck piglet and found...nothing, they just moved really slow. Plus she only had eight.
Our Duroc sow only had nine, she stepped on three and killed two outright by savaging them. We've never had a yorkshire have less than ten. Hope this helps, but you have to understand that everyone does things differently. Also you get to know your pigs through trial and error.
The best advice I can give you is to stick with yorks, feed them well, and put them on pasture. I think you'll find that you will have very few problems.