Violet was due on Tuesday. For sows, due dates are very accurate. Three months, three weeks, three days. One hundred and fourteen. One hundred and sixteen max. We have been watching her get bigger and bigger and bigger. The final sign came yesterday morning. I gave her front teat a little squeeze and milk squirted out. Twenty-four hours.
Last night we pulled in the driveway to find Violet roaming the yard. It should be noted that this is a sow who is loath to roam. John put her back in her crate and we went to bed. A midnight check found her in the yard again. John used a mix of carpentry and knot-tying to keep her in, but this morning she was not in her crate. Houdini. I found her in the hay loft gathering straw in her mouth and placing it messily somewhere else then picking up the same straw with her snout and shoving it back where she found it. Laying down. Turning around. Laying back down. Labour.
I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to this farrowing or to writing this post. I was worried about the pictures of Violet in a farrowing crate and all the angry people who would write nasty things or who would decide not to buy our meat because of the way our sows are farrowed. I was going to explain, that farrowing crates can be used humanely. Apoligist. I was going to explain how horrible it was last year finding dead piglets in Violet's stall that she had either ravaged or crushed, both because she farrowed in an open stall and because she suffered from 'hysteria' (it is still a thing in sows).
At two o'clock, the first piglet was born. John caught it and set it under the heat lamp. I stayed in the hayloft the rest of the day catching piglets, wiping placenta off their noses and helping them find a teat. The first four hours were magical. The next four hours were long and tiring. It is ten o'clock and we have ten piglets. We put Violet back in the crate for the night. She lay down and the pigs came in to suckle. We'll check again in an hour.
I hate the farrowing crate. Violet, clearly hates the farrowing crate. I hate burying dead piglets in the manure pile even more. Some of the piglets are big and chunky and some are only as big as my hand (I have small hands). Violet is easily 500 pounds and can’t move fast enough to get herself off a piglet she accidentally lays on. The crate makes it so that even the weak pigs have a chance to get out of her way before she lies down. Last year, as well as attacking her piglets, she also bit me and charged and cornered John. Any other farm would have turned her into sausage, but John gave her another chance and now she's my best girl. More on the lovely qualities of Violet/Violent another time.
Viloet will stay in the crate for a week. I’ll let you know how many pigs we have seven days from now. If we still have ten (fourteen), we’ll call the crate a success.
UPDATE: Six o'clock am we have fourteen live healthy pigs. No still births, no unhealthy babies, no emergencies. Violet has sixteen teats so fourteen pigs mean big healthy babies.