I can’t believe we’ve already passed the halfway point in January! It seems like the New Year started yesterday and I’m already behind on my resolution to update this blog weekly. Surely I’m not the only one who hasn’t kept up with their resolution? Enough about that!
After a very productive trip to the Lonestar State to look at pigs and visit customers, we’ve been extremely busy here at the farm farrowing sows. It is certainly prime time to farrow pigs for the Midwest and every crate is full. I guess you could also say we have sows on standby if that accurately depicts sows that are due tomorrow and still outside with no open crates!
Without success in the farrowing crate, its very difficult to sell pigs. Naturally, without pigs to sell it becomes very difficult to pay bills and stay in business – much less put a smile on the face of a youngster who hauls one of yours to the stock show. I’m not the expert on farrowing, but I often get calls about this or that as it pertains to farrowing and I thought I’d share a few things we do to achieve success in the crate.
1 – Get her in the crate 3-5 days in advance of her due date. Its important she gets acclimated to her surroundings and you’ll be able to monitor her closer if she’s in a crate. Once she’s in the crate, exercise patience and watch for signs. Her actions will tell you when she’s ready to farrow.
2 – Feed Priority One :: Everyone has their own thoughts with regard to nutrition and that’s ok. I will say this, I won’t farrow a sow without P1. For over a year we’ve fed P1 to our lactating sows and have seen great results. The sows consume more feed, the laxative works and I’ve definitely seen an increase in sows cycling after weaning without the use of PG600. We feed 1#/day/sow from the time they enter the crate until we take them out.
3 – Heat lamps & paper towels :: What seems practical is really vitally important. This time of the year, even though our farrowing barn is heated, heat lamps are still a necessity. I also prefer someone to be there during birth of EVERY litter and if that happens, we make sure every pig is wiped off with a paper towel and placed under heat. A chilled pig is just a few breaths away from being a dead pig if someone isn’t watching.
4 – On Guard Powder :: I’m sure many of your aren’t familiar with this product, but just like P1, I won’t farrow a sow without it. Prior to farrowing, we liberally sprinkle this powder (1#/sow) on the mat in the crate. Any mat or solid surface will do, ie carpet, old rug, etc. The ultimate goal is for the umbilical cords to be exposed to the powder as soon after birth as possible. The powder has an extreme drying effect on the cord thus reducing the entrance of bad bacteria into the baby pig. Generally speaking, the powder should cut down on navel infections, strep, and scours.
5 – Timely medication :: Make sure you consult your local veterinarian, or contact one of the many swine specialists who can help make sure you give the right vaccinations at the right time. The health of a showpig truly begins at birth and its crucial that every step is taken to get your litter off to a fast start. Often overlooked, its equally important to monitor the health of your sow while in the crate to ensure she nurses to her ability and is fit for future litters.
That is short list for an important process and I certainly haven’t covered everything. Mother nature can be kind and cruel at the same time, especially when dealing with livestock. Yet, through all the long hours and the emotional roller coaster that comes with farrowing sows, this will always be one of my favorite times of the year.