So it turns out I had my sows mixed up. It was Wilma who successfully gave birth, not Betty. A week later, Betty gave birth to two piglets, one was dead when we found it, and the other seemed fine. Since, according to our vet, it takes at least four piglets to sustain a pregnancy, we assumed more were on the way. When nothing came hours later, Will picked up some Pitocin from our vet (yes, the same stuff they give human women to induce or speed up labor), which he administered by injection every half hour for a few hours, but no other piglets were born.
By the next morning, the lone piglet was dead and Betty seemed listless. This was her second failed labor. Will and I decided it no longer made sense to keep her for breeding purposes, it’s just too expensive to feed a four hundred pound sow and get no piglets in return. So off to the abattoir she went. And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of sending my sow to slaughter because of her failure to produce viable piglets while I’m taking 500 mg a day of prometrium, but sometimes it’s not helpful to look to the farm as a metaphor for your own life. It’s much too dark.
Meanwhile, Wilma’s piglets continued to thrive. There were two boys and two girls, and they were growing at record speed. We had the vet come out to castrate the boys, and one of them didn’t go so well. There was more bleeding than there should have been. The next day he seemed fine, but a week later we found him dead, and my guess is infection.
And so there were three. And there still are. They are seven weeks old today, which is one week shy of being weened. They are big enough that they wander outside of the confines of the pig enclosure and into the pasture, but not so big that they are causing any damage. She says, fingers crossed.
We plan to sell one to some friends who are interested in raising a pig for meat for the first time, and we’ll keep the remaining two. We still have Wilma’s four piglets from August and we could take them in for processing at any time. Having four on the farm is probably our max, not so much for space purposes, but the sheer cost of feed. Last month, my feed bill was $1300, and at least $900 of that was for the pigs.
Speaking of the economics, we realize it doesn’t make a lot of sense financially to keep one boar for only one sow. Of course, it makes even less sense to keep one boar, one productive sow and one unproductive sow, but none the less, recouping the cost of Barney’s feed is highly unlikely in our current model. We could try and find another sow, but I think I’d rather keep it simple for this year and reassess next year, when Will is maybe a little less owned by his new restaurant. That, and we are rather fond of Barney.