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I lost some piglets over the weekend, 4 to be exact. They were all out on pasture (about an acres or so, 3 gilts with piglets) and I am unsure of the cause of death for several and most likely will never know. I know for sure one was killed by one of the sows, as its side was cut open? But which one? The mother, by accident? Another sow intentionally? I could claim it was because they were on pasture and if they had been in pens I would not have lost them, but I do not know that? The same as I am not sure a farrowing crate would have saved them all? I did want to allow some of my gilts to remain on pasture during and after farrowing and this was it. I have since moved them with their remaining piglets to pens. Not that I am 100% convinced this was the problem, but just as a precaution, until I have time to really evaluate things.

I am posting this not to prove a point one way or the other, only to hopefully shed some light on what some of you who are new to raising pigs, as I was last year can maybe expect. Here is the information I have to share. I lost one piglet in one of my first litters in a pen? what happened? IDK, but I suspect it was laid on. I found it down in the sawdust in the pen. I lost one pig due to lack of iron according to the vet, by the time we gave it iron after it was a few weeks old it was too late. I give them all iron shots at 3 days now as a precaution against further loss. We lost one to an injury induced brain infection. We almost lost another one to a hoof injury,where it apparently was stepped on and got infected. 5 days of 2 shots, of 1/10 of a ml morning and night and it is fine, I will be ready next time and recognize the symptoms. We had one still born in what would have been a litter of 8. This weekend a day after giving the mulefoots piglets their iron shot, found 2 dead, one outside the shelter and the other out in the pasture, no sign of outward trauma? The vet says there is no way to overdose on iron at 1 cc, so the possibilities are endless. The Poland China piglet, again who knows, did she lay on it, or did it just die? My LB piglet it is obvious, one of the 3 sows cut its side open, but why, and which one?

I hope you all do not take this as poor me, as that is not what it is intended to do. I have been a bit disappointed by the overall small litter sizes mostly being 5 or 6, but for first time gilts, I will take it and hope it improves with their 2nd litter, if not we will plan from there to make the needed changes. I am disappointed with the loses and have been able to admit mistakes in some of them and we know we can control those loses next time, but some we just have no explanation for or no obvious prevention next time, those are the frustrating ones.

I have spend probably unneeded money by taking some of the sick or injured piglets (and pigs) to the vet for treatment and explanation. To me I am paying for knowledge. The piglet itself may not be worth the money spent, but the knowledge to know how to treat the next one with a similar problem is worth the cost. I would recommend anyone just starting out to spend the money for this advice and knowledge. Think of it the same way you would a school or pig raising book. I am paying for an education by a knowledgeable teacher.

Killing things is easy, creating life is difficult! I said when I started posting here I would be honest about my methods and results. Too many times in an effort to appear more successful than some really are, people tend to exaggerate the positive results, while hiding the negative results. This kind of information does not help anyone and can mislead some into thinking they are complete failures, when in all honestly they are just having normal problems that everyone has at one time or another. Some of these problems will be caused by rookie mistakes, or simple lack of knowledge, some will happen regardless and we just need to learn how to deal with them better, by doing.

I have learned a lot in the past year and a half. I have continued adding infrastructure and changing many of my methods. I will continue to do so and do not expect to have a breeding program that is tried and true for some time yet. But as we all are, I am doing the best I can and providing the best care I can for my pigs with what I have available to me in time and money. I hope this information encourages some who may be thinking of giving up to continue trying. I hope it encourages some of you who are experiencing loses to continue looking for solutions to minimize them. I hope this helps convince some of you who have been putting of starting, to give pigs raising a try and understand it will not all go according to plan and there will be loses you may or may not have control over. I hope it also encourages those who have lost, to not be hasty to place blame, but step back and take a good look at the situation, before blaming a part of the system, which may or may not be the problem. Be big enough to admit your mistakes, if that is the cause.

My system is a combination of pasture management and pen raising methods. I caution anyone just starting out. DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN PROVING A SYSTEM TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE ANIMALS INVOLVED!! Pasture raising vs. pen raising vs. confinement, is a very debated topic here. There are those that feel strongly on both sides of the issue. Do not set out to prove your ideal pig raising method is "The only way" while your animals are suffering. If you are raising them on pasture and they are losing weight, feed them until you figure out what is missing! If they are wormy, but you are determined not to use chemical wormers in your program. Worm them with the chemical wormer this time, until you figure out a better method. I could give other examples, but you get the idea. Do not let your "Perfect" method cloud your judgement to the point you are doing harm to the animal to prove a point. This nether proves your method, nor improves the outlook others may have for your method. Be reasonable in your expectations and be willing to make concessions when needed. The old adage of " By God you are going to do this and like it no matter what, I will see to that", simply does not work.

Raising on pasture, raising in a pen, raising in confinement. There are risk to all of these systems, none are risk free. Reading other peoples stories here will help you recognize some of these risk, hopefully before they happen, but some knowledge will only come with experience. Like I always say " The only person who has never made a mistake, is the person who has never done anything". Good luck to you all, when dealing with pigs, we could all use a little extra luck for sure!!

Just as a note: The smallest piglet in the pigture is a Mulefoot piglet. These 3 piglets were born within less than a week of each other, with the Mulefoot, being the oldest. They were all 3 bred to the same GOS boar. Just to give you some size perspective of the different breeds. From left to right, mulefoot, Large Black, Poland China. The litter sizes were 7,6,5 in the same order.
 

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I'm finding that good sows are worth their weight in gold. Ok, pork. Well, maybe more than pork :)

Sorry for the loses. Really, I hate loosing animals. Even to the processor. But it is part of the process. I suspect that any system (pasture, confinement, whatever) has its limitations. In three farrowed piglet groups out on pasture in a a bit over a year now I have had two piglets die after birth. One because it was 25 degrees and the piglet got to the bottom of the pile of piglets for warmth and suffocated. Another, last night actually, was squashed by its mamma. The mom did perfect with her first litter earlier this year and she has a broke/severely injured leg so I don't really blame her for this. I'm sure she is having trouble getting up and down and honestly we are lucky to even have the piglets be born. I hope that the other eight survive but it may be hit or miss with this batch because of her injury. Unfortunately I have no other sows to put them on.

I could have kept the piglet from suffocating and long term that problem will be resolved after we move to Tennessee. I'm going to be constructing dugouts into the side of the hill as farrowing shelters. Then the mammas can farrow in a protected area where it should stay well above freezing during the winter. Then the piglets won't pile up and potentially suffocate.

In retrospect I think we have had a bit luck with our sows. They have done well. Some of it is just flat out instincts. Those instincts that should be encouraged and preserved. The sow I was talking about above is a Duroc and and she has ears down over her eyes. She takes the time when laying down in the straw nest to shuffle her nose through the straw looking for piglets. Then she slowly lays down. It's a beautiful thing to see because she weights 500+ pounds. As the opposite example though, one of our sows might not make it long term. She had nine live births (3 stillborn) that she raised to weaning. That's good, but she is also stupid as a rock. I watched her look at me one time while she was standing on the tail of one of her piglets. The piglet was just tugging and squealing trying to get free. She had no idea what was going on. She also stepped on another one hard enough that she sliced a chunk of shoulder off. It healed up (and he is called "Scar" now) but still she just isn't careful enough in my opinion. Since all piglets made it to weaning I'm going to give her one more shot and see how she does the second time around.

It's a time consuming and potentially expensive process but worth it in the long run. We as farmers often aren't willing to eliminate animals that should be removed from the breeding equation. Its not easy to make those decisions and sometimes we simply make the wrong choices. I ate one pig that I should probably still have running around. Can't undo that action though.


Keith
 

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I have never had a lost with the piglets on pasture with all the rest of the sows and boars. If one of the piglets gets in trouble all the other hogs come running to see what the problem is.
Ready sorry you lost those piglets. Very important to watch close and see what sow is the one roughing up your piglets.
 

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Just to clarify as to the piglets that were lost this weekend. I am away at work and my wife is home with them now. She said one of the Mulefoots was by the feed trough. Could be it got stepped on or pushed and injured after they were fed or while they were eating? The mulefoot piglets followed the sow all over the pasture. The PC piglet was found with some after birth still wrapped around it,where she had nested, but it looked like its head was clear. Could have been born dead, or the afterbirth covered its head and only removed after it was moved around by the sow? I do not think it was a mass suicide or mass murder. I think it was various accidents and various causes. Unfortunately no one saw what happened to the one that got cut open, but she said it was a clean cut and looked like it had been bitten, so she is assuming the most likely cause was one of the sows as there is no wire or anything else around which could have cut it in that manor, where it was found. She said when she picked it up its guts kinda fell out, so it did not injure itself somewhere then walk to the middle of the pasture where she found it.
 
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