As many of our Higher Ground Herbs & Homestead Friends know, Mama Bacon was due to have piglets around Feb. 17th, 2018. A few days ago, on Feb. 9th, to be exact, I went out to the barn to find one of our gates lying on the ground and all the boy pigs in the girl's area. They had apparently busted in the previous night after having been moved from the front lot to the back lot in order to give the front lot a much needed break from little piggy feet and those little AGH crosses that love to root, especially when it has been raining nonstop and the ground is soggy.
This is where I sit here almost not even knowing what to say. I guess I'll start by saying that I thought, and have always been told, that Kunekune boars wouldn't purposely try to make the sows abort only to re-breed them like is common in other breeds. I'm not sure if this is something that happens as a one-off, every now and then, if it's something that MOST Kunekunes don't do, but some do, or what. Maybe it was because they had been separated for such a long time and then reintroduced. All I know is that while I was trying to separate the pigs back out after re-hanging the gate, I had both Mama Bacon and the father of her piglets, Daddy Bacon, in the barn "in holding" while I tried to get other pigs where they needed to go. Then I heard it. At the time, I didn't even realize "it" was the intentional abortion of 8-day-early, almost ready, but not quite, piglets. I heard one shrill scream, which I know now was from Mama Bacon as she undoubtedly received a blow to the belly that resulted in early labor. Shortly after that scream, I opened the barn door to further separate the pigs I had in holding. Mama Bacon acted normal, but I noticed she was dripping blood from her backside. I instantly thought, "that is NOT good," but I truly didn't believe she was about to miscarry/abort those piglets. Bleeding before the birthing process, unless only slightly because of dilation, can be an indication that the placenta has separated from the uterus. I know this. I had deduced that she had received a blow that made her bleed. However, I still didn't think she'd really abort those babies.
Mama Bacon got hit around 10am that day. Around 4pm she gave birth to the first piglet, which was visibly too early to be born, and dead. It was a little gilt (girl piglet), perfectly formed except her eyes looked sunken in, and she really wasn't that hairy. She had double wattles and surely would've been a sweetie. After finding that first piglet lying in the stall, I was STILL hopeful that things would work out for the best because Mama Bacon had also passed a placenta, clueing me in that the birthing process for one horn was actually complete, AND she didn't appear to be in labor anymore. Furthermore, when resting my hand on her belly, I could feel more babies inside, still moving. I thought, "Ok, maybe she only had the one baby in one horn and the other side is still just fine. This could work out!" I chose not to go in searching for more piglets, not to inject her with synthetic Oxytocin, and to just let nature happen, because she seemed to be doing just fine. I do also have to think about her at this point as well, not just fishing out 8-day-early piglets in hopes I can keep them alive with them being so early in the grand scheme of things. 8 days early when gestation is only about 114 days can make a huge difference, and I didn't want to risk fishing them out if I still had hope that they could stay in and finish developing. Also, entering a sow like that would inevitably mean administering antibiotics, which I never, ever do unless needed to save a life. Weighing her life versus the lives of premature piglets is a no-brainer, in my opinion.
I went to bed that night, after a very long day and staying with Mama Bacon a good part of it as well as a good part of the evening, hopeful that she could carry the remaining piglets just a few more days and have a normal, live birth. The next morning, she greeted me eager to eat her breakfast, as usual. I fed, petted and checked out every square inch of her, feeling carefully for fetal movement (which I couldn't be sure I did or did not feel), and paying close attention to her temperature, since infection is a concern, although not a great one since I didn't ram my arm up her butt looking for piglets. Everything checked out okay, and she was not bleeding anymore, either. Yay! Hanging in there! Or so I thought...
Fast forward to the evening of day 2 after MB got hit. When doing my evening checks, I went to her first, of course. There she was, her normal self, hoping I had come bearing yummy treats. I did, of course, because she had been getting very special treatment in her private suite since the incident. It didn't take me long to see something that I instantly knew couldn't be the result I had hoped for, but it still didn't exactly hit me as the end of hope for a live birth until everything had time to sink in, maybe even the next day. What I saw was another amniotic sac hanging from Mama Bacon, but there were no piglets to be found in the stall where she was staying. This really could only mean one thing, and that was that the piglet(s) were born dead and she likely ate them, which is quite common in these scenarios. That was it, hope was gone. The other horn had expelled its contents and there were no live piglets.
Mama Bacon is still doing well, despite her loss. She has the freedom to move about in the front lot now and isn't sequestered to her suite any longer. Her long awaited litter of piglets is not with us and this is beyond sad to me. Sadder than I would imagine, actually. I'm taking it pretty hard, really. Of course all of the "what ifs" and "if I'd onlys" creep in and I try to make it my fault somehow. I know it isn't my fault, but I do feel responsible, and I will be working even harder (if that's even possible) to ensure gates, fences, etc. are boar tight and this doesn't happen again. Before this incident, Daddy Bacon already had an appointment with the butcher, as we are moving to only registered stock, but now I'm actually really glad to be taking him to meet his piglets next month.
There were so many lessons learned, so much to add to the to-do list, and definitely a humbleness taken away from the past few days. I am still confident in the way I handled everything after the process started, and I do not regret not fishing for piglets or injecting her with drugs to speed her labor, as I am certain the piglets, even if born alive, wouldn't have made it long. Mama Bacon will be bred again soon and we will be overjoyed to meet her next litter of piglets, which will undoubtedly be completely spoiled rotten upon their arrival. Just on principle alone, I will not allow Daddy Bacon to breed her or any other female on our farm for the duration of his life here. His plan did not work out in his favor.
Just your average ex-medical scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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