Daphne walks on a piglet

Daphne, one of our two Berkshire sows currently with litters, has walked on a piglet.

All her piglets were in good condition when I did the midday check but when I went out at 1pm I noticed one holding its left rear leg off the ground.

I went back to the feed shed, scooped up a mix of barley and sow rolls, and returned to the pen. I scooted Daphne’s feed trough down the hill with my boot, dumped the feed in it and when she’d settled in for a good scoff, went up to her arc.

After double-checking that Daphne was well clear, I nipped into the arc, caught the piglet and took it back into the sunshine, where I could see any injuries more clearly and keep an eye on the sow in case she decided to protect her piglet.

The piglet, a robust and tubby gilt, had no visible injuries on the outside of its legs, sides or rump. Its back and spine were also okay.

When I turned the piglet over to look at its underside, the injury was immediately obvious.

The piglet had a large gash along the fold between the inside of its leg and its abdomen. There was also a large bruise on the inside of the leg, roughly matching the shape of a large trotter.

Fortunately, the leg did not appear to be broken or I’d have had to put the piglet down.

Equally fortunately, the piglet didn’t appear to have internal injuries—almost certainly because Daphne’s trotter had come down on its leg and not its belly. (I suspect the piglet was either sleeping on its side or had been knocked over before being stood on.)

As I poked and prodded the piglet, it urinated—just missing me. I was actually quite pleased because I could see the urine was clear, with no sign of blood.

I put the piglet back with the others, then came down to the house to raid the pig first aid kit.

I fitted a 23g needle to a 2ml syringe, then drew up 1ml of Ultrapen LA. This is a long-acting antibiotic, which is useful because I only have to catch and inject the piglet once every three days until it’s healed. (NOTE: Our veterinary surgery prescribes medications for us to keep on the croft as the vets are aware of our animal health practices and skills.)

I also broke out the spray bottle of iodine and some antiseptic wipes before having a good wash. Everything I needed went in a clean bucket.

After that, it was back out to the pen, collecting more food for Daphne on the way. (She can’t believe her luck!)

I caught the piglet again and took it around the  far side of the hut.

I kept within sight of Daphne, for her reassurance and mine, but I like to have an obstacle between myself and the sow when doing jobs like this on my own. I also made sure I could get to the fence easily.

With the safety side sorted, I crouched down, turned the piglet on its back and placed it between my thighs. I squeezed my legs together to hold it in place.

First, I cleaned the wound with the wipes, then sprayed it with iodine. No, the piglet didn’t like it.

I rolled it right way up, pinning it between my legs again.

I used my left hand to push the piglet’s head slightly left and forward, exposing the “golden triangle”—the area between the front edge of the shoulder and the back edge of the jaw. I cleaned the area with a fresh wipe and sprayed it with more iodine.

I removed the cap from the needle, holding the syringe with three fingers and the palm of my right hand while taking the cap off with my thumb and forefinger. It takes a bit of practice to do this quickly and safely.

I injected the piglet, which didn’t wriggle or make a fuss. Lovely.

The cap went back on the needle. Everything I’d used went back in the bucket. And the piglet went back in the arc.

Just as a I finished, Daphne wandered back up the hill to the arc, stuck her head in the door and whuffled to the piglets. I gave her an ear scratch, told her she was a good pig and left them to it.

Will the piglet survive?

Based on past experience it has about a 66% chance. And that’s better than nothing.

8 Responses to “Daphne walks on a piglet”

  1. By coincidence, two possible customers who are already on our waiting list and a repeat customer have contacted us in the past two days. They all wanted to know what was happening with piglets and how many I’d have available.

    Once again, I’ve had to tell them that until the piglets are weaned, I can’t possibly say who will get what pigs. Today’s incident hopefully shows just why I won’t give any guarantees. It’s not about being difficult, it’s about being honest that nature is unpredictable.

    So far, we’re down to 11 piglets from 23 farrowed. If this one doesn’t make it, we’ll be down to 10. If it does make it, we might lose one or more other piglets. We might lose them even if this one does survive.I simply won’t know how many piglets of what sexes will have survived until they are weaned.

    If potential customers find that hard to accept, then so be it. There’s nothing more I can do except do the best I can to ensure that as many piglets survive as possible—even if it’s not enough to satisfy all customers.

  2. its robust size – no apostrophe. ;-)

  3. I suspect Stonehead has much much better things to do treating poorly piglets than doing apostrophe games ;-)

  4. One thing that reading these posts has taught me is that we take meat for granted. I knew that there were losses from farrowing to weaning but I never realised that they could be so high.

    Fingers crossed that there’s no more bad news.

  5. Good work Doc! I hope all goes well with the little fellow.

  6. These two litters really aren’t having good luck are they ? Do the mothers ever realize they are the ones hurting their own offspring ? I know the mothers have to react to finding one of their babies hurt and crying, or even dead. And they must react, but how can they protect their babies from themselves ?

  7. I’ve just checked the piglet. It has a slight fever and there’s inflammation in the tissue on either side of the gash. Hopefully, the antibiotic will sort the infection out.

  8. Good luck little piglet. Hope all the rest of the piglets make it too.

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