Delilah is lame

While feeding Delilah, one of our Berkshire sows, and her litter last night I noticed she was limping slightly on her right front leg.

I checked her over as she was eating, discovering she was slightly tender around the knee joint. There was no obvious inflammation so I left her to eat and made a mental note to check again this morning.

The limp was much more obvious when I went out to feed the pigs today. A fresh examination revealed noticeable soft swelling around the joint, which felt very hot and was much more tender than it was yesterday.

It was clear Delilah had an infection in the joint. I went back to the house shed to get a scalpel and clean water, then fetched more feed from the shed.

I gave Delilah the extra feed then, while she was munching contentedly, I slid a hand up and down her leg a few times. Once she was used to the feeling, I carefully incised the swelling and squeezed it.

A large amount of puss oozed from the incision. Delilah flinched a couple of times as I squeezed, but wasn’t overly bothered and continued eating.

I flushed the incision with water, then went back to the house to prepare stage two of her treatment: an injection of antibiotics.

Injecting younger pigs is usually straightforward as they have thinner skin and a more shallow layer of fat, which means I can use shorter needles with a small diameter.The pigs barely notice they’re being injected and rarely require restraint, especially if they’re eating.

Mature pigs such as Delilah, with very thick skins and deep layers of fat, require the use of fairly substantial needles that the pigs definitely notice and don’t like.

On top of that, a 225kg sow needs to be injected with a large dose of antibiotics. It’s too much to be injected in one site, so the prescribed dosage needs to be divided into two or three injections given at different sites.

For that reason, I prefer to use Ultrapen, a long-acting penicillin that requires a single dose to cover three days. Other antibiotics, such as Pen & Strep, need to be administered once a day for three days. By day three, even the most placid pig has had enough and resists.

In Delilah’s case, she needed 15ml of Ultrapen (1ml for every 15kg of body weight) that had to be administered with three 5ml injections.

I thought I’d try the injection while feeding routine but as I walked through the gate into her pen, she spotted the syringe, squealed and fled.

Over to Plan B: I’d pop a rope twitch over her upper snout, the Other Half would apply tension, Delilah would stand still and I’d do the injections.

Simple in theory, rather more complicated in practice.

After a few initial attempts to get the twitch on Delilah failed, she slunk into her hut and laid down with her feet into the wall. There was no way I could safely inject her in those circumstances and she knew it.

What Delilah didn’t count on was the OH and I standing the hut on end so we could get to her.

Fortunately, that was the point at which Delilah conceded defeat and decided I could treat her after all. I managed to get the twitch on, the OH took up the tension and Delilah stood still.

As I gave her each 5ml shot, Delilah squealed indignantly and rippled her ears but otherwise accepted the treatment.

The OH removed the twitch then I asked Delilah if we were still on speaking terms. She decided we were, especially when I agreed to give her an ear scratch and a belly rub.

Delilah was still limping when I checked her just before dark this evening but the limp was no worse than it was this morning. Ultrapen is usually quite effective for treating joint infections so I’ll be looking for signs of improvement tomorrow evening or on Wednesday morning.

Fingers crossed, I won’t have to give Delilah another dose on Thursday.

The crofting life is always interesting.

24 Responses to “Delilah is lame”

  1. Polite Scouser Reply 7 May, 2012 at 22:19

    Hi Stoney the wife’s coming down with a bad knee, how much do you charge to fix it?

  2. I like the idea of upending the hut…inspired!!
    Hope she mends well

  3. I hope she is okay. Will keep my fingers crossed.

  4. I’m glad that Delilah decided you could still be friends ;-)

    • While the pigs aren’t pets, we do like to keep things on a friendly basis as much as is possible. Contented, happy pigs are much easier to handle, safer to be around, and much more tasty! They’re also a real pleasure to have.

  5. Out of interest, do you know what a biodynamic or organic farmer would do in that situation? Are they allowed to use antibiotics if they mark the sow in some way or is it forbidden all together? If its forbidden, do they use natural antibiotics like collidal silver ?

    • Organic farmers use antibiotics to treat specific conditions. They don’t use them on a routine basis to prevent disease or promote growth. If an animal is suffering, then a responsible herdsman will use the most appropriate treatment and that includes antibiotics.

      Colloidal silver is hokum. Yes, silver has antiseptic qualities and is used externally (e.g. in some wound dressings) but it’s not a “natural” replacement for antibiotics. In fact, oral consumption of silver-based medicines leads to a argyria, a conditions where silver salts build up in the body and turn the skin grey. The condition was quite common in the past, when silver was used in medicines taken orally. In other words, it’s toxic and there’s now way I’d use it to treat pigs orally or via injections.

  6. Antibiotics are supposed to be forbidden for organic farming and should be BANNED for all farming. They’re really unnatural, lead to antibiotic resisting and are yet another product pushed by Big Pharma to make the Elites richer. If Stonehead reallt was organic homesteader he’d be using homeopathy, herbal remembers and collidal silver. There’s no excuse for dosing with antibiotics. Or industrial wormers either. And anyways, if he used rotations and good practises he’d not have sick or injured animals either. He’s just another agri-farmer posing as animal friendly and organic to sell to ignorant rubes.

    • Organic farmers use antibiotics all the time to help sick animals. They use them only when they are needed, rather than as a matter of coarse, which other farmers do as a preventative measure. Stonehead is well within his rights to treat his animals if they have a problem, and is NOT using something that is forbidden or banned.

    • Animals can get sick, or injured, even when rotating. Fortunately, also organic farmers can use antibiotics to treat sick animals — it is the routine use that is forbidden.

      I could go into your other statements, but since you seem to be fully ignorant with regards to the terms you use and issues you raise I’ll leave it at this.

    • Dude, you do realize the people have been using moldy bread for treating infections thousand of years befor antibiotics were developed. You can’t get more natural than that. Take a look some memorial photography from the 1840′s to the 1930′s and espically with the children and don’t you think one of those parents won’t give for a modern dose of antibodics for their children when they were dying at age two of pneumonia, chlorea and thousand other remedies that at least in most first world countries have access too. If this is messing up the enivroment so be it, I will ride that train to hell with both eyes open. And that includes dosing animals who are suffering and sick with antibodics too. And really read a book and learn to spell.
      *Gets off the soapbox, and sorry for that rant Stoney.”

    • Suszie, I really hope you are talking from experience on your own farm- although I very much doubt it. Those of us who do run organic farms know that sooner or later you get sick or injured animals no matter how good your care is. This is just part of life.
      Antibiotics, properly used, play an important part in organic farming and I firmly believe you have a moral responsibility to the animals in your care. I suggest you actually talk to an organic farmer or better still get some experience on an actual organic farm before you display your ignorance in public in the future.

      • I hope she’s not farming, too. However, I have heard of many cases of people who dose themselves with quack pills and potions, only to find themselves much worse off than they would otherwise have been. So if they’re prepared to treat themselves using snake oil, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they do the same with livestock and pets.

    • You’re speaking out your arse. Some herbal remedies are effective in treating specific conditions, many aren’t and some are toxic. Homeopathy is superstitious nonsense that flies in face of the laws of physics and chemistry. You can’t dilute a substance to infinity and still have a trace of the substance left. In fact, if a solution is highly diluted with water, then it is no different from water. You might as well drink a large glass of water as it will contain a vast array of substances and it won’t cost a fortune. As for the claims of homeopathic remedies containing vibration memories of the original substance, they’re complete bunkum and fly in the face of the known behaviours of solutions in equilibrium. Colloidal silver is also hokum—see my earlier reply.

  7. I think leprosy could end this discussion nicely – for 4000 years those natural, homeophatic remedies….well…….Stoney has humanely treated his animal, decreasing debilatating pain and injury using what is available to the farmer. Wisdom in action!

  8. Remind me never to read your blog while I’m eating. Particularly when I’m eating a cream-based, lumpy casserole.

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