Farming is not for the faint of heart . . . .I have read this time and time again in farm blog articles or books but had never experienced the pain, frustration, and heartache that the other farmer authors wrote about. That all changed this past December when our Sow Tulip stopped being able to get up and was in a lot of pain.
Tulip & her sister Pumpkin joined our farm in April of 2018. The girls came from a fellow Berkshire breeder in VT. The farmer was downsizing due to health issues and we were very ready to take on addition Sows. Right away they were able to establish a hierarchy with the herd and made their personalities known. Pumpkin is very loveable and is always ready for a belly rub. Tulip, on the other hand, was a little fighter and didn’t like to be touched at first. I was able to wear her down with treats and ear scratches over time. Pumpkin bred right away with our boar, Brewster, but Tulip never took and went into heat month after month.
Come November we had determined that Tulip was just going to be companion pig for Brewster and they would live together during the non-breeding season.
On December 14th, 2018 I went to feed the pigs and noticed that everyone had come running but Tulip which was unusual. I found her laying in their hut unable to put much weight on her back right leg. Ken and I determined she must have sprained it ( which has happened before) and that after a few days she should be fine or we would call in the farm vet for a visit. Over that weekend we were able to get her up, eating and drinking, but she still didn’t leave the hut area. Our local vet does farm visits on Tuesdays so we called and scheduled for him to come by then.
Tuesday came and Dr.Mason conducted a physical exam of Tulip quickly determining that she had broken her back. The only thing we could ascertain was that she must have slipped on ice and injured herself. This is a death sentence for any pig, especially a 400-pound sow. Ken and I started talking about the next steps we didn’t want her to go to waste. Calling local butchers and meat processors we quickly decided that the best thing to do was offer her to a family that could use her for meat. I started hand feeding and watering her every morning and keeping her as comfortable as we could until we found the right family.
The following Thursday, December 20th, I went down in the morning to Tulip the night before she had managed to get out of the hut and I had buried her in straw to keep her warm. This morning when I headed down I hear the squeak of a piglet. SHE WAS FARROWING ON THE ICE & SNOW! I quickly called for back up and our neighbors came to help. Brittney grabbed the piglet and brought it into her warm car under her jacket. Dana came and helped me move the other pigs into another paddock away from Tulip and when Ken got home he helped him move a shelter over Tulip since it had started to rain.
Tulip already had a death sentence she was never going to get better but we didn’t want her bonus piglets to as well. After an examination, I was able to determine that she was not going to be able to have these piglets naturally and she didn’t have milk coming in. I suited up and Ken helped me to pull 7 piglets from her. She ended up having 11 in total 9 were born alive. We moved the 9 piglets into the house and made a makeshift nursery. That story will be in another post!
On Christmas Eve of 2018 Tulip was put out of her misery and given to a family to help feed them throughout the year in total they were able to salvage over 160 pounds of pork.