Three weeks ago, our four sows all gave birth. The result was 34 little piglets. Some were more robust than others. Among all of our new arrivals was one little runt. “Piggie” as this little one would soon be named was at risk of not surviving. As the runt, Piggie was too small to fight her siblings for nourishment from mama. The reality was that if we left this little one in with the other pigs, death would eventually come.
Our daughter single handedly runs our nursery on the farm. She is there to assist during the births, helps to assess the health of the newborns, and then does whatever is necessary to help insure survival. In some cases tough decisions must be made. On the day that Piggie was born, we heard, “Daddy, she just isn’t going to make it out here. Can I have her? I will take really good care of her.” As parents, we know our daughter’s love for animals, but we also know the heartbreak if that little runt pig doesn’t survive or the pain of letting go as she gets older and more robust. We knew that she was right that the little pig would not survive in the barnyard and allowed Michaela to bring that little one back to the house to keep under her watchful eye.
The first couple of days were a challenge. We had difficulties finding something to feed the newborn with. The solution that seemed to work best was warm milk in a ziploc bag with a small hole in the corner. Even with this non-traditional feeding technique, getting the appropriate nourishment into this little one was a challenge, but Michaela prevailed. Over the coming days, she would get Piggie transitioned to a bottle and is now working on getting her to drink from a miniature trough.
One of the greatest challenges in raising runts or newborns that are compromised is that of animal imprinting. Animals will many times become assimilated to those that they spend the most time with. It was not possible to place Piggie back into the barnyard right away. With each passing day, she was adopting Michaela as mama and following after her in the yard and responding to her voice. The danger – she was forgetting that she was a pig and how pigs should act. We all knew the reality that the day would come that Piggie would grow into an adult sow weighing as much as 300 pounds. Over the long term, Piggie just could not be adopted as a house pet. She needed to learn to be a pig and what better way than from another pig.
Michaela went out the barnyard this afternoon and found the next smallest pig from the litters. She has transitioned Piggie to a stall in the barn with a new roommate – Wilbur. Piggie and Wilbur have become fast friends and are frolicking as two little piggies should. We are anticipating that both will continue to grow into robust adult pigs acclimated to a normal environment for them.
On a side note, I will have to say that I wish there were more small farm families and experiences for kids in our communities today. If our daughter was not already convicted of God’s call on her life in the area of purity, I believe she would be seriously considering it. There is nothing like a squealing, fussy Piggie wanting a 2:00am feeding and constant attention throughout the day to help convince the young people of today that once the novelty wears off, parenting can be a tough and tiring adventure.