Robyn Scherer
Kiowa, Colo.

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February 10, 2014
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Robyn Scherer: From the Edge of the Ring 2-10-14

So far this year, I have had several new things happen around the farm. The biggest item that I had was the completion of a barn, which took several weeks to build and wasn’t without headaches. Initially the barn was supposed to arrive Jan. 9, but because of storms across the country, it was a week late. Then we had snow, which delayed the barn building even more. I started to worry whether it would even be done on time.

The stall panels that I ordered the day after Thanksgiving weren’t delivered until Jan. 29, which was almost a month later than we thought they would be in. We bought all the wood that we needed to fill them, and the night they were delivered we finished as many as we needed to move sows into, and I built five kidding pens for the does that were within a week of their due date.

The barn was completed on Jan. 30, just two days before I had a litter of pigs due. Thankfully at the end of all of this the barn was finished, and I had a place indoors where I could keep livestock. It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I first started Champion Livestock in 2006, so to see it finally happen was worth all the hassle it caused.

The weekend of the SuperBowl I spent all day and all night checking on the gilt that was due to make sure I was there to assist if needed. On the evening of Feb. 1, I made the decision to induce since I no longer allow gilts to go past their due dates, since piglets can get too big and cause a difficult labor. Normally induction works within 24 hours, but this gilt had other ideas.

After the SuperBowl, I made my way to the barn where I would be spending the night with the gilt. It was pretty cold, and even with a heater running, the stall never got above about 35 degrees. Finally about 1:30 in the morning her water broke, and she began early labor.

She took her time in this as well. Finally by 3:30 I decided I needed to go in and check, and sure enough she had a large piglet in her birth canal, but she wasn’t making a whole lot of effort to get out. When the gilt pushed I pulled, and after about five minutes, the first piglet was born. She then proceeded to have eight more over the course of the next seven hours. It was a slow labor, and I was exhausted from being up all night.

Unfortunately, she laid on one not even two hours after it had been born. I had run into the house to get water and when I got back he was gone. Pigs are not overly maternal, and sometimes with so many they accidentally lay on one. It’s sad, but it’s also part of raising pigs. It doesn’t make it any easier, however.

Because it was cold, the piglets wanted to lie next to mom, and I spent the next two days training them to head to the heat lamp when they are done eating. This helps reduce loses since they aren’t near mom when she decided to get up or down. It’s funny now how they march single file back to their warming box as soon as the sow goes to get up. The second night of training we lost a second baby. He had been struggling and I had started him on goat’s milk, but he didn’t have an aggressive drive to nurse and the other piglets over powered him.

Originally I thought I would be farrowing four sows, but it looks like I will only have this one. There were two others I was positive they were bred, but I think I may have missed them using artificial insemination, so I will have to see in three weeks if the boar was able to cover them. The second breeding for all three of these sows didn’t get very well, and it’s pretty disappointing.

I have decided to rebreed everything for summer litters, and if they don’t take, they will have to leave my herd. With the price of everything today, I can’t wait until next year to see if these sows will continue to be productive or not. That’s one of the hardest parts about having livestock for me.

The first doe decided to kid on the coldest day of the year that we have had. It was -17 outside when I found her in labor, and about 10 degrees in the barn. I fired up the propane heater that we have, and then began the waiting game.

After watching the doe push for about a half hour, she finally started passing the beginning of the sac and the only thing that I could see was a tail. Tail first is generally not a great way to have a baby, and so I had to go in the doe, push the kid back in, and pull his hind feet out so that he could pass through the birth canal. I was very glad that I was home or it could have been bad for both the kid and the doe.

After the first buckling was born, she had a second buckling, and then a third. I did not think this doe would have three since she wasn’t that big, but they are all good sized and healthy. All three will go on to be 4-H and FFA Show wethers. Once I got them dried off I put dog sweaters on them since it is so cold. I also have a barrel in each pen with a doorway cut out, and a heat lamp inside that keep the babies warm. This has been a lifesaver the last few nights since it’s been well below zero every night.

This next month I’ll have eight more Boer does to kid, and eight dairy goats that will freshen between the middle of March and end of April. It will continue to be very busy! ❖

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