In a Sow’s Ear 11-29-10
Reading Baxter Black’s piece on piglet transportation reminded me of a similar experience some years ago. Well, not exactly similar … except for the piglet participation part.
For a reason that escapes me, I was interviewed on radio – or was it local TV? I forget. It must have been TV because I took along a show-and-tell piglet, in a blanket-padded box.
Back then, we farrowed out around 15 or 16 sows twice yearly. Usually when a Mamma pig dropped a litter, I imprinted them immediately with back scratching and tummy rubs (theirs, not mine). A plastic comb – one of those with a handle – makes a fine piggy back-scratcher.
Gilt pigs (think first-calf heifers) average six to eight babies. Next birthing, the count goes up.
I’ve owned some sow pigs who birthed as high as 14, and one old girl kicked out 16 live squealers. Often among a large bunch of baby swine, there will be a runt. A little guy who can’t keep up with his siblings when aiming for the faucets. Or he gets pushed aside. In such instances, I employed a child’s baby bottle and milk replacer. It takes about two minutes to teach a piglet to suck a bottle instead of his mama. He doesn’t forget his mater, but he’ll remember his surrogate parent – (that would be you with the baby bottle).
So it was that I took along little Percival the Piglet to the TV station. I carried him as I would have packed a puppy. Percival snuggled under my chin. Then we entered the building. Percival looked around and screamed. I began an immediate tummy rub (Percival’s, not mine) as I walked down a hallway. People burst out of office doors like popcorn off a hot skillet.
Arriving at the interview room, I sat with Percy in my lap and kept rubbing and scratching (Percival, not myself). I assume the interview went as well as expected. It didn’t last long and Percival remained reasonably content nestled in my lap. Once finished, the logical thing to do would have been to return home and return Percy to his mother. But, coincidentally, on this particular day, I had previously made reservations to see a play in which a friend had a starring role. The playhouse venue was about 20 miles farther down the road. I could have canceled my reservation. Did I?
Of course not. I had a cooler to keep extra bottles of previously heated milk warm. I had an excellent heater in my pickup. Did I mention that the time was late fall and the temperature lingered in the low 30s?
I fed Percival. The accommodating thing about piglets is that as soon as their bellies are full, they take a nap. Percy snuggled in his box. I went to the play. Between acts, I visited Percival, fed him, put him down for another nap, returned to the theater … this went on for all three acts and intermission.
What, what, you are wondering, did you do about Percy’s er – excretions? Did I walk him like a dog?
No, no. The trick – in case you ever want to take a piglet along to a social event – is this. When you construct a piggy box, make it a two-room apartment. In one end is the milk and nap area, in the other is the commode. A pig will make his “deposits” at the location farthest away from his grub area (think stud pile).
I got home that night around 11 p.m. Mama pig and nine offspring were sleeping. I dropped Percy over the side of the pen. He dashed to his brother and sister piglets, burrowed amongst them and searched for a teat. Roused from their naps, the little porkers began issuing piggy noises.
As I left the barn I am sure I heard Percy complain to his siblings – in heavily accented pig grunts – “You won’t believe where that woman took me …”
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