‘A sow in labor is one of the most dangerous animals on the farm’

A glimpse of life on a farm on Stinking Creek. Molly is my red and white Hampshire sow. Oh, I know most Hampshires are mostly black with a white belt around their shoulders. When my Hampshire sow had a red and white baby I just had to keep it. They are so cute when they are little but a 400-pound sow isn’t that cute any more. Anyway I kept Molly; she is the other half of Mike and Molly (our pigs are named after entertainment people). This was her second litter so I wasn’t surprised to find eight little red and white babies. Whoops — make that seven, as one arrived in his underwear having forgot his pants.

Of course they decided to be born on that cold, windy, snowy Monday two weeks ago. The sleet and snow hit me in the face as I made many trips to the barn that afternoon. She had scraped her straw into a deep nest. But most of the time when she lay down the babies were born on the cold cement floor and had a hard time crawling up on the straw nest to their warm mama. Every two hours I spent time in the barn but, sure enough, she would have one that got cold and stiff. By six that evening she had eight nice big red and white babies―well she had five with her while I was giving special care in my house to the other three. Incidentally have you ever tried to milk a four hundred sow while she is in labor? A sow in labor is one of the most dangerous animals on the farm because she always blames the person if one of her babies cries. But I did need to get some warm mother’s milk. Fortunately I did have a milk cow to supplement the need for several hours of care.

Now this is not as dangerous as it sounds or could be. When I designed and built my barn I included a holding pen that leads into a loading chute. I begin training my pigs when they are four-weeks old to go into that pen for special feed. So by the time she became a mother, she would run into that pen usually very quickly. So even as she was in labor and I needed to get into her pen I would open her door and she ran in to that pen. Then I could clean her pen, move the newborns under the heat lamp and get ready for the next one. In spite of all my care, three did spend the night in my house where they responded so well that I could take them back out to be with Molly the next day. Now there are eight pair of eyes peering out from their warm nest under the light.

I do spend time with each of the animals: cows, pigs and goats, training them to like the visit to the holding pen and even loading themselves into the truck. You have probably heard the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through their stomach.” That statement goes for animals also. I have found it well worthwhile to take time to train them usually from little on up.