All is quiet on the home front.
Well, now it is.
Today was marked for weaning the piglets.
It was going to be a gentle weaning where only a few piglets were to be moved at a time. Willow wouldn’t have to go cold turkey without babies to love on and the babies would be able to see their mother through a fence but not have access to her. The plan: separate a couple of specific babies, put them where they were with each other but away from Willow. Then after the big babies were eating and drinking without momma and all were convinced they could make it on their own we would call the new owners and the weaners could be motored off to their new homes.
But that’s not exactly how it happened.
We’ve handled the piglets before for various reasons and they fussed loudly every time. And though we knew Willow would be concerned, she was always very gentle and never bit or ran over anyone nor ever was aggressive in any manner.
We were just going to move 3 or 4 this first time. My husband climbed into the pig pen and scooped up a sweet little piggie who then (of course…..it’s what piglets do) let out an ear piercing squeal!
And Willow became a mother bear, running and barking (have you ever heard a pig bark? It’s an intimidating sound) and becoming very anxious. She didn’t hurt anyone, but she was acting like she might.
Now the men were ….um….concerned. This giant sweet sow who has never been aggressive, EVER, was looking like she was going to eat somebody! And the two somebodies were holding her squealing babies! The guys were not hurting the piglets in any way. The babies were just scared and sounding the alarm.
So the men quickly moved one squealing piglet to the new quarters. And placed the second on the ground with his mother. He quit his fussing and Willow immediately calmed and went back to eating as though nothing were out of place.
With several more piglets to move, we had to come up with a different arrangement.
My youngest boy who is fearless and my “go to” child on the farm, put his head together with my husband and came up with a plan.
Willow is used to have an occasion to wander the farm. Before the piglets were born and even since she was little, I would swing open her gate and she would wonder out into the pastures grabbing great mouthfuls of succulent green grass. She would stroll to the chickens and clean up any left over chicken food. She would meander around and around and around the house until she decided that all was well and she would amble happily back to her Willow home.
So we took a chance, swung open the gate and let her out.
And she did what she always did. She sauntered out to the pastures and she strolled over to check on the chickens. And she walked around the house. Then she rambled around and around the chicken coop where my husband had placed the one little missing barrow. She wasn’t flustered, however. It was as if she just needed to get an idea where he was hiding.
While she was out doing her inspections, Daniel enlarged an existing hole in the fencing (that the Red Wattle boar made when he came to visit Willow) and began scooting a piglet or two through the hole into the adjacent pen. Almost all the other little guys followed their brother and a short line of piglets following the leader to the weaning pen. Then Daniel quickly re-enforced the make shift barrier in front of the hole. And left 4 piglets for Willow to continue to nurse for a few more days. When the sow returned to her Willow home, she fell to eating again as though nothing were amiss.
Simple. Quiet. Uneventful.
Hopefully she will reduce her milk production slowly with just a few nursing instead of abruptly with all the piglets leaving at once.
The fatties in the adjacent pen can still see their mother and hear her but they also have their own place to eat and sleep and learn to be on their own.
Next week 4 of the little barrows (and one little gilt) will be off for a new adventure and we’ll bring the 4 left into the weaning pen to join the one we are keeping. When all are weaned and Willow’s milk has dried completely, the 5 weaners and momma will be reunited.
Quietly and peacefully next time, I hope.
Today’s count: 41 eggs, 2 gallons of milk
Weather: Mostly sunny, with a high near 72. Low 30. Breezes out of the North.