In preparation for our first pigs, I read at least three books and scoured the internet for information on raising pigs. However, reading about something and actually doing it are two entirely different things. I tried to contact small farms nearby to gain some guidance, but found none. I wanted to look at what people used for enclosures, what a pig wallow looked like, see how pigs behaved normally, and ask a few questions that books could not answer. I just wanted a support system of some sort, but there was none. It’s sad that there is a huge movement towards hobby farms and homesteading and there is no support system for those making the transition. I hope there is a day I can offer advice and assistance to someone like me.
We brought the piggies home and moved them into their lovely new pen. We really didn’t know what to expect. How would we know they were healthy and happy? How much should they be eating? How much do they normally sleep? Is the transition hard on them? Do their behaviors change for a couple days after the move? All questions that a book doesn’t answer.
We brought them home Tuesday night and all seemed well enough. They checked out their new pen, oinked and carried on, snuggled up in their beds and made it through the night. Wednesday, it was a little cold in the morning, so I took some hot water and poured it into their grain to make some pig oatmeal. They ate a little, drank from their water-er, and looked happy enough. I loved watching them together. They would oink at each other and were never farther than a foot from each other. We named them (I know, I know, you’re not suppose to do that). We thought it would be fun to name them after U.S. Presidents so the black one was named Abraham Lincoln (Abe) and the red one was named George Washington (hubby called him “The General).
Thursday and Friday were repeats of Wednesday. They started to love the pig oatmeal, but George just didn’t seem well. He was listless and seemed to sleep a lot. But again, how much do pigs sleep a day? Abe didn’t want to leave his side, so he was buried under the straw all day with George. I started to worry.
Saturday morning, I went out with the hot water for the pig oatmeal and found George walking in slow circles with his head down. After I poured the water in the grain, I started to pet George and noticed a bunch of bugs all over him. I thought they were ticks and immediately my skin started to crawl. It came to me that this infestation may be related to the listless behavior in ole’ George.
I rushed to Tractor Supply to get tick treatment, itching and skeeving out all the way. Where could the ticks come from? Did the pigs come with them? Could they have been in the straw we used for bedding? Are the cats covered in them now? The dogs? ME??!!!
I got home to find George having a seizure and immediately called the vet. He came out within 15 minutes to check George out. Turns out what I thought were ticks were actually pig lice. **shudder**
You can see why I was confused:
I am no entomologist, I certainly didn’t know there were pig-specific bugs, so I had no flipping clue. Plus, lice are super small, right? These buggers were HUGE!
The vet thought the lice had caused George to be anemic. This had caused the neurological symptoms. We treated George and after a brief pig rodeo trying to catch him, we treated Abe as well. The vet thought the pigs came with the lice (in other words, it wasn’t our fault), and told me I needed to contact the guy we bought them from.
I snuggled George up in the straw and tried to make him comfortable. Abe quickly curled up next to him. Things didn’t look good. A few hours later, George was dead. We pulled him out of the pen and laid him outside the gate. Abe paced back and forth, looking at his friend on the other side of the fence. It was really quite sad.
After a few hours, we moved George away and I took Abe some corn bread to cheer him up. It’s his favorite. I was so worried about Abe being lonely I almost took a stuffed animal out to him for the night. Almost….. He’s a pig, I really have to draw the line somewhere. I think taking a stuffed animal out for him to snuggle is over the line.
The guy we bought the pigs from called late Saturday night and was more than apologetic. He felt terrible that we had dealt with this, could not fathom how this pig had gotten so sick and asked us to bring him George the next day. As it turns out, the day this litter was being treated for lice and other parasites, one of the people helping accidentally stabbed herself with a needle. Our best guess is that this accident messed up the routine (ya think?) and George never received his injection. He probably had intestinal parasites in addition to the lice. Between that and the stress of being moved, his little body just couldn’t take it.
Well, we couldn’t leave poor Abe all alone! One of the things I DID learn from all the reading I did was that pigs don’t do well alone. They don’t eat well, they don’t gain well, and they are unhappy.
The new pig is a gilt (I learned some terminology from the books, too), so naming her after a president is out. As of right now, she remains nameless. Her arrival has done wonders for Abe. He is eating more, is more active, and his tail is all curled up. He wags his tail and loves playing “grab ass” with her. She has decided she loves the pig oatmeal in the morning and corn bread is a pretty yummy treat.
I’m bummed about George, but this is the way life is on the farm. I’m glad it wasn’t our fault and I’m glad his last days were spent snuggled with his brother in a nice clean straw bed.
Now to go make some cornbread for Abe and his sis…… It’s only over the line if I add honey and syrup to the dough, right?