OMG. Like I said I don’t know what I’m doing at all. When someone says to me “three months, three weeks, three days” I take them at their word. They impregnate them on a Tuesday and they deliver on Thursdays. Like clockwork. Wow. Cool. Farmers are so smart.
So I pulled out my calendar, counted off the days and asked for those days off from my day job.
Best. Laid. Plans.
Of course that’s not really how it worked out. When we got to the farm (on a Wednesday), one of our sows had given birth a week early. Nearly all the others in the group had also delivered early. The full moon was the explanation. It happens with human pregnancies too. The full moon calls out babies. But there were a few sows left who were still waiting to deliver. I thought, “Good there’s still a chance we will see one or two births.”
“We’ll call you when they start delivering,” said Julian. “I won’t be here tomorrow but Agnés will be here in the morning.”
It takes a couple hours for a sow to deliver a dozen piglets and we were staying just 10 minutes down the road. This was going to happen.
No, it didn’t. Most of the sows had delivered over night, unattended. By the time we got the call, the last sows had already been in labor a while. By the time we got to the farm, the last piglet had been born 10 minutes before. Two sows were still passing their placentas. One piglet was stumbling about literally wet behind the ears, placenta still clinging to it. All the litters of squirmy, newborn pigs squealed and scrambled over each other for a place at their favorite nipple, trailing and tripping over each others umbilical cords.
But there was one more sow who was due on Sunday. I held on to the hope of capturing the event since it was the whole reason for this particular trip. But on Friday night, while we were an hour and a half away, dining at a nice restaurant in the beach resort of St Jean de Luz, she delivered early also.
In our conversations with Agnés, she had explained there was a time when they would have induced labor to keep the sows on a schedule that was more convenient for the farmers. But that was no longer the practice. The sows were moved into birthing stalls in anticipation of their delivery and then if they delivered at night, that was the way nature took its course. Their caretakers checked in on them in the morning.
Clockwork and on time deliveries are for shipping companies. Pregnant mothers listen to the moon and the stars.
St Jean De Luz from Elaine Tin Nyo on Vimeo.
114 days is an average. We have sows who go as much as two weeks earlier than that and as much as two weeks later than that. In fact, we have one line, our Blackieline, who frequently short gestates. They’re great sows, rear great litters and keep their condition even though they jump the boars out in the field to rebreed early and produce three litters a year of their own choice.
They sound like lucky girls who like to get lucky. I’m learning so much about pigs during this project.