Posted by: A Part of the Solution | April 5, 2012

More Thoughts on What I Know About Farrowing

Just a few days ago, Garnet finally farrowed. Her first farrowing went much better than her sister Ruby’s did. Between six and ten at night, Garnet dropped six live piglets. Albeit, one of them did not scale even a pound (and most piglets are around two pounds at birth).

After the farm manager had come in from the barn around midnight, and before I went out to the barn at one to hand feed Ruby’s litter, Garnet finished farrowing with a seventh piglet. This last one was stillborn. Like so many of Ruby’s farrowing, I believe the seventh piglet was alive when Garnet’s farrowing began, but ran out of time before he could be born live. Again as with Ruby’s experience, this last piglet was substantially larger than the rest of his siblings. With gilts (first time swine mothers, the equivalent of primipara), size matters apparently.

After Ruby’s farrowing, we were not confident about Garnet’s birthing experience. We were not relaxed, expecting nature to take Her course with little assistance from the people on hand. Consequently, we made some changes in how we handled the farrowing. Of course we don’t know if what we did was what made all the difference. But six live piglets and one stillborn beats the heck out of three live piglets and six stillborn over the course of three days.

First off, we dosed the water bucket and nose waterer with homeopathic remedies and flower remedies, too. Garnet had been spending a fair part of every day in the barnyard taking the air, so Pulsatilla seemed like a good choice. With her enormous weight gain and distinct puffiness, Natrum Muriaticum also made sense to us. We added Nux Vomica for indigestion and irritability. And lastly, we threw in Lachesis Mutus for her pain, the potential of hemorrhage and her general bodily weakness.

We also dropped flower remedies in the waterers to manage the emotional aspects of farrowing for Garnet. We used Rescue Remedy to relieve  Garnet’s stress and fear. We used Crab Apple to help her cope with the bodily exigencies of multiple births. And we used Walnut to help her through the transitional period which becoming a mother necessarily is.

Yes, we put a lot of stuff in front of Garnet. Happily, homeopathic remedies are never contra-indicated, nor do they ever combine adversely. And if you should give, or take, the wrong remedy… wait for it… it won’t have any effect at all. Sort of a double fail-safe there. And the flower remedies, aside from the fact they’re dilutions of dew collected from flower petals at dawn as their primary source of efficacy (!), are equally benign if administered unnecessarily. Talk about your win-wins.

Our goal with all that dosing was to relax Garnet, slow down and cool off the process, allow her to take time and do the farrowing right without having to take so much time as to squeeze the life out of the potential lives carried inside her.

Garnet began showing signs of farrowing preparedness a full twenty-four hours before she began her active farrowing. Besides an uncharacteristic irritability with Ruby, she carried a few mouthfuls of straw around. She did not, however, make any kind of a nest and was quite restless. The next day, around noon, she began emitting a little pinkish goop from her vulva–which had distended to 3 cm. In about three more hours, Garnet was at 5 cm, panting, and having contractions–albeit far apart. It was after 5 o’clock pm when we finally watched a still slimy newborn slip from her 7 cm distended lady parts.

After about thirty minutes more, with constant massaging and encouragement from all the humans, Garnet squeezed out a second piglet. Almost immediately, a third followed. Piglet three was pale and about half the size of the first two. A deal of time followed, and four came out as we were having a quick supper in the house. Five came along around nine. Six was born at almost ten pm. And I’ve already shared what happened to seven.

Garnet is able to supply her own piglets with milk, and even some for Ruby’s farrowing. This has been a great boon to me, as I’ve been hand feeding Ruby’s piglets between eight and six times daily round the clock since they were two days old. And I’m delighted they have access to actual mother’s milk, which is so much more nutritious and balanced than the packaged dry powder I mix up. I’ve begun cutting back on the piglets faux formula. They don’t want as much of it, and they need it less frequently!

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