Birth and Death
Yesterday we noticed the very pregnant sow was in distress and realized she was trying to give birth. Two stillborn piglets lay near. A sow usually has her piglets in fairly quick succession so when two hours passed and no more appeared, we knew it was time to intervene.
Carefully sliding a hand into the vagina, we can usually tell where the problem is. It was immediately evident we were in trouble because the distance between the sacrum and the pelvic bones was so small that my clenched fist would not fit. Later we learned that the pelvic bone slanted upward and the sacrum was positioned a little too far back, causing the piglets to move through the canal at an odd angle and bump against the sacrum. In addition, the unusually small opening prevented piglets from passing through quickly enough to remain alive. Unfortunately there is no way to tell before farrowing if this problem exists since no pig will stand still for an examination any time other than during active birthing. If you are interested in learning more, look here.
The next piglet was jaw up on the other side of the opening but could not move through the canal. We pushed him back into the uterus, rotated him and attempted to bring him through by clenching the lower jaw between thumb and finger and then forceps. We were disappointed to realize we needed to take him out in parts.
The fourth piglet presented bottom first. We thought this might be easier and we hoped for a live birth, but the head would not come through. We walked away for a while to see if the sow could pass it on her own, having seen the sack with the broken umbilical cord slide out and indicate that the piglet would not survive. An hour later she had birthed all but the head. Even with our help, it wouldn’t come out whole.
If we had another sow birthing at the same time, we could have done a c-section and placed the litter with the surrogate sow, but without the alternate sow, the piglets have only a slim chance of survival by bottle feeding. As it happened, we shot the sow and butchered her. And the kids had a hands-on anatomy lesson.