Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Raising an orphan pig

If you get asked to raise a pig and go to your friend Google you will discover raising a baby pig is very difficult. Survivability  is low. (Yah, I made up the word. But you get the point.)

It's a scary thought to put so much work into something with the expectation it won't work out.

But saying no to this little face proved impossible. Meet Arnold.

A month of hard work and I hope the highest risk is over. He's very cute, very funny and been quite the education.

I present for you some cuteness and a primer on raising an orphan piglet. (Based on one pig and many many other orphan species).

1. Warmth is your friend. If you don't have a warm orphan you must NOT feed your baby. Warm them up first. Keep them warm and out of drafts. Arnold lived in a diaper box lined with towels and a heating pad at one end set on medium or high depending on how cold it was. He could always get away from the heat and he could always get to a hot spot. He did both. He still is draft free and has a little warmth source in one spot ... we've gradually increased his living space and it's working well.  When we travel he has a snuggle safe in with him - warmed int he microwave it holds heat for up to 8 hours.

2. Find buddies. Even fake ones.  He has 2 towel wrapped water bottle buddies that he can snuggle with. They stay quite warm up against a heat source.  Arnold has some dog friends and a cat friend and gets lots of human contact too. Contact with living breathing interactive things is really important to proper growth. Singleton orphans need particular attention in this regard.

3. Feed the right stuff. Sometimes this is easy. Kitten formula for kittens, whole cow milk for cows but sometimes it is much harder. Pig milk replacer is on back order in our part of the world. It's been a month and it still hasn't come in. So off to my friend google and our farm vet I went and settled on kitten milk replacer fed at whatever amount Arnold wanted - mixed just a little stronger than the directions called for. Kitten milk does not have quite the same fat level as pig apparently. I thought about various ways to up the fat level and have been watching carefully to see if I should do anything but Arnold has thrived on kitten milk replacer. Thrived all the way up to consuming a tin a day.

4. Weaning is hard. Getting your orphan eating is tricky, messy and sometimes frustrating. Know it's coming and you will get through it. Start a little earlier than you might think. Just one or two meals in a dish the rest by bottle. Then one day the ratio will switch - one bottle at bed is a nice tradition to keep awhile but usually in my experience the animal eventually chews the nipple top off and weaning from a bottle is done. Keep a mash sloppy and wet for a long time to ensure the baby is getting enough water intake. I put a dish of water down at this point but it seems to take awhile til water is consumed.

5. Introduce your piglet to new foods in tiny amounts. Arnold is now eating a mix of oatmeal cereal (to ensure he gets lots of iron) kitten milk replacer and pig pellets - all soaked in hot water and allowed to sit - then just before feeding I add more water to make it more sloppy again.

6 Enjoy and love your baby. You are doing a great thing even trying to save the baby. Thank you!

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