Rescue often involves heartbreak and heart aches. Some pigs arrive happy and healthy, but others arrive broken, neglected, and abused. At Hog Haven Farm, most of the pigs surrendered to our care come from that second category—so we can be a safe landing space, a source of comfort and healing, an option for those with nowhere else to go, and a voice for the voiceless.
Our newest rescue may not have purposely been neglected, but her physical condition desperately hurts our hearts. There are many breeders out in the world who claim “teacup” as a breed of pig, and their advice is to essentially starve the pig to keep it small. Unsuspecting owners take this poor nutritional advice with no question, feeding a diet of only ¼ cup pig pellets twice a day; but like any other species, as we grow and mature, our diet must also increase. ¼ cup of feed per meal (twice a day) for the duration of a pig’s life is not enough nutrition, and some folks do not realize the harm this diet causes.
A pig’s organs will continue to grow as they mature, and if their body does not keep up with internal growth, they will live a short life, stunted, starving, unhappy. A healthy diet is based on 1-2% of body weight, and the feed you select should be formulated specifically for potbellied pigs (some brands are labeled for mini pigs, but the protein content of a pig-specific food should range between 12 and 16%, or closer to 20% for piglets. Most hog feeds, and specifically grower feeds, should not be used). Hog Haven Farm chooses to feed Manna Pro, but other brands are widely available. It should also be noted that mini pigs are not a breed, but a size reference: healthy adult weights can be as low as 70lbs, or as large as 300lbs, and they are not considered adults until 4 years of age. In Hog Haven Farm’s experience, average adult weight is typically between 100 and 180lbs.
The sweetest, cutest little face and round tummy you can possibly imagine. The quintessential happy piglet. Moo radiated so much light, life, and happiness when she arrived at Hog Haven Farm in January 2017. We made the decision to adopt Moo to a forever home, along with 3 of her friends.
When Moo left our care, she weighed around 74lbs, and was just under a year old. As with all of our adoptions, we looked forward to future updates, to see how she and her friends were growing up and getting along. Updates became few and far between after about a year, but from what we had seen, they were loved piggies in their new home.
Fast forward two and half years post adoption: we received a surrender request from Moo’s family, to take her back with her friends, due to a change of life situation. Part of our adoption policy is that pigs be returned to Hog Haven Farm should something happen in the future. We scheduled a day and time to pick them up, and we were totally unprepared for what we saw. Perhaps the novelty of keeping pigs as pets wore off; perhaps the pigs became too great a burden to pay much attention to; perhaps life was too busy to hassle much with pet pigs. Yes, the pigs had a cozy shelter and large pen space, and access to water and feed; three of these pigs were healthy, but incredibly timid, and Moo…well, poor Moo was totally different.
We were told the other 3 pigs were food bullies, and didn’t share enough food with Moo, and that Moo would eat too slowly. We don’t doubt that; feeding multiple pigs together can be challenging. The confusing aspect of this story is that one of four pigs not eating enough has a very simple solution–a separate area for feeding, and monitoring each pig’s eating habits, every meal.
While we do not think Moo’s family intentionally caused her harm, she was obviously in a state of serious neglect. In pigs, body condition is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is emaciated, and 5 is morbidly obese. Moo ranked at a 1 upon intake, weighing a mere 30lbs; her spine and hip bones were highly visible, and her jaw line was sharp, with no fat or muscle mass on her body. Knowing that Moo weighed 74lbs at time of spay in January 2017, and should have kept growing, we know that she lost 60% of her body weight.
When pigs are emaciated, their immune systems become compromised–in addition to poor body condition, Moo was fighting an upper respiratory infection, and mange (a skin parasite). Her breathing sounded like a rattle of death, and honestly, when we picked her up, we didn’t think she was going to last through the night. Not only was she sick, but her eyes were dull; despite all of these problems, our vet was confident that we could make a full recovery with Moo, and we wanted to do everything in our power to save her.
Dealing with extreme starvation in any species takes time, routine, persistence, and patience. A rapid increase in nutrients can send the body into shock, so a strict diet plan was put into place by our veterinarian. The goal was to build Moo’s immune system, and allow her to gain back the weight she lost–but we may never get her back to 74lbs. Over the course of 25 days, we slowly increased her feed, providing her with 3 meals a day. She was also given a vitamin B12 supplement for her immune system, antibiotics weekly, and dewormer every 12 days. She has been given 3 sulphur baths to combat the mange (in addition to the dewormer).
Moo has shown, since day one, that she is a fighter. She was failed by humans, but refuses to let that slow her down. Today marks 8 weeks since we picked Moo up; today, Moo’s eyes are sparkling, her belly is nice a round, her breathing is better, and her skin has drastically improved. We still have a long road ahead of us, but Moo is on the uphill race, determined to be healthy. And boy, is Moo happy. Her tail wags constantly, she’s made friends with Morty, and she loves to explore and graze.
It’s hard to notice obvious results, even over the span of 8 weeks. Looking back at pictures from this time frame, it’s now obvious to us that Moo has made amazing progress. From her first day here, to today, our little Moo is fighting to be healthy. We are so proud of her. We can’t wait to see what another 8 weeks brings.
As of April 10, 2017: Hog Haven Farm has seen 13 pigs come to the farm, and 8 leave to their forever homes. While we strive to provide forever homes for as many pigs as we can, but the demand for surrendered/rescued pigs outweighs the demand for adoptions.
Hog Haven Farm brought Lucy home in July 2015. Lucy was only a year old at this time, and weighed close to 200lbs. Her obesity was so extreme, her belly dragged on the ground, and fat pockets in her face obscured her eyes. She moved slow, and was uninterested in veggies, most fruits, and most importantly, pig food.