Swift Delivers, Memorable Adolescent Student Experience

By Joyce Cole, Hershey Montessori Farm Manager

Is she pregnant? This was the question that all of us in the community had been asking since we separated our Kunekune gilt, Swift, from our boar, Tui, back in November.

We couldn’t have timed our questioning and investigating more perfectly. We started just last week by attempting to use a human pregnancy test, with a seventh-year student managing to catch her urine! However, we then learned that pigs do not produce a hormone like the HCG hormone of a human woman, so we ordered the livestock urine pregnancy test that instead measured a hormone called estrone sulfate and asked the student to work his magic once again.

We were excited by the positive results, but then we found out that the test would only work between days 30 and 35, or days 85 – term. Pigs only carry for 115 days. That meant we had to be in late pregnancy and our preparation window was now a tight one.

By our calculations, and with 93% test accuracy, Swift would give birth in the next two weeks. Sure enough, we had just installed the Ring camera on the afternoon of Saturday, January 20th, when I noticed some increased swelling in her abdomen and teats. I went in again on Sunday morning and was able to express milk from her teats, so I rallied the student Pastured Pig team.

At 4:06 p.m. Sunday, January 21st, Hershey middle school guide Nicole arrived to relieve my watch. She found Swift with her head buried in straw and breathing very heavily. Nicole immediately called me back in due to Swift’s obvious signs of labor. She also alerted the whole Pastured Pig team.

By 6:30 p.m., nine healthy piglets were born! All members of the Pastured Pig team were able to be there for the birth. The team jumped right in and set up to help Nicole catch the babies, clean them off, and put them safely in their heated area while they waited for mama to finish.


Students help care for the piglets as Swift finishes her delivery.

Swift was exhausted, but she is very loving with her new litter, responding to them when they cry and turning her big ol’ pig belly out so that the babies can reach their milk. They were quickly able to latch on successfully and get a good dose of colostrum. Their warming area is outfitted with two heat lamps and a seedling heat mat. They flop onto the heat mat and fall asleep without worrying about pulling up the covers. Their little piglet bellies are full and round with their mama’s milk.

Congratulations, Swift, and congratulations to the team members who made it in for the birth. Those students include one ninth-year and two seventh-years. The team did a fabulous job assisting Mama Swift.

The team is now challenged with keeping the babies warm and fed and assisting Swift in the raising up of these sweet little piglets.

The newborn piglets are nourished by their mama.

Editor’s note: This was an experience most adolescents would never have the opportunity to witness or enjoy. For Hershey students, it is yet another unique, memorable moment to learn and grow from – a memory that will last a lifetime. Many things can be learned through books and classrooms, but learning is most impactful when experienced. This experiential learning is both the power and the beauty of authentic Montessori education.