Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pig Pregnancy and Farrowing

Ok, if you didn't read the breeding blog I will inform you real quick. You might find parts where I tell you about my gilts and sows. Which they are Blue Butt and Yorkshire. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at or leave a comment. Thanks

Ok, so the job has been done, your girl has been serviced by the boar you have chosen. Now is she pregnant or not?! Well, you can use a boar to just tease her to see if she comes into heat approximately 18-24 days after her last service. If she comes back into heat have her serviced again. If she does not come back into heat then you now have a pregnant pig. If you can't get her to a teaser boar then you should call and make an appointment with the vet to have her ultra-sound about 36-48 days after the last service date. Or you can do what many owners do, wait 21 days and see if she comes into heat if not we assume they are pregnant. Either way you will have to make sure she is getting the right nutrition she needs to keep a healthy body.
Now the long journey comes. 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Or 115 days. A sow or gilt can have up to 14 piglets. There has been sows that have farrowed more then 14 but it is very unlikely to have a sow that will farrow that many. Most will farrow between 7-10.
A month before her farrowing date you will want to get her dewormed. And if you choose to use a farrowing box you should have this built and ready. I prefer to let her do things natural. But, I observe very closely at farrowing. So, she does not lay on any of her babies or step on them. Plus, I block off a section of her hut for the babies where they can get under a heat lamp without momma laying or stepping on them. Her last week of pregnancy I like to give her a extra pound of food a day. During her pregnancy she will gain weight just like any other mammal. She might not look very big but you must take inconsideration her rib cage is large so for the first three months the piglets sit high in her stomach. For the first probably 100 days you won't see much of a change except for weight gain. Tho after her 100 days you will see physical changes along with behavior changes. Every gilt is different but I will give you an idea with the help of my two gilts Thelma and Babe.
Here is a good time line of a gilts pregnancy. The things to look for and the things to do to prepare for her farrowing.
Three weeks before she is due to farrow you should start to see the gilts teats protrude. The closer you get the more they will protrude and her mammary glands will begin to form. You will also feel the glands. Thelma's teats were huge. But, Babe's didn't look like had any change.
At about 105-109 days you will want to introduce your gilt to her farrowing crate.
.From 110 days (some days earlier) you may notice your gilt slacking on her food and being lazy. Thelma did this. She would only eat a quarter of food here and a quarter there.. Babe ate normal if not more all the way up to the day of farrowing. If your gilt slows down on her eating's don't be too alarmed. Be alarmed when she stops drinking. Contact your vet. If you feel she is not drinking you can give her a bucket full of water with a little bit of corn syrup or maple syrup. And then sit for about 30 minutes and watch her. She should urinate a couple times. As the time gets closer she might show signs of constipation. I like to use mineral oil.( I use this for kittens, puppies, pigs and my own kids.)
Most of the time the gilts belly will slope upwards as it goes towards her rear. But, the further along she gets her belly will level out.
Their vulva might start swelling around day 108. Here is a picture of one gilt's vulva on day 112.

You need to understand the more you go out and check on your gilt the longer she will take. If you can view from a distance that would work best. Let her be comfortable with little interruptions as possible. You will want to check on her a couple times a day, from a distance remember. The reason to leaving her alone is that if she is in labor and you keep irritating her, you are prolonging her delivery. The first baby takes the longest to get out because it is making enough room for the rest to come out. So, by prolonging her you might be prolonging the baby in the birth canal and it might end up suffocating.
If you can squeeze a teat and a drop of liquid comes out, well that is a good indicator that within the next 12 hours your gilt will be farrowing.
Some gilts/sows will farrow standing up. Some will back up into a corner. And others will
lay down. It will all depend on your pig!
Labor Signs-
Nesting- 1-3 days until farrowing
liquid from teat- 3-12 hours until farrowing
Teats large and firm- 3-12 hours until farrowing
Swollen vulva- 1-4 days until farrowing
Panting, heavy breathing- Labor has begun
Walking back and forth or in circles- Labor has begun
Discharge from vulva- Labor has started
Little green balls come from vulva- Delivery is in progress
Some gilts will go in circles or pace. As for mine neither one did any of that. They laid there! So, each and every gilt or sow and pregnancy is different.
Ok, so your gilt is laying down and she has had little green pellets come out of her vulva or just some discharge. And you see her stretch all four legs out straight. It might look like she is holding her breath. Which she is. It's a contraction. Some will grunt others will be very quiet when they farrow. My girls love it when i sit and talk in a soft voice. And Babe loves to be petted during. Tho, Thelma does not like to be touched at all. She has pushed and pushed and now you see something coming out what the hell do you do?! It's simple. Get a towel and make sure the babies air way is cleared. I like to just clean off the baby completely and set it in a box with some towels. Make sure you have your note book to write down times, sex and description of each baby. This is a good time if you can to notch their ears, castrate, doc tails and cut their tusks. If not you can do that later (1-4 days). Castration you can do any time really. Delivery can take between an hour to six hours. Thelma took six hours to deliver. Her first came at 3pm and then her second came around 5pm and there after they were up to an half hour between. Babe on the other hand delivered all her's within an hour and a half. And she had 12 and Thelma had 8. If you find a baby which is not breathing try to revive it. Rubbing it with a towel, blowing in it's mouth. There might be a good chance the first born will be still born. If not consider yourself lucky. There you have it. Your gilt has delivered you have introduced her to her babies. Now what? Well, make sure all babies are getting milk. Some gilts will accidently step on a baby or two until they get use to it.
To inform some. Gilts and Sows can become very aggressive towards you or anyone so please keep small kids away. In all the years I have been around pigs there is one thing I have noticed that never gets told to new people. Sometimes a baby might come up missing. It's normal. the mother may have sensed something wrong or the baby might have died. She is trying to do what they do in nature and that is get rid of anything that could bring in prey. Including after birth. She will eat it.
Here is a list you should have when farrowing
Pair of scissors- to cut umbilical cord
iodine or benedine- to dip tails, umbilical cord
towels- and lots of them
Note pad- To write down sex, time, description
ear notch- explains itself
clippers- for tail and tusks and can be used for castration
Thread- to tie umbilical cord if needed
Box- to put the babies in while the gilt is farrowing so she doesn't have to worry!
Cola- Something for you to drink and probably a good book.

Breeding of Gilts

Before you read on I will tell you about my two girls because as you read thru this you will read some of my own experiences. My husband has a Blue Butt named Thelma. And I have a Yorkshire named Babe.

Heat cycle-
Most gilts will start to cycle about 7 months old. Some breeds will go sooner and some will go later. You will want to start checking her every day. Some people check once in the morning and once at night during the feeding times. But if you can at least check once a day then your doing good. You will know when she is in standing heat, because she will stand very still and not move when you put pressure on her hind. And some will have discharge. This is the day you want to mark on your calender and count 21 days from it. For gilts they will stay in standing heat for about 2-3 days. My girls seemed to stay in heat for 3 days as gilts and as sows. A gilt's pregnancy is 115 days. Which roughly is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Some gilts go longer and some sows go earlier. Any earlier then 107 days , the piglets might not survive. Try to breed where the gilt will farrow in fall or spring. While the temperatures are not to cold nor too hot for either the mother nor the piglets.

Finding Mr. Right Boar-
When you decide to breed your gilt you should really think about wether to buy your own boar, rent one or artificial insemination. Here are some pros and cons to each that I have experienced.

Buying a boar-
Is good if you have more then one gilt or sow and plan to do more then one breeding. Negative part is that you will be paying out in feed. Many but not all boars get aggressive. A pen must be occupied by him. When using your own boar, understand if you have a boar who is 12 months or younger you should only let him service once a day and no more then five times a week. And no more then two gilts or sows. If he is older then 12 months you can let him service twice a day and no more then seven times a week. He can service three sows/gilts.

Renting a boar-
Which means you pay someone to use their boar. Now understand when you rent a boar you have to take your gilt to him and leave her there. Don't forget to bring your gilts feed with. So the pros to this is that you don't have to feed the boar nor put him up in a pen along with any other costs that you would have to hand out. Cons to this would be you have to go by the word of the owner about any diseases, if their boar is a stress carrier or not. Plus, how well do you know if this boar is able to do his job or not?! There is many cons too this and I would shy away from this option.
Some questions that should be asked
How many females has he serviced?
Did it take more then twice to service any female?
How old is he?
What breed is he?
When was the last time he was dewormed?
Is he healthy?
Is he a stress carrier?
Will you be able to let me know the days he services her?
The cost of boar's service?
Will they be in the same pen with any other pigs?

Artificial Insemination-
Artificial insemination is the way too go I think. Each time you breed you can always use a different boar. Most the companies will provide you with history and stress carrier results. The only cons to this is that you will have to be right on when it comes to her heat cycle because most semen is only good for up to 5 days. The prices can be a little high during different times of the year. The biggest thing I am not fond of is the shipping costs. But, after weighing the pros and cons I like this option the best. This option is great when you are trying to improve your pig genes. This is very easy procedure. If my ten year old son can artificially inseminate, anyone can. You can find information on how on the internet.

Now you have decided your method of breeding. You asked alot of questions and thought long and hard about it.You also know your gilt's heat cycle. Good now lets move onto the servicing.

If your buying a boar or renting one, you will want to put your gilt in with the boar about the 18th or 19th day of her 2nd or 3rd heat cycle. The reason to this is because on her first heat cycle, her body is getting use to the whole hormonal change. Plus, she will release more eggs on her 2nd and 3rd then on her first. And if bred on the first cycle could lead to complications in farrowing.
Your gilt is in heat and you have introduced her to the boar. Leave them together for aproximately 4-5 days. If you bought a boar try to notice the days you see the boar servicing your gilt. If your gilt is at a rent a boar ask the owner to write down the days they see him servicing her. Make sure to keep a note book of these days they will help you in the future.
If you are going with AI you will need to buy the semen on the 18th day of her heat cycle. This will give you 24 hours for the semen to arrive. Try to buy at least two straws of semen. You can buy one straw from one boar and another straw from another boar and use them both. I like to use this method once in a while. There are many websites and forums that will give you a great detail on how to do this. Read and study before buying the semen. There are some people out there that will do this for you at a cost.

Make sure to read my next post about Pregnancy and Farrowing
If you have any questions please feel free to comment or email me at