Farrowing Crates For Pigs

What is a farrowing crate?

A farrowing crate is a pen made of metal and wood that confines the sow or gilt so that they do not lay on their piglets. The crate restricts the pigs movement thus protecting the piglets once they are born.

Mixed views are held about farrowing crates as some feel that the crate is cruel as it confines the sow or gilt into a small space and constricts their movements. On the otherhand, some feel that the purpose of confining the pigs movements helps to protect the piglets and therefore prevents un-neccessary deaths due to overlay.

Overlay is when the sow or gilt lays on the piglets and crushes them to death. This is one of the primary causes of death amongst piglets in the early stages of a piglets life.

If a farrowing crate is to be used then the gilt or sow can go into the crate a few days before their farrowing date. This allows the pigs to get accustomed to their new surroundings and relieves stress on the animal as they have time to become familiar with their new routine.

The pig can be fed and watered in the crate although some farmers will turn out their sows twice a day to eat, drink and stretch their legs.

Once the piglets are born the gilt or sow can remain in the crate for a few days or up to when the piglets are weaned.

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2 thoughts on “Farrowing Crates For Pigs”

  1. Hi katie,
    Welcome to the farmingfriends forum.
    The gestation period of a sow or gilt is 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days or approximately (112-115 days.)So this is the right time scale for the time your sow and boar have been together.

    There are a number of signs to look out for when a sow or gilt is about to farrow.

    Restlessness. The sow or gilt will pace up and down or circle round and round.

    Nesting. The sow or gilt will pull or the bedding material into one area and create a nest. They do this by carrying the bedding in their mouths and moving the straw with their feet. This usually occurs on the day of farrowing and it is an amazing sight to see as all the bedding that was previously covering the barn floor will now all be neatly in a nest shape – this happened when Cagney, my Saddleback sow, had her first litter. I went in to feed her and she was laid on her nest and not one piece of straw was anywhere else in the barn!

    The size and shape of the stomach will increase before farrowing. I try to get into the habit of feeling the sow’s stomachs when I feed them so that I am aware of any changes in size and that the sows get used to me touching this area.

    The size of the mammary glands will increase as they bag up with milk. I also try to touch the teats so that the sows get used to me doing this so that I can check for milk production before the onset of farrowing.

    Milk production. Just before farrowing the sow or gilts milk will be released. You can check this by squeezing the teats and if milk droplets come out then farrowing is close.

    The vulva becomes larger and reddens. The muscles around this area slacken before farrowing takes place. This is not always easy to see to the untrained eye but once your gilt and sow has farrowed once or twice it is easier to identify. it’s amazing how often a pig breeder spends looking at the animals bottom!

    Laying down and stretching out the back legs will occur as farrowing begins. This is not always the case as some gilts and sows will stand to farrow. My saddleback sow Lacy did this when she was a gilt and had her first litter.

    Heavy breathing. As farrowing begins the gilt or sow will start to blow and puff as she strains.

    You need to separate the pigs before farrowing either into separate penned areas if they are outdoors or in different barns if indoors or in the same barn in farrowing crate which are sometimes used so that the sow doesn’t lay on the piglets as they are born.

    About a week before farrowing the sows/gilts need to be wormed. (Noromectin can be injected.)

    Before farrowing some owners will wash the teats and udders.

    You can create an area where the sow is and you could pen her off with gates so that you can be close by but if she does get aggressive you won’t get hurt but you can still see what’s going on. You can rig up a lamp so that the piglets can move under the lamp and you can be on hand to remove them from the pig pen if she becomes aggressive during farrowing and then return them to her after farrowing. A way to avoid the piglets getting squashed is to make sure that the straw is flat and that the lamp is a distance away from the pig so that she can still see her piglets and they don’t have far to go when they are called for milk but they won’t get squashed. I don’t know whether you would be able to keep them removed from her all the time as they feed every few minutes/10 minutes when they have first farrowed. Probably more than you would be able to put them to her, so it is best that they are kept with her if possible.

    I hope this information is useful. Let me know how you get on. Let me know if you have anymore questions.
    Kind regards
    Sara @ farmingfriends

  2. I think my gilt is pregnant she is a kune kune. She has been with the boar for abot 3 months. I worked out she is due in august. her vulva is swollen and her boobs have started to drop but yesterday when i went to see her she had like a goey substance on her vulva and her tail. I then checked my boar and he had it too on him on his stomach. So does this mean she is not pregnant if my boar is still trying to serve her i am so confused. please help. also how to i make a farrowing crate i dont have one i was just going to move the piglets then to her with a heat lamp an only putting them with her when they need a feed and just make sure im always there whe they are feeding is that ok?

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