Signs Of A Farrowing Sow Or Gilt

The gestation period of a sow or gilt is 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days or approximately (112-115 days.) However sometimes the date of serving the pig is not known and even when a boar has run with your female pigs it can sometimes be hard to tell if they are pregnant.

Obviously a sow and gilt will put on weight as the piglets grow inside although this alone is difficult to help you tell if a pig is pregnant as the animals can put on weight for other reasons. Also if the litter is only small then the sow or gilt will not put on alot of weight.

It is also important to separate your sows or gilts before they farrow and to worm them about 7 days before farrowing.

When farrowing is imminent there are a number of signs to look out for.

  • 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.The farrowing process is an amazing sight to see. If you have witnessed your sow or gilt farrowing then please leave a comment.
  • A useful book for a new pig keeper and breeder is the book Starting With Pigs by Andy Case or the The Virgin Pig Keeper by David Brown.

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    4 thoughts on “Signs Of A Farrowing Sow Or Gilt”

    1. hi i have just gotten a girl and a boy pig. now here tummy looks to be dropping what are the signs for pregencey in pigs and what do i have to look out for

    2. I have 2 pedigree sows that I bought in early November and were told they were ‘in pig’, they were advertised in mid October, I am looking for all the signs but am seeing nothing, they have both had 2 litters before.

      On another topic, why does a sow need worming 2 weeks before farrowing?


    3. Hi Katie,
      Welcome to the farmingfriends forum. I do hope that your sow is pregnant.
      If she lets you feel her tummy then sometimes at this late stage you can feel the piglets moving about.
      Her teats should fill with milk and so will look big, full and balloon like.
      Make sure that she has lots of straw and as soon as she starts to move the strae into a big pile then you know that farrowing will happen shortly after.
      Wacth out for the restlessness and heavy breathing. Here is the video of one of my sows breathing heavily just minutes before farrowing.
      Good luck with the farrowing. Let me know if you have anymore questions.
      Kind regards
      Sara @ farmingfriends

    4. MY sow only has 9 days left until she’s supposed to farrow. WE did an ultrasoudn on her, and one time it showed pregnant, one time it didn’t. And so i’m hoping she is. She’s probably 700-800lbs… so it’s really hard to tell if she’s gettin bigger! Her stomach looks like there’s some lil ones in there, but her stomach hasn’t dropped yet.
      So … any advice?

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