What To Do With A Pregnant Sow Or Gilt That Is Close To Farrowing

I am often asked what to do with a pregnant sow or gilt just before they farrow.

Dear Sara,

My name is sammy and I am 17 years old. I bought a pig for market as I was going to show and sell her in the local county fair. I found out she is pregnant and is really close to farrowing. It turned out to be just like Claire’s story in the fact that I had to have bought her pregnant and I have no idea the exact date of her farrowing. I have no experience with sows and I saw the help you gave Claire. Your suggestions were very helpful as well but I had a few questions myself. What do I need to do to get her ready? We have a farrowing crate but I’m not even sure how exactly its supposed to work… Right now she is in a cement-floored pen with a small wood barn attached to the end that she sleeps in. I would really appreciate any tips and comments you have.

Thanks again,
Sammy Odman

Hi Sammy,
Welcome to the farmingfriends.

Here are some useful posts I have written on my website.


When preparing for farrowing you need to;

* Separate the pigs if you have pigs together about two weeks before farrowing.
* Give a dose of wormer to the gilt or sow about a week before farrowing.
* Disinfect the farrowing area and give the gilt or sow straw and other nesting materials such as straw so that she can build a nest.
* Wash the gilt or sows teats and tummy area.

Set up an area for the piglets slightly away from the gilt or sow, with straw and a pig lamp.

My farrowing crates have metal bars at the side and top and then a wooden floor which I cover genereously in straw. The back end of the crate has a metal door that pulls out so that the pig can walk in and then the door goes back on. I place straw on the floor of the crate and around the crate and then add square bales to make sure the piglets are confined to the area near the crate when farrowing takes place. I hang a heat lamp in the strawed area slightly away from the crate so that the piglets can move away from the soew when they are not feeding. Your concrete floor wants to be covered with straw so the piglets don’t get cold under foot but make sure the straw doesn’t get too deep that the piglets will roll too close to the sow as this can lead to being laid on. Also make sure you have a bale at the back of the crate where you can sit and see the piglets being born and can help them if they need help getting rid of the mucus they have on them.

You will also need to watch out for the gilt/sow becoming aggressive during farrowing. If she looks like she will turn on the piglets which they can still do in a crate then you can separate the piglets as they a born from the sow. I have done this by putting straw into a big plastic container and then placing this under the heat lamp and then when the piglets are born I pop them into the box. Hopefully you won’t need to do this but if you do make sure that the sides are tall enough so that the piglets aren’t able to climb out as let me tell you they are sure quick on their feet after they are born and are constantly searching for the sows teats!

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.

Let me know if you have anymore questions and good luck I hope the farrowing goes well. It is an amazing sight to see. The piglets are so small and yet very quickly, within seconds of being born know that they want to suck and actually head towards the teats!

Kind regards
sara @ farmingfriends

Any advice you have about preparing a sow or gilt for farrowing please let me know.
A useful book for a new pig keeper and breeder is the book Starting With Pigs by Andy Case.

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2 thoughts on “What To Do With A Pregnant Sow Or Gilt That Is Close To Farrowing”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    Welcome to farmingfriends and thanks for your question. Give her sow breeder nuts as well and make sure she has plenty of water they need more water when eating dry food.
    Also lots of greens is a good idea. Particualrly cabbage and broccoli as they helps with milk production. Increase her feed by 2-3lbs a day a few days before farrowing. What breed is your sow? Good luck with the farrowing. it is a joy to watch and the piglets are amazing as soon as they are born they are trying to suckle.
    Let me know how she gets on.
    Kind regards
    Sara @ farmingfriends

  2. Dear Sara
    I have a pregnant sow That is due to have little ones this month she just wants to eat corn. I know she needs more of a diet then this what would you recommend for better source of vitamins and minerals? This is my first time with a pregnant sow.

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