Hi there. We bought a new house in May and unexpectedly, it came with 2 pigs - a boar and a sow, both big and old (we guess). The previous owner of the house told us the sow was pregnant. Both pigs were kept in the same field and we knew they had not really been looked after that well because the boar kept breaking out of the field to find food and the sow was quite skinny. We left the pigs together but found problems when feeding them. The boar would kick and bite the sow and get most of the food. So they went to a neighbours farm for a couple of months where they were kept in seperate pens next to each other. The sow got fatter and the boar became more mellow. Throughout this period, there were no signs of either of the animals being on heat or mating - and no obvious signs of pregnancy either !! The pigs came back to our place and have been kept seperately although the last few days, both pigs have broken out of their pens to be near to each other...!!! We put them together yesterday and there was lots of mating but seperated them again last night because of the food issue. After another breakout last night, they have been together today and more mating has taken place (about 3 times...). And it is now past the 3 month, 3 week, 3 day period when the sow would possibly have given birth to any piglets !!! So..... Not sure if she was ever pregnant in the first place but am puzzled that neither of the pigs has shown any signs of wanting to mate until now. Anyway, I guess i was hoping somebody might be able to shed some light on this issue and also advise what to do now. Should they be left together now until the sow farrows (if she gets pregnant this time) or is it better to keep them apart so the sow gets all the food she needs? If it's better to keep them seperate, how long would it be sensible to have them together so we can be sure no more breakouts will occur ?? (it's a lot of work to repair the fences...). I'd appreciate any advice because we are completely new to this and fumbling around trying to do our best for the animals whilst also trying to ensure they can pay back some of the vast sums of money they have cost us so far in pig nuts and new fencing !!! Thanks !!!!
Pregnant sow but no piglets(10 posts)
Welcome to the farmingfriends forum. Wow a new house with 2 pigs that must have been unexpected!
I am not an expert in pigs as I have only kept pigs myself for the last 2 years. Possibly your pigs have not shown signs of mating before now because they were not well enough and not in good enough condition. You said the sow was under weight which may have stopped her coming into cycle (estrus). Now that she has put on weight and is in better condition she may now have returned to good health and be able to come into cycle thus the mating! This may be the case because placing gilts or sows on full feed for 7-14 days prior to breeding helps to increase the ovulation rate. http://farmingfriends.com/breeding-gilts/
Estrus occurs roughly every 21 days (until they are bred) and lasts for about 2-3 days. So in three weeks time if your sow comes back into cycle then you know that she is not pregnant but if she doesn't come back into cycle then hopefully she will be pregnant.
Is it possible for you to just separate the sow and boar when they are feeding? Can they be trained to have separate feed areas?
When I had my two sows, Cagney and Lacy, who were sisters. Lacy was more dominant over Cagney at feeding times so I made sure that I placed the food in a variety of places and generally Cagney would move from food pile to food pile as Lacy came to try to take her food. I also used to make sure that the food piles were not just in a row I had some food piles behind others so that Cagney could feed behind Lacy and still see what Lacy was doing and be able to move out of the way if need be. Hope this makes sense.
There is a pecking order with pigs just like with other animals and the boar is at the top. When we hired Dennis the boar at breeding time. He would then be the boss and it was interesting to see that Lacy was not as agressive with Cagney when Dennis was around!
I have read that you can separate the pigs (not sure if referring to sow and boar or sow and sow) about two weeks before farrowing. I think if you can get over the agression at feedin time then they may be able to stay together until closer to farrowing but as I say I don't have experience of keeping a boar all the time with my gilts/sows.
If you decide to separate them I would keep them together for at least the next 3 weeks so that she goes through another cycle if she is not pregnant or even 6 weeks and then she would have gone through 2 cycles but this depends on the food issue.
Are they kept indoors or outdoors? Do they have stimulus eg straw to play with, and other toys and a wallowing pool if outside and areas to hide/sleep and run about?
What breed are your pigs and have you named them?
I look forward to hearing more about your pigs.
Sara @ farmingfriends
Hi Sara. Thanks for the reply !!
I'll answer your questions first. Our boar is a saddleback called marmite and we're not sure what the sow is. She is a bit scruffy looking and is vaguely spotty so got called Spotty !!! Both the pigs have pens/sheds with straw for bedding and the run of a paddock and we've put farrowing rails into their main shed so we were all ready for the piglets that never arrived !!!
When we got the house, the pigs shared a field and a shed. We used to chuck their food over the fence as spread out as we could manage but we found that they rooted around and made a right mess so we made some food troughs for them. This was ok except the troughs could end up anywhere in the field and my husband did not like having to find them and relocate them whilst trying to fend off two slobbering aggressive pigs !!! So we fixed the troughs to the fence posts next to each other. This did not really work either because marmite was too close to spotty and her food and it was too easy for him to boot her out of the trough !!! If/when they go back into this area we might have to make a fence or divider of some sort to put between the troughs so once the pigs have chosen a trough, it's too much of a round trip to get to the other one !!!!
Where they are now, there are no troughs (and they have made an unholy mess again but in a small area) and we have been using your method of making various piles of food so they can just move between them. And so far, there has been no biting or kicking. I think we will leave the pigs together for now - at least untitl the next cycle passes so (as you advise) we can make an educated guess as to whether spotty is pregnant or not. Then I think we'll just see what happens. I want to make sure spotty gets all the food she needs to support her litter so if we see any bullying from marmite, we will have to seperate them again (just like kids....) !!!
Anyway, thanks again for your advice. I'll let you know how we get on with this round of pregnancy !!
Great to hear about Marmite and Spotty. Sounds like you have spent alot of time and effort making the pigs comfortable.
I hope that Spotty does get pregnant. it is a joy to watch the piglets being born.
I look forward to more updates.
If you have any photos of the pigs to share then I can send you my email address so you can send them and I can upload them.
sara @ farmingfriends
yep - we have some photos. I took quite a few to put on facebook so our friends back home could see what we have let ourselves in for. We have one very special picture of marmite's crown jewels.... couldn't quite get over the size of them !!! I'll send it, but completely understand if it's not suitable to put on your website !!
Similar experience with my Tamworth boar - he recently gored his mate over the feeding trough. Problem solved [I hope] since buying another 1 meter trough and putting it 10 feet or so away from his.
He really is not a grumpy old b-----, just does not like to have people too close to him whislt at the grub - he shakes his head and if somebody happened to be in the way - bingo - call the vet for the stitches. He also did it to one of his 12 week old grandchildren - I did then seperate them].
I blame myself - he is perfect and i am far from it - particularly infarming knowledge.
Anyway my Tam sow Tabatha is happily pregnant so it can not have upset her too much.
Welcome to the farmingfriends forum. I had two saddleback sows who were sisters and Lacy was always dominant over Cagney when it came to feeding time. Lacy could really try to bite Cagney. When the boar, Dennis, visited he became top pig and Lacy didn't like it when she got some of her own treatment! Thank fully they were all very friendly with me, They didn't bite the hand that fed them!!!
Good to hear your Tamworth is pregnant. What sort of temperament do tamworths generally have. the Saddleback are very good natured and good around children aswell.
I am currently writing a pig breeding eBook after all my experiences of pig breeding in the last few years which should be on sale soon!
sara @ farmingfriends
Gillian sent me some photos of here pigs Marmite and Spotty and I have now edit them and upload them.
This is Gillian's email,
Attached are a couple of pics of our pigs.
Since I last wrote, Spotty has gone through another cycle and there was no action so fingers crossed she is pregnant this time !! She is also looking much fatter than in these pictures which were taken shortly after we bought the house and her tail now looks like it should for a pig about to farrow - all good news.
As we expect her to be pregnant, we have no real need to keep Marmite. He is a nice boy, but destructive and expensive to keep. We always planned to put him in the freezer when Spotty got pregnant but I read in Hugh FW's book that its not nice to leave a pig on their own when they have had a companion for so long. Have you ever done this or do you have any thoughts ...??
If Spotty is pregnant this time, she should be giving birth at the end of December so will let you know how it all goes !!
Thanks Gillian for sending these photos, your pigs are lovely looking and good luck with the farrowing, it is a joy to watch. I agree with Hugh that it is better to have pigs kept in pairs as they are very social creatures. I had a runt of the litter called Splays,
Here is Splays when he was just a week old.
who was bought as a weaner and he was bought on his own as a companion for another runt and when he was put in the landrover, he was very upset that he had been separated from the rest, it made me realise that you need to keep more than one pig at a time as they get lonely.
I am really missing keeping pigs and particularly missing Cagney and Lacy.
Here is Lacy and Cagney.
Had a visit today from someone who bought some of the last lot of weaners and have now become friends. they brought us some sausages and chops from the boars that they fattened up.
Sara @ farmingfriends
Hello again. Well, we had piglets from our sow on Satyrday but unfortunately, having made her nest in the shed, she went off and delivered the piglets elsewhere in the field. She gave birth to 10 piglets and only 5 were alive when we found them all. It was very sad. But even worse, the sow seemed to be sick or just not intersted in being a mother and seemed very stressed when we shut her in the shed with her new piglets. We were worried she would roll on them but eventually left them to it at 1am when all the piglets seemed to be clamped on to a teat. But in the morning, 2 of the piglets had got separated and were lying on their own. They had caught pneumonia and died later that day. So we are left with 3 piglets from a litter of 10 which seems a very poor result !! And the sow continued to get worse. We wondered if she had farrowing fever. She was not off her food but seemed very lethargic and stressed by the piglets although she did start to offer them her teats which she didn't at birth. She has had a shot of antibiotic which I hope will help. And she was not all all bothered when we came in to take her piglets away or when we milked her to try and encourage her milk to come in. I thought this was odd after all i have read says sows will be very agressive to anyone that interferes with her piglets !!! Anyway, after a very hard 36 hours of taking the piglets out to her every 2 hours and then giving them a top up feed because they didn't seem to get anything from their mum, we have decided that we would be better to hand rear them. So we have 3 piglets in a big cardboard box in our laundry !! We have been feeding them with a bottle of mixture made with egg, cows milk, glucose and sunflower oil (we did not have cod liver oil to hand...) and they seem to be doing OK. They are making lots of noise, often put up a great fight when we take them out of the box and seem to be happy enough so I hope this continues. Has anyone any advice for hand rearing piglets...?? It seems to be a very rare thing that has to be done so there is not much info available. Any tips would be very gratefully received !! Thanks, Gillian.
I am so sorry to hear that of the 10 piglets only 3 have survived. It is heart breaking and I'm sorry to hear that the sow is not feeling herself. I hope that she will be ok. Does she have mastitis? My sow, Cagney got mastitis only a day or so into having her fourth litter. We gave her antibiotics and she went on to rear her piglets.
I have been asked a few times recently about hand rearing and this has been my response:
Bottle feeding can take place every four hours, although in the first 24 hours they will do better if fed every two to three hours. Piglets can be fed sow milk powder, sow’s milk or baby milk.
Make sure the milk is at blood temperature and start with about 10-20ml and then build up to 75-100ml by which time you will only be feeding the piglets 3 or 4 times a day.
Try to get the piglets to drink from a bowl as soon as possible so that they are less less reliant on you. I have managed to do this but it did take them a week - two weeks before they started drinking from the bowl but I have successfully hand reared piglets who have gone on to do well.
I recently hand reared a few piglets as the sows only had 14 teats and each had at least 16 piglets. 3 or 4 piglets from 2/3 weeks of age very quickly learnt to run out of the barn where they were with the sow and other piglets and into another room in the barn where they were given warm milk in a tray on the floor.
When the piglets are about 7/8lbs try to move the piglets onto solid milk feed (creep feed) as this will avoid overfeeding and the possibility of the piglet getting the scouring illness. I would introduce the creep feed a little at a time as a sudden change in a pigs diet can lead to scours.
Once the piglets are on dry food they will then need fresh water although I have been
recommended to have water available for hand reared piglets at all time which is advice I have always followed.
I would also give the piglets a piece of turf with grass and soil and the piglet will root through this and get iron that will help prevent scours from occurring.
Let me know how you get on with your piglets.
Sara @ farmingfriends
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