How To Tell If a Pig Is About To Farrow

There are a number of signs that help you identify if a pig is about to farrow.

can u tell me how would i know when my pigs are ready to give birth as i got two girls that are pregnant when i got them i have no idea how long they have got left to be mothers thanks for any advise from claire

Hi Claire,
Thanks for visiting the farmingfriends website and leaving your question. What a great question it is.
The gestation period of a sow or gilt is 3 months 3 weeks and 3 days or approximately (112-115 days.) but if you don’t know when the sows were served this information is of little use. Have you got in touch with the previous owners and asked them when the pigs were served?
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.

I hope this information is useful. Let me know how you get on. What breed are your pigs? Let me know if you have anymore questions.
Kind regards
Sara @ farmingfriends

Do you have any tips to tell if a pig is farrowing?

I received this email from Claire,

thanks i got your e-mail which was very help full but if u could help me throw this as its my first time having pigs the person i got the 2 girls from dose not know when the boar got with the girls as he was running with them for mounths but today i got to squeeze one of my girls teats there was a drop of fluid from there but none of the other teats on her is this right or is it a sign thanks for any more info from claire

Hi Claire,

My two sows (Cagney and Lacy) have had two litters now so I am beginning to know the signs to look out for.

The drop of fluid could be a sign that she is nearing farrowing. I am sure that they are normally dry when I have squeezed them. The nest building is the best indicator of the onset of farrowing. Cagney carried straw arounnd in her mouth and pushed all the straw into a big heap when she had her first litter. Also if they lay down and won’t get up even when you have food around this could mean that they are about to farrow. This happened to me. cAgney had made her nest although I didn’t realise at the time and I put her food out and she didn’t get up which I thought was odd. As you can tell I was very in experienced the first time.

When they had their second litter Cagney was first and then when her piglets were suckling in the afternoon of the following day I am sure her grunting brought Lacy’s farrowing on. When they had their second litter I was getting up early to check on them. The day before they farrowed I got up at 4.30 am and then the day they farrowed I got up at 6.30am and Cagney had already had her litter but one was near her snout and was a bit cold. I had to bring him in and warm him up with calf milk and a warm in the bottom part of the aga which unbelieveably did the trick and I wouldn’t even know which piglet he was now as they are all healthy. So regular checking on the sows can help to save any piglets and I have been lucky and my sows have farrowed on their own but sometimes they struggle and need help.

When farrowing starts my sows managed to farrow ok on their own. It is important to check that the piglet can breathe and if necessary remove the mucus from it’s face. It’s amazing how quickly the piglets get up and start searching for the teats. You just need to be careful if the sows stand up that when they lay down they don’t lay on the piglets or stand on them. Hang a lamp away from the sows so the piglets can get warm and be safe from the sows but are close enough to go and have milk because the sooner they start to suckle the better. Sometimes sows can get aggressive towards the piglets especially when they are in pain and still farrowing. if you see this happening then remove the piglets and place them somewhere warm out of the sows way until she has finished farrowing.

I hope all my waffle is useful.
Feel free to ask any more questions, I’m only to happy to help – i think it’s great to share experiences. The first time my girls farrowed I had my pig book in the pig pen with me. My father in law said, “What’s this book doing in here!”

Kind regards

Sara from farmingfriends

I look forward to hearing how Claires sows get on.