In a Piggy Way


Gilt Near Term

This young lady is a gilt, a female pig who has not yet had a litter. She is very pregnant and close to the end of her gestation period. She’s full of piglets and the colloquial term is that she’s “in a piggy way“.

You’ll notice that the pregnancy indicator on the back end below her tail is pointed up. Her belly is swollen. Her teats are now bagging and her nipples are enlarged. Her ligaments are loosening and her back is starting to sway down. She will likely farrow, that is to say, give birth, within this coming week.

The piglet in the background is a weaner from another cohort who slipped the fence into the gestating sows paddocks. He’s doing fine there and not causing any trouble so I’m not wasting time chasing him. When I’m ready I’ll simply close the door of the sorting area and move him to weaning again.

Outdoors: 73°F/56°F Rain
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/67°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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26 Responses to In a Piggy Way

  1. Nance says:

    I love “outdoor” pigs. hogs. We seldom find them in southern Iowa/northern Mo anymore. Sometimes the Amish might have a pig or two. But not likely, most Ioway hogs are bred and brought up on concrete, in a hog barn.

  2. Chris says:

    After reading your post about the pregnancy indicator I went out to check my gilt who I thought should have been pregnant by now. Her brother, the boar, I figured would have done the deed as he’s always been chomping at the bit. Both pigs are healthy, over 1 year old and as far as my untrained eye can see are excellent specimens. I’ve thought about trying AI to prove if the boar can’t get the job done but I’m not really sure what the right answer is. Though we feed them very little on top of what they forage for naturally, I don’t see any point maintaining a mature pig if it can’t provide me with more of ’em. With that little bit of info could you suggest next steps for me? Thanks as always!

    • From what I have read the females tend to be more likely the problem than the males but I do not have scientific studies on hand to cite to back that up. Reproduction is a very complex thing. There are so many details that can go wrong which must go right to produce offspring. So much for generalizations.

      Specifics: You could try her with AI or another boar as you’ve thought of or try him with another female, preferably several. Is there anyone in your area who’s looking for a boar to breed their proven sows? Is there someone in the area with a proven boar? If I felt their genes were worth trying to maintain that is how I would go about it. Otherwise I would eat them and start with a new set in the late winter with the goal of farrowing spring of 2013.

      Good luck!

      • Bonnie Litts says:

        Can you breed brother and sister together thought that was a no no.Brand new at this we think we have one that’s in a piggy way but she’s not getting a belly at all

        • Yes, you can inbreed. Unless you have bad genes hidden in your pigs it won’t be an issue. In general I cull 95% of females and 99.5% of males to meat. The same rule applies to all pigs no matter who their parents. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest.

          With a young gilt and boar it may be a small litter in which case she won’t show strongly.

  3. Brendan says:

    Mr. Jeffries,
    Greetings from northern Idaho. Looks like I didn’t send my boar to the butcher quite soon enough, and he done got a couple of my gilts in a family way. This is a big surprise for me, so I’m kinda scrambling. I was wondering if you could guesstimate from this picture how far along Erma might be. I won’t hold you to nothing… I just need a second pair of eyes on this. Your posts here have been a huge help in the initial diagnosis…
    Also, do you recommend that I keep the two sows-to-be (and their respective litters) separate from one another? Erma’s a real gentle sweetheart, but her sister can be a real jerk sometimes.
    I appreciate any help you can offer.

    • She’s looking fine and I would guess about two to three weeks out. She has bagged up but not yet coned. I can’t see her vulva. When it swells up and she starts to next you’ll likely have piglets in the next few days. A gilt might let down milk a day or so before. Older sows more so.

      If they have plenty of space they may be fine in the same field. They naturally seek out privacy, build a nest and defend it. However if they are feeling cold, threatened or less experienced then they may be more likely to allow other sows to lay with them or not go out to their own space. I would observe and if her sister is crowding her as she nests then I would separate the sister to another space.

      Good luck with the piglets!

  4. Craig says:

    It’s like a turkey button! Awesome post, thanks so much.

  5. Chris says:

    I have recently Bought a pig from the local sale barn. She weighs Approx 350 lbs. Someone there told me she was pregnant. However i am not sure. Is there any way to tell if she is a gilt or a sow. Her Indicator seems to be pointing straight out. Any advice would greatly be appreciated. Thanks

    • Depending on her state of pregnancy, age, previous pregnancy and breed there is the indicator, loss of heat, changes in belly shape, loss of hip line, flattening of back, development of the teat line, udder engorgement, nipple development and vulva swelling in roughly that order. There are electronic devices for detecting the amniotic fluid called pregnancy detectors and ultrasounds as well.

  6. dani sue buelow says:

    Hi. first off thank u for every post here..I’ve learned so much from your page. My pig is definitely pregnant ..starting to bag up in the back udders and she’s hanging lower in her belly. I’ve read that a pregnant pig needs to be dewormed two weeks before they have their babies but i don’t have a clue when she’s due..any adv
    We have a dairy farm and this is our fst timee with pigs so really any knowledge i have to compare with is cows

  7. Leah Hilton says:

    Hi, I think my female pig is pregnant, and if so, it would be with her brother. They are Berkshire’s, and my husband is worried that b/c they are siblings, there will be problems with the offspring…is that true? Also, we have them in a large enclosure, and I’m wondering when I will have to separate them, so that she and her piglets won’t be bothered by the male…??? Thanks for all your help! Your site is a wealth of information for those of us who don’t have the experience you do… :)

    • There is a very good chance the piglets will be fine. If both siblings carry a negative recessive trait then there is a chance of some of the piglets having an issue (e.g., cleft plate, etc) so simply eat those. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest.

      Our boars are with piglets and we have no problem. This is on large pastures where our sows go out to the margins to build and defend a nest. If you have them in a pen you might want to separate him from her a week or so prior to farrowing simply because the space is tighte. Let them share a strong fence line for company.

  8. nichole says:

    thank you SO much for posting this information AND the pictures of the pregnancy indicators! that means that my pigs are BOTH doing what they’re supposed to be! i KNEW my gilt was pregnant, but my husband wanted to KNOW she was pregnant, if you can follow that. now, i can tell him HOW i know! to be fair, i had no idea that you could tell just by looking at a gilt’s posterior, i just happened to have seen them breeding and know what any lady looks like when she’s pregnant, having been there myself. i tell you that girl is GLOWING!!!
    thanks again!

  9. melinda Otter says:

    I babysat a male pig when I have a female potbelly myself. In that time he did her on February 14th two times. My female was in hheat 2 days before this. Is she pregnent? She is 2 years old and her indicator is down.

    • melinda Otter says:

      I don’t know what to look for and don’t know how to send pics. Im not sure if she went into heat yet again. Her belly is big already how do you tell? She is in house pet. Will her attitude change? What sighs can I look for? I just can’t tell.

      • She should develop an udder line as her bag starts to fill late in pregnancy. Then she should start nesting behavior and may become somewhat aggressive in defending her chosen nesting spot. The day prior to farrowing she may start lactating.

    • The odds are good that she is now pregnant if he was fertile – e.g., not castrated.[1, 2] From what I have heard the low slung short bodied pigs like Pot Bellied Pigs do not show the pregnancy indicator as well as the longer bodied farm pigs due to the difference in anatomy.

  10. Sarah Poyser says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have a p1 large white purebred sow. She is due to farrow in 9 days time.
    Yesterday I checked her nipples and could see milk in the eyes of her nipples.
    She had milk two days before she farrowed her first litter of 10.
    I am concerned about her having them too early and aborting.
    Her vagina is swelling and red, I don’t think as swollen as it will get just before farrowing?
    Do you have sows that have milk a good week before farrowing?
    Thanks
    Sarah

    • She may farrow a little early. P1’s generally don’t show milk until late, just before farrowing. As they get older and more litters under their belt they tend to show milk earlier. I am not concerned about aborting. She is within the range of a healthy litter. I have seen fine litters 114 days plus or minus 14 days. I have had old sows, P10 and above, who drip milk a week before and I can strip milk two weeks ahead. Realize when I say drip I mean they look like a leaky faucet with milk literally dripping out of them as they walk along. They tend to bag up very large and long ahead. These are some of the best sows, producing huge amounts of milk to feed large numbers of piglets that grow great.

  11. Heidi Shortis says:

    We have two sows that are 3 years old and a boar who is about 4. We’ve had four successful litters and they are really great tempered pigs. We are hoping for more litters, but one sow has been with the boar since December and still no piglets. Her pregnancy indicator seems like it’s pointing “up” to me…….
    Is it possible that the sows and boars are too large to breed? Should I not worry since we’ve had successful litters? When the other sow goes into heat, the boar pokes and prods at the “maybe bred” sow and she yells at him. Thanks for any insight! Love your blog and advice!

    • I have had sows that were fertile as old as nine years. Typically I cull them much earlier than that simply to advance our genetics. At three years of age I would expect them to be in their prime. There are a number of diseases and dietary issues that can cause problems as well as over condition (fat). Do you vaccinate them against reproductive diseases with something like FarrowSureGold B? Are they getting complete minerals in their diet?

      • Heidi Shortis says:

        We don’t vaccinate, but their heats have been on target. Their feed is a good mixture and the same feed we’ve used with the other litters they’ve had.
        My husband thinks the boar can’t “reach”?

  12. Sharon says:

    I have gilt I AI’d in September. Was sure she was in a piggy way. Her pregnancy indicator was pointed up. Her belly was getting bigger. She has even started to get a little mamory glad development. She is now at day 95 and has a swollen vulva. She never went back into heat after being bread. What could be happening?

    • 95 days is early but we have some sows that do farrow up to two weeks early just fine. My guess is she is preparing to farrow. A gilt may well not develop very large teats with this first pregnancy. Not unusual.

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