Near Term Sow


CurlyT Near Term

Tuesday we sorted sows so that they are in cohorts based on how close they are to farrowing. This morning we were greeted with new piglets. There is a large wave of farrowings just cresting.
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This CurlyT who is in her last couple of weeks of pregnancy. I often get asked what sows look like when they’re ready to pig. She’s in one of the winter paddocks off of the South Field Shed bay five which is an open shelter.

The thing to notice in this photo is her teats are coned and that her back is flattening out. When she’s a few days away from farrowing she’ll start lactating – I’ll be able to get milk by pulling on a teat. Some super milkers like Petra, Anna and Blackie will actually drip milk in their last day. Soon she’ll start building a nest. Typically at the end of gestation they’ll stop eating as their body readies to give birth.

From the Mail Bag…

David wrote:
Soon to start a pastured pig farm. Any ideas on where or how to buy pregnant sows. I will be in MS. Been researching and you have the best site out there by far. I hope to learn a lot from your years of hard work.

If you were closer then you could get guaranteed bred gilts from us but Mississippi is a bit of a haul. You might want to try posting a message on this discussion group which I manage:

PasturedPork Yahoo Group

There may be some people close to you who could help you out with starting up with some pregnant gilts or sows. It also might be that someone reading my blog here is near to you and can help so watch this post for comments from people who have breeders available.

But lets backup a step… Perhaps you have already got this covered but if you have not had pigs before or not on pasture then I would suggest the first year that you raise up a group of four or so summer pigs. Get them as feeder weaners, raise them up over the easy warm months and sell the meat in the fall. This will let you get your feet wet.

Next raise a group of pigs over the winter. Keeping pigs in winter is a whole lot harder, perhaps five times harder, than the warm seasons. In your warmer climate this won’t be as bad but it will still be different than summer and worth gaining the full four seasons of experience.

Once you’ve got some infrastructure in place and some experience under your belt get a single bred sow or bred gilt in her last month of pregnancy in the spring (after the snows are gone if you’re in the north country.) This way she’ll be farrowing in the start of the easy season. Learning to farrow a pig is a whole new set of complications to master.

Your first sow will then be ready to re-breed in June for another batch of early fall piglets which is still a good time to farrow. Those piglets you can raise up over the winter and you’ll already have experience with that from the previous year.

If you have not already read it then check out the post about Keeping a Pig for Meat.

Take it slow and grow into it.

Outdoors: 29°F/15°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink? -Steven Wright

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to Near Term Sow

  1. Bill says:

    Meanwhile, it’s in the 70s here in southern Virginia.

    fwiw I think your advice to David is very good. We don’t breed pigs here. We buy just-weaned pigs in the spring and raise them on pasture till late fall, then slaughter them. This avoids not only having to overwinter them but also having to keep a boar and deal with farrowing.

    • The issue of keeping the boar is a very good point. The rule of thumb is that it takes six sows if grain feeding to justify the cost of housing and feeding a boar. If you don’t grain feed, e.g, pastured, then three sows justify the boar. At less than that then AI or a borrowed boar is probably a good choice. The boar and the sows need to pay for themselves in the piglets they produce. Local costs for feed vs local costs for piglets will find the actual balance point on keeping a boar and sows.

  2. Norra says:

    That is all good advice. We jumped in with a boar and a sow and did the whole breeding thing and lost piglets because we didn’t know what we were doing and lost pigs because we didn’t have good fencing and made a general mess of it. We backed off after a year of struggling with that and followed your advice which you have said be fore: go slow. The next spring we got grower pigs and had a better setup and this year we’re getting piglets again. One thing we figured out was that for us it wasn’t worth doing breeding. We didn’t need a dozen pigs a year. We needed two. Thanks Walter for all your great advice over the years. I wish we had found your site before we started with that sow and boar. We might have been saved a lot of heart ache and expense!

  3. Susan Lea says:

    That is such great advice! I understand the excitement about jumping in, but you are the voice of experience and that is priceless wisdom. You can’t buy that!

    We don’t ever plan to breed our own pigs; we’ve found a good source of weanlings, so we’ll let someone else worry about farrowing! :) But it’s interesting to peek in at your operation. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Amie says:

    Hi Walter,
    Love your site and have gleaned much info from it….we raise 2-3 pigs for our family/year.
    After reading this article I was wondering if sows allows other piglets from another sow to nurse from her?
    Just curious,
    Amie

    • Sows do co-nurse their piglets. Out in the field they tend to form cohorts of three to seven sows and the piglets from these cohorts run together, nurse together, sleep together. Very common. In the winter we mimic that with the winter paddocks as pictured above.

  5. James says:

    Mr. Jeffries,

    Thanks for all the great advice. I had heard that you might have a book being written soon? Do you have any other books you would recommend for a beginning pig farmer?

    Thanks,

    James

    • In progress but it will be some time. First I have a butcher shop to finish. I would recommend Dirk van Loon’s “Small Scale Pig Raising” which is an oldie but a goldie. It doesn’t really cover the pasture but most other aspects of the small pig farm. After that, Harris on the Pig, even older and a historical perspective.

  6. Leigh says:

    Hello,
    I have two Sow’s one is due to farrow in 10 days. The other sow I AI’d at the same time and then again on her next heat cycle. She keeps cycling but it’s not consistent, she’s starting to bag up too. Is it possible that she can be bred and cycle?

    Thanks,
    Leigh

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