A Winter’s Farrow


Sunflower and Bee from a Warmer Time

Tom asked on the FAQ:
I currently have a boar 9 months and two gilts. One 8 months and one 7 months. All in the same pen. By using your pregnancy indicator I believe she is pregnant. I am wondering if I need to separate her before farrowing and also if I need to be there to help her. Also if I need to keep the boar and other gilt away from the piglets if they would harm them or not. Maybe you could point me in the direction of proper weaning as well. Very useful website and highly appreciated!

If the gilt is bred then she should gestate of about 114 days which is about three months and three weeks plus or minus a week typically. Around two weeks prior to her due date or when she starts to bag I would suggest having a separate space for her.

Out in pasture in the warm months the gestating pigs find a space off separate from the herd, build a nest and defend it to keep other pigs away from it. In colder months this is not easy for them to do so you can duplicate this by giving her a nursery space separate from the other pigs. You can make it so they have a common fence wall so they still can see, hear and smell each other but this way she has her own space.

After the piglets are born on pasture the sow tends to keep separate from the herd for four to ten days before joining up with one or more other sows to form larger cohorts.

You can simulate this by maintaining the separation from the boar and other gilt during this time. Since it is the cold season I would recommend extending this separation to four to six weeks, up to weaning. This is a bit climate dependent. The colder it is, the longer the privacy period that they’ll need to prevent crushing when piglets are caught between larger animals. The problem is the other gilt and boar are not necessarily synchronized to the right instincts to respond to the sounds or feeling of a struggling piglet. A good mother should not crush piglets.

Normally on pasture the sow will move her nest a couple of days after farrowing to get away from the smell of birthing which attracts predators and scavengers as well as to get away from bacterial buildup which causes greasy pig and other illness.

If you’re able to let her move into a new stall after four days that is great. If not then simulate nest moving by adding dry wood shavings. Cleaning the bedding out is good if it is wet but even better is building up a deep bedding pack because that composts creating heat coming up to their bellies from below. They key is keeping the top dry. Don’t risk upsetting the sow and getting hurt by cleaning out the stall if she says no. Better to be prudent and have patience.

Do not add hay or straw to her nest yourself. You can put these in a place, such as a rick, away from the nest where the sow can go and get them to carry back to the nest humans should not put the fibrous bedding in the nest themselves. The reason is you are not good at chewing the grasses up into little pieces and packing them down tightly with your sharp pointy hooves, uh, well, you lack hooves and that’s the problem. The sow has the jaws, the hooves and the instincts hopefully to do good nest building.

Outdoors: 19°F/-4°F Sunny
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Daily Spark: When observing politics remember that accidents are few and far between. Most involve careful planning.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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2 Responses to A Winter’s Farrow

  1. Tina says:

    I am worried that the smaller newborn piglets will get crushed by the bigger piglets because they all lay on each other. Should this be a concern?

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