Pregnancy Indicator

Built in Pregnancy Indicator

One of the questions I get a lot is how to tell if a pig is pregnant. Well, first, is it female? You think I jest but I had a government official who was here once looking at our big boar Archimedes and said, “My what a big sow!” Yes, well… she was a little sheltered, perhaps – The Department of Agriculture officials need to get out more.

So, once you’ve made sure it is female, how do you tell if your pig is pregnant? Well the first thing I do is look at the pregnancy indicator built into the back end of every female pig.

No, this is not piggy porn. What you’re looking at in the photo above is the clitoral hood of a gilt, that is to say a female pig who has not yet had a litter. This gilt’s pregnancy indicator is pointing up. Thus she is pregnant.

In fact, in her case she is very pregnant and nearing the end of her gestation term which is about 114 days (three months, three weeks, three days or so). If you look under her belly you can see that her breasts, her udder and teats, are beginning to fill out and cone up. She will farrow, that is to say, deliver her littler of piglets this coming week out in our south pastures.

In a non-pregnant gilt or sow the tip of the hood would be pointing downward or straight out, the latter the tendency in older sows. This effect is the first thing we see when a pig becomes pregnant. Later there are other signs as she progresses through her gestation.

It is important to know the lady in question before evaluating her pregnancy status since you’ll want to know what she normally looks like. Gilts tend to have downward pointing clitoral hoods since they have not yet had a litter of piglets. As they have litters there is some stretching of the feminine tissues back there which will cause gradual changes and loosening such that by the time she has had eight or ten litters her hood may well be level when she is not pregnant. Not to worry and don’t mention it to her. She’s still beautiful, right? It’s just a sign of her great fecundity – appreciate her but take it into account when evaluating her pregnancy status.

FAQ: Walter when does the “visual” sign of pregnancy that you mention on the website show for a pregnant gilt?

It is going to depend on the gilt, her condition and how many embryos are implanting and thus how much she starts to grow in the uterus. I spot them as early as a few weeks. But, this requires knowing quite intimately the normal anatomy of the ladies since it is not an absolute but rather a change that you’re looking for.

It was an old farmer by the name of Archie who first alerted me to the “pointy thing” as he put it. He didn’t know why but had observed over his 30 years of pig raising that it told him a lady was in that piggy way as he put it. I add about another decade of observation to confirm his note.

Through reasoning and then dissection for confirmation what I have found is that the effect is caused by:

  1. Lady becomes pregnant – how is a discussion for another time if you are not familiar with these dynamics;
  2. Uterus begins to enlarge as the walls thicken and fills with fluid and a lot of developing but tiny fetuses;
  3. Uterus sags down in belly hanging from connective tissue and pulls downward on vagina;
  4. Vagina pulls down on external genitalia (e.g., vulva) pulling inward the entrance to the vagina just a little;
  5. Clitoral hood is beyond the fulcrum at the front point of the mons pubis so as the point of the clitoral hood is pulled upward – simple leverage; and finally
  6. Farmer Walter walks by and looks at her vulva and thinks to himself, “ah, good” giving her a scratch behind the ears.

Pregnancy confirmed.

As the lady nears her farrowing time her vulva will swell as the tissue prepares to pass piglets. This typically causes the clitoral hood to then point back down right before birthing. By this time her bag should be fully developed and she may well be producing milk.

Sows do change over time as they have litters and get stretched out and there are individual differences. This is more of a relative indicator than absolute. Know your pig parts.

There are all sorts of expensive high-tech gadgets you can buy which do ultra-sound and the like to detect pregnancy. In my experience with around a thousand pig pregnancies I have found this method to be a highly accurate at detecting pregnancy in pigs. Keep It Simple. I’ve never had one of my pig pregnancy indicators break down and they don’t require electricity. They’re also inexpensive – they come built in with each female pig. Sorry but male pigs do not have pregnancy indicators. If you’re not sure of the difference between males and females then please check this post and this post about essential differences. The first of that pair also shows an example of a non-pregnant gilt for comparison with the pregnant gilt’s photo at the top.

Update: Some subsequent thoughts based on decades of using this with hundreds of sows as well as talking with other people who it worked for or didn’t work for… The clitoralhood works very well for me but as a funny side thought I may have inadvertently selected for sows that show their pregnancy status this way since I’ve been using this method for decades – Selective pressure creating a little bit of unintended evolution here on our farm, perhaps. On the other hand, all sows I have bought in over the years have clearly shown this too – an argument against selective pressure causing this. Reading it is also a skill. Lastly, at the end of pregnancy as the sow approaches farrowing the tip points back down as the vulva loosens and swells. That could also cause confusion. Studying the vulvas of a lot of ladies – purely educational…

This method, unlike the ultra-expensive ultra-sound imaging machinery, does not tell you how many piglets are there but I would not suggest counting your piglets before they’re weaned. By then they’ll be easy to count and if you have a lot you can use this method.

Note that this does not work the same way in humans due to structural and postural difference between sows and women. Fortunately in pig society it is considered perfectly polite to investigate someone’s butt. However, I would very much suggest suggest that you don’t go walking down the street looking at ladies of non-swine species like this as you might get in trouble.

See In a Piggy Way for another picture of a pregnant gilt a little further along.

Please Note:

I do not do pregnancy diagnostics over email so please don’t send photos of your vulva. The pregnancy diagnostic is really something where you need to know the lady in question before being able to consider if her private piggy parts indicate pregnant or open. As explained, this changes with age. It also varies with breed. It can also give a false indication if she just ate a lot and is feeling rather full – never caller her fat, just fine. The best thing to do is watch for change in your gilt or sow and get to know her normal indicator positions. Then observe the change after mating.

Outdoors: 63°F/58°F Stormy, 11″ Rain, high winds, no damage, ponds full
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/67°F

Daily Spark: Be prepared. It’s a way of life. The alternative is extinction. Either way evolution wins.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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264 Responses to Pregnancy Indicator

  1. keri says:

    I found your information very helpful and thorough. I still have one concern that I am unable to find any information on the web about. My 10 year old son has a female pot belly pig. the other day the neighbors Yorkshire pig got out and was seen covering his pot belly. I know that he got her the question at this time is did it take. The question I have for you is if it did take, is the pot belly female in danger during the pregnancy or delivery do to the size of the boar that would have impregnated her.

  2. Vera Morgan says:

    Hello every one i want to use this forum to thank you for bringing joy into my marriage , i have been trying to get pregnant after my miscarriage 6 years ago , but to no avail until i contacted Dr -deleted-name-, of -deleted-name- and Dr -deleted-name- made a cleanse and pregnancy spell for me , thanks to Dr -deleted-name- am a proud mother of my baby boy and am expecting another baby very soon , you can contact Dr -deleted-name- on email (-deleted-email-) or call -deleted-phone-number- for all your spiritual and family issues

    • Ooookay… That is the first time I’ve been credited with remotely assisting in a pregnancy. Hope there is no paternity test to come! It was spam, although well targeted to the article I must say. I don’t think that the pregnancy indicator works on human women though so perhaps Vera is a pig. I guess I’ll close by saying “Congratulations, Vera, on your coming bundles of joy!”

  3. Kyle says:

    Hi I’m 16 and was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. I live in Manitoba Canada and just started pigs last year. I’m wondering, will pigs breed in cold weather?
    Like I’d like to have a batch of piglets in late June. So if I let the boar in the pen with the gilt around the 1st of March when the weather varies between -10 and -30 would the boar service the gilt or would it be an issue due to the cold weather?

    Would A.I be a better option for this kind of weather?

    If you guys could send me an email back that would be awesome! Thanks!

  4. I seperated my pigs since when they were young and after six months i join them togethe, i tried to see when they are crossing each other, but i did not see. I want to know whether the male will cross the female pigs?

    • By ‘crossing’ I think you mean breeding which is to say mating, correct? Yes, I would expect them to breed. I find that by four or five months they have sex play but generally do not actually become pregnant until eight months typically with the occasional Lolita who becomes pregnant as early as six months. Males and females will breed, even if related. There is no incest taboo in pig culture.

  5. I want to be part with you so that i will be receiving advice from you when the need arise, i also want to be part of you on facebook. Thanks.

  6. Amber says:

    My sow just gave birth on November 2nd….for she is a pig I rescued from my neighbors (along with the boar), I am new to this whole pig thing. How long after a pig gives birth will she go into heat again? I’m trying to keep them separated so she doesn’t breed again so soon. Any info will help. Thanks!

    • Normally it is about seven days after they wean however some sows will heat within ten days of farrowing. Once she starts heating again it is normally a 21 day cycle. Keep them separate if you don’t want her rebreeding.

  7. Loretta Gibbs says:

    How soon after a gilt births her first litter (which were all dead) is it ok to slaughter and is her meat ok?

  8. Gale says:

    Walter we have had a crazy situation. We had a car accident on our property. We breed mini pigs. The car ended up in our pregnant pigs pen. She had the litter today they where all still born. Would the stress of the accident do this to her and her litter?

  9. Sarah says:

    Hello, thank you for all of the helpful information on your site! Just wondering if you could offer any insight into our breeding situation… We have a gilt housed with a boar, both 9-10 months old. On 11/16, the gilt was in standing heat and the boar was seen mounting her. We hoped that he had gotten the job done and marked our calendars for 24 days (maximum cycle length). Day 24 came and went with no signs of heat, so we assumed she had been bred. Four days later (would have been Day 28), she turned pink again. She didn’t display any other signs of heat (i.e. ate normally, didn’t mess with the boar, didn’t stand for him) and the boar did not attempt to mount her. About another cycle length passed and her back-end turned pink again, but again no other signs of heat were present. Her “pregnancy indicator” is still pointing down. Do you have any ideas about what could be going on, or any advice for us? Thanks so much for your time!

    • She may have lost the pregnancy. Miscarriages happen. She may breed again. I would keep watching.

      On the other hand, that could have been a false heat. That happens too. In that case the pregnancy may continue. The fact that the boar was not interested suggests this. I would keep watching.

      On the third hand, mycotoxins produced by molds in her feed can both cause a false pinking and misscarriage. I would make sure she’s not getting moldy food and keep watching.

      Is she showing any other signs of pregnancy? Thickening? Udder development? Teat development?

      • Sarah says:

        Just wanted to update my comment… turns out that our gilt was indeed bred, but her vulva did continue to get enlarged and pink according to her normal cycle throughout her pregnancy. Thankfully she just gave us a handful of healthy piglets, so it is possible after all.

  10. Sarah says:

    Well, I’m pretty sure her feed isn’t moldy, at least I can’t smell any mold (my nose is so sensitive that my husband says that I “can smell the future.”). If she was bred on 11/16, she would be due around 3/10. We haven’t noticed any changes as far as thickening or udder/teat development, although I haven’t really watching from the beginning to compare. I will start watching now. Your suggestion of false heat gives me hope… In your opinion, should we just wait until March to find out for sure, leaving them together in the meantime, just in case? If March comes and goes, should they both just be turned into sausage? Thanks so much for your time and input!

  11. traye says:

    Walter, I have a “piggy way” question. The tip up indicator you say is not an absolute but more of a change indication. I have 3 gilts all the same age (sisters), I noticed two’s indicators have gone from directly at the ground to more level with the ground, and I think they are getting fatter it seems to me. The third gilt I saw and assisted her breeding with the same boar (January 22) and her indicator is still definitely pointing down.

    My question is about general behavior. The two who I think might be pregnant seem to sleep in the sun more than they had been. The boar and gilt that bred a week ago spend more time rooting in the forest like they all were. They all seem perfectly healthy, still growing well just seem to rest more. Is this something you have noticed on your pregnant pigs?

  12. Trisha says:

    Hi I AI’d my pig on Oct. 11’14 and Nov.22’15. I thought for sure the first one did not take as I thought she went into heat again however about two weeks ago we noticed that she is very baggy in her underbelly and her teats are huge so we figured she was pregnant but had until March.17th ( we are also new to this) anyways this past weekend my husband was thinking she was in labour and everyone who hasn’t seen her lately was like oh my your pig has grown so much in her underbelly. This am I went in to feed her and her teats were all full of hay so I took it off and it’s all crusted so I’m pretty sure she is leaking colustrum and her vulva is swollen and bulging a little. So I’m thinking this gilt got pregnant on the first AI. I noticed this afternoon that one of her back teats is swollen and red purple so I’m thinking it may be mastitis or it is the last one on her right side so it could be that she laid in it as she is massive (she is a Yorkshire pig) I would estimate she’s 500 pounds. Anyways if the first AI took it she would have been due on Monday we are now Friday how can I tell this is the day. I thought firsure this am that she would deliver by now but still nothing. And should I call the vet about her teat? Thanks in advance.

    • I’m not sure about the discolored teat. A vet should know and may have an antibiotic to treat it if that is what it is.

      I would watch her behavior for nest building which is something she should do in the day or two before farrowing.

  13. Sarah Poyser says:

    Hi Walter,
    I got 2 purebred large black gilts delivered 9 weeks ago today. The older gilt was accidentally with a boar for a reasonable time. I have no dates at all as the owner was very ill and has absolutely no recollection. I have no idea if this gilt is pregnant. She has got bigger since we have had her(as she should?) and her nipples are more obvious then the other gilt. I’m wandering how I post photos? I would say her hood is straight out? The other guilted is tilted up but she hasn’t been with a boar lol

    • It is hard to tell from the photos you emailed and this is one of those things where one looks for change more than state. The development of bagging and change of clitoralhood would be indicative. But some breeds, especially the shorter bodied pot bellied style pigs, have more of an up point all the time which is why it is important to know your ladies.

  14. tina nicholson says:

    i had piglets born the beginning of september. they are all robust and healthy, but they are no where near 250 lbs. I’d say they’re probably near 75-100. Do piglets grow slower in the cold winter months? We’ve had spring litters before (from the same sow) and they grew so much faster. Thanks.

    • Pigs definitely grow more slowly during the winter season. This is due both to the colder weather with some calories going to keeping warm and due to fresh pasture not being available so in our case we use hay. September to the middle of February is just over five months. I would not expect them to be 250 lbs even with a maximized diet of commercial hog feed. However, 75 to 100 lbs is small. Possible reasons for slow growth include:

      1. Genetics – some breeds and some lines within some breeds grow slower. Your same sow spring litters suggest this isn’t the issue if the sire is the same.

      2. Sex – boars grow about 10% faster than barrows who grow about 10% faster than gilts as a rule of thumb.

      3. Diet – not just sufficient feed but also the balance of proteins, enough calories and the right minerals and vitamins.

      4. Climate / season – as mentioned above winter means slower growth.

      5. Parasite load – have you dewormed them? Are you doing managed rotational grazing? You might want to do a fecal exam.

  15. Zoe says:

    I don’t think that is the same for potbelly pigs, my pig’s “girly part” is pointing down but you can feel the babies moving inside her.

    • I think you are probably right. Several people who have Potbellied Pigs have said that their pregnancy indicators are non-functional. I suspect that the extreme difference in physical anatomy is the cause. Keep observing and you may be able to develop a set of indicators for their type.

      • Jodi says:

        Please post any indicators for potbellied pigs. My daughter raised a male from a baby as a pet and loves him dearly…. My father who was sick with terminal cancer decided to “surprise” my daughters with a female potbelly for breeding, but when your dying father wants to buy his grandkids a pig you go with it, lol. He has since passed. Our male, Gordo, really likes our Bassett hound and has suddenly after a month has found interest in Lola the female. Since I never really had plans on this I am doing a crash course in pigs! We have had Pygmy goats for several years and with discussion we decided to try one litter since it is what my dad had his heart set on my girls raising goats and pigs, lol.

  16. Caroline says:

    I have a Kunekune that is due soon but I did not see the breeding or heat cycle so I’m going off of signs. My question is once you see and feel fetal movement about how long until the gilt will farrow?

    • It is very hard to say, especially since I don’t know Kune Kune other than that they have the short body which is very different than what I’m used to with our large farm pigs. I would go by the bagging. Near the end she should bag up and then her vulva should swell and soften. She should nest and defend the nesting area. At this point she needs privacy from other pigs so she can farrow in peace.

  17. Kristin Winchester says:

    I have a gilt that I bought pen bred (exposed). She could be as far off as June 6th for farrowing. Her indicator is still pointing down. Is it safe to say, in your opinion, that she is open?

    • If she is one of the breeds that tends to show this well then I would expect she is still open if her indicator has not changed. Breeds that show this well are the longer bodied pigs, the bacon/meat pigs like the Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth, Duroc, Landrace, etc. Think large farm breeds. From what I have gathered from talking with people over the years the shorter bodied, low bellied pigs like Pot Bellied, American Guinea Hogs, KuneKune and such are harder to spot with the clitoral hood technique.

  18. traye says:

    If you have selected a gilt as a breeder but it seems like she is not getting pregnant, how long do you wait to write her off as a breeder? It would be a shame if this particular girl was infertile, sweet tempered, incredibly long and lean, always the first to come out of the forest when I call, all around a good pig. I’m sure she’ll taste just fine but I’d rather have babies.

    Her last heat that I saw was jan 22 and nothing since, but it’d be easy to miss on my farm because so much of their space is forest.

    • If she doesn’t show a strong pregnancy by one year of age then I would cull her. She’ll need to have a successful litter by month 15. I would also hold this as a mark against her – later breeding.

      • traye says:

        That’s going to stink but life on the farm. She’s so long and fast growing and was the first to tame. This morning I walked to the field, she saw me and ran/danced to me. I think it would be like if your Happy couldn’t reproduce. I talked to my boar this morning and told him if she comes back into heat give her a little extra.

        • TalonFarms says:

          I would observe the breeding at least once before culling, often we assume the boars are getting it done, but as our primary herd boar got older and bigger the size disparity between him and the younger girls got to the point where we had to put them in a breeding crate as he could flatten them if the footing was at all slippery. Hand breeding after weaning is a great tool if you’re not sure if the boar is always hitting the mark and it gives much better date control too. If she is cycling regularly it might be a problem with the boar/gilt interface rather than the gilt herself.

          • traye says:

            I haven’t seen her heat or the boar tell me she’s in heat in a couple of months. I’m out with them every day a few times a day. She’s a great looking pig, just not showing heat, but then not looking the least bit pregnant either. The two who I saw the boar mate with (one smaller than her and a much larger sow) several weeks later are much rounder in the belly.

  19. Mae says:

    My boar go to one of my “futire” female breeders. SHe is 10 months old.
    Plan on taking her to the vet for an ultrasound, but is it an issue breeding so young?

    • Our breeding gilts almost always are bred by eight months. If they aren’t bred by ten months I start to consider them less than ideal and would likely send them to butcher because they should have piglets or at least show full bagging in late gestation by 13 to 14 months. Thus I would say she is old(er) rather than she is young.

      • Mae says:

        Okay thanks. My pigs are minis/pets so we usually wait until they are 14-18 months.

        • I don’t know much about the minis. I’m used to the big farm pigs of Yorkshire (Large White), Berkshire, Large Black and Tamworth breeds. The mini pigs may have a different breeding cycle and first pregnancy timing. Since there is a web page for just about everything these days I’ll bet there is one for the minis that talks about this. One of the wonderful things about the web!

  20. Cindy H. says:

    I have a breeding pair of guinea hogs that I keep together as they are the only two I have and I don’t want them to be lonely. I witnessed breeding on Mar 26th (making her estimated due date mid July) and then she started progressing normally. Her indicator showed she was pregnant. Then today, June 1, I went out because I noticed her laying down away from the boar which is not typical for her. Her indicator is now pointing straight down and I noticed her vulva is swollen and a red line is showing (no discharge). Her teats are not engorged but beginning to sag in rows. I am concerned because if the fertility ages are right then she couldn’t have been bred before March 1st given she is only 11 months (making her no more than 93 days gestation). Everything I am reading says the swollen vulva means she could deliver in the next week. Of course I know that not everything is by the book and wanted to get the opinion or information from someone who has experience with farrowing. This is a first farrowing for both her and myself, so I am a bit in the dark. Should I be concerned? How early is too early?

    • The earliest I have seen a litter farrow is two weeks earlier than the 114 days. Sounds like she’s closer to farrowing than you expected suggesting she may have bred earlier than thought. It is well possible for a gilt to be fertile early and this sounds like the case. Give her space and privacy to nest.

      • Cindy asked further:
        Thank you!! Do you have any posts that discuss farrowing preparation?

        Scattered through out other posts. Try a search like:

        Farrow and Farrowing.

        Supplies to have on hand etc?

        We breed for sows that can farrow in their own. I cull very hard any sows that can’t. See Piglet Interventions.

        I want to give her and her piglets the best chance possible. Being guinea hogs I have not found any recommended vaccines or any thing of the like.

        FarrowSureGold B is one to consider. is a good source of all things farm stock.

        If you have time I would love to hear your typical routine with your pregnant sows.

        I give them privacy from the herds. They should do the job on their own. If you have to intervene with a piglet, mark it for culling to meat, never for breeding. If you have to intervene with a sow or she has too many problem piglets then cull her and if the boar has multiple sows throwing poor litters then cull him. Hard culling is the way to improve genetics. Evolution works.

  21. traye says:

    I’m not sure if this is something you’d have experience with but your opinion is probably as informed as anyone so it’s valuable. I have a p2 row and a gilt that are both ready to farrow within days and it’s hot. Like once in a lifetime hot even for the south. Highs are forecast to be above 95 for at least the next ten days.

    I’m pretty sure that both of them will farrow in a shady thick forest as they have been hanging there for the past few days.

    What are any precautions you would take for the mom and babies in really really hot?

    • The highest temperature we have ever had is 86°F so my experience with pigs and high heat is rather limited. For farrowing the sows need dry but for cooling they need a wallow. Most of all they need shade. The forest area should be good as long as predators are not a problem.

  22. traye says:

    Mud was one of the things I used to attract them to where I’d like them to farrow. It’s right inside the closest fence line to the house. I don’t think predators should be an issue with my Great Pyrenees, he does a fine job. I’ve been in the south all my life and I’ve never seen 20+ days in a row above 95.

  23. Hanny says:

    I managed to get 3 purebred significant black color gilts provided 9 several weeks back today. The actual elderly gilt was inadvertently having a boar for a reasonable time. I’ve simply no dates whatsoever because seller was quite i’ll and it has virtually no remembrance. We do not know in the event that gilt is actually expecting a baby. She gets bought larger due to the fact we have now got her(as the girl should? ) as well as her hard nips tend to be obvious then this different gilt. I’m roaming earn money article photos? I would state her lid is actually direct out and about? Another guilted is actually tilted upwards yet the girl hasn’t already been having a boar lol.

  24. Dorothy says:

    Hi there. I’m new at this AI stuff. My guilt is 9 months old. I had to give her a shit of PG 600, to help her come into heat. I’ve noticed a difference in her demeanor. Today is day seven after the injection she still in heat but I am not noticing standing heat. She lays down a lot and I can apply pressure to her backside and rub her belly and she doesn’t move. Would it be appropriate to do a while she’s laying down?
    My semen will be five days old?. Is it possible that she doesn’t know she supposed to stand?

  25. traye says:

    You ever have something like this? We have a gilt that was definitely pregnant due back at 23 of June. She miscarried. She’s pregnant again but she looks further along than 45 or so days, (big belly)

    Is it possible she was pregnant on one uterus, miscarried that but was pregnant later on the other and is now closer to term on that uterus?

    I know with pigs anything is possible but man if she is only 45 days or so that’s going to be a bunch of piglets for a first time mom. Huge belly already.

    • Yes, I have seen this happen where they miscarry one uterine horn but continue the pregnancy in the other and deliver successfully six to ten piglets. With rabbits we have seen them get pregnant in one uterus and while carrying but before delivering conceive subsequently in the second uterine horn by a different sire to have two litters one after another by different fathers without subsequent exposure.

      • traye says:

        Thanks. At least now I don’t think I’m crazy for thinking that. But I’d have no idea when she’d be due now. She looks about a month out.

  26. Sarah P says:

    Relatively new to piggy’s.. have a question, hoping anyone could possibly answer – or give their thoughts on! So yesterday, was the day BEFORE our one gilt was to go into heat, she was acting rather reckless and such, so we put her in with the boar. She walked right in and stood there, no grunting, moving, nothing.. let him do his thing, multiple times. Today, being the day she should be ‘in heat’ (21 days from her last cycle exactly), we put her in, for her 24 hours later ‘date’.. and she was rather disgusted with him, overly grumpy.. biting and running, grunting and snorting rather loudly at him. Would not stand for him, or anything. Does this mean she could be bred? – Even though yesterday was a day before her actual cycle?
    Thanks for your input.

    • Sounds like she was in standing heat – ready to receive and mate – the first time. That’s good. Now she should be at the next heat and isn’t receptive. That’s a good sign. In another month she should be rounding well. Time will tell.

  27. ann wilson says:

    Hi my gilt had piglets for the first time today. She had them out in the pasture in her nest she has made. Now it is raining what should I do? Just leave them out there in the rain. She still is not up walking around, but she is nursing the and all have round bellies. The other two pigsy boar and my older gilt are watching over them from a distance. She let me come over and feed her and pet the new piglets. I am a little worried about her. I know they were born this morning. She had 12 but lost 3. One of them had a large head. The ones that are alive are very small com paired to him. I am just worries about the rain. As I said I wanted to move them but she is not in any shape to move right now. What do I do.

    • It is good the other pigs are at a distance. You could put up a piece of hog panel or few to enforce a barrier if you think necessary. The round bellies on the piglets is good, they’re getting nutrition.

      If the nest is well situated and draining then I wouldn’t worry about rain – pigs are waterproof. This is the warm easy season. If the nest is forming a puddle they could drown in then that is a problem – break the dam with a hoe quietly so as not to disturb her. If at all possible I would not move her because sows are very homed to the nesting spot, not the piglets.

      Not all pigs are born perfect so the three lost may have had defects. Pigs use a strategy of give birth to many to raise a few. Keep an eye on things. Don’t add loose fiber bedding (e.g., straw or hay) but if you want to add anything then dry wood shavings can be good. Probably not necessary through in these warm days.

  28. Cindy Holmes wrote: I am having a very difficult time telling if my gilt is pregnant. She has put on quite a bit of weight but it all appears to be focused in her abdomen. I have taken some photos and was wondering if I could get your take on it and an estimate gestation if you feel she is pregnant.

    It is hard to know without knowing the lady in question and how her body changes with time. What I see in the photos could be heating or it could be close to farrowing. Towards the end of gestation the vulva swells and the indicator points downward again. If it is heating then it will stop swelling in a few days. If it is farrowing then it should continue to sell, she should fully bag, nest and farrow. A farrowing vulva is more puffy than a heating which is pinker.



  29. Jaden says:

    Hi there!

    Thank you for your always informative articles. My husband and I have a red waddler gilt and although her clitoral hood has always appeared to be slightly pointed up, I’ve noticed in the past few days it’s little more raised, her teets are tender, and we both believe she is pregnant. So here are some questions I have… Is it common for the gilt to start burrowing a little “nest” of sorts in preparation for her to give birth and do you know about what time during her gestation she would do that? I mean it would make sense as us human women do our own version of “nesting.” I’m pretty sure I actually witnessed the conception when I fed them about one to two weeks ago – can you indicate a pregnancy that quick, though?- but maybe if you’ve had experience with your gilts nesting during gestation I may better get a time table on how soon she’ll deliver. Thank you! :-)

    • On the angle, I have heard reports from some people with different breeds that their pigs show a little differently. There is also the possibility that having observed this in some I have selected for it in ours so that it has gradually become a stronger trait. This is why it is very important to know your own ladies and how their private parts are positions normally, which will change as they age.

      On the nesting, yes that is one of the strong signs of impending farrowing. This happens a few days at most from birthing. Provide nesting material at a distance if necessary but let her add it to the nest herself – don’t do it for her as we humans don’t have the proper pointy toes to pack the bedding and build the right shape. So, if she just got pregnant then I don’t think this nest building is indicative but maybe the same hormones and instincts are triggering early.

  30. Tom says:

    Hello Walter. I have a question about how to get my gilt to come into heat. I bought two guilts at 6 months of age. They are sisters and about 10 months old now and around 300 lbs. My one gilt was successfully bread a month and a half ago. My other guilt however hasn’t even had her first cycle. I have moved her to different pens. Exposed her to different pigs. Even exposed her directly to my boar. Is there any thing I could try or is it time to send her to the butcher?

    • You’re doing the right things. Unfortunately not every lady is fertile. Industry wide they talk about 25% of gilts not being fertile. I find it to be more like a 5% infertility rate but I may simply be more patient. If a gilt is not clearly pregnant by 14 months then I cull her to meat. She will be delicious eating at that point.

  31. Debbie says:

    I have a question about “line breeding” I have a pair of American Guinea Hogs. ( non related) They have lived in the same pen for 2 years, and have successfully bred every spring…..except this year. Our big boy has put on some weight, and I think she is staying away because of that. ( she is a little bit vain) In another pen I have their son. He is prime weight, and I am sure willing. Can I breed mother to son and still have quality pigs? Since daddy is coming in around 400 lbs, is it time to send him to the butcher or would his meat be unpalatable?

    • You can breed them. If there are significant genetic flaws they will likely show up in the offspring and then you’ll know about them. This is a way of testing genetics. Cull hard. You can designate all offspring as terminal pigs – those that go only to meat – for simplicity. If you want to get deeply into genetics, breeding and specifically line breeding then you would map their traits and work the side crosses to weed out problem genes and improve your herd genetics. With just two or three animals this is difficult. With many animals it becomes easier. This is where breeder organizations and registry records help small farmers.

      The larger boar I would do a biopsy test on to test for boar taint. If he passes fine then slaughter and eat him. If he does not pass then consider having a vet castrate him.

  32. Amanda says:

    I got two 7 mnth old gilts an the lady said they were in with in cut boars can they be bred an how can I tell an if they are do I need to separate or will they be fine together in pen there really bonded

    • If they were castrate boars they will not be bred.

      If they were fertile uncut boars, e.g., intact boars, then there is a chance they are pregnant.

      Our gilts generally first take (get pregnant) around eight months. Occasionally we get a Lolita who takes as young as six months – no harm done. If they don’t take by 14 months I cull them. I cull about 95% of them since we tend to take pigs to market long before that so most never have a chance of getting pregnant. Sex play starts much earlier.

  33. Sasha says:

    I have a kune gilt due today who has significant “bagging” under her belly. (Her udder is hanging a good 2 inches lower than her belly in the back, not so much up front.) Her udders arent coning but definitely hanging low. Her vulva is not much different than it has been for the length of the pregnancy. We bought her knowing she had been seen mating but arent 100% sure that she is pregnant. Her belly seems round but I’m wondering if she may just be fat. She is not nesting, still eating, acting as if nothing is going on, now or any time soon. Do they carry their fat in there udder, if they are overweight?

    • Kunekune pigs are one of those short bodied pigs that may be a little different in how they present – that is my understanding from talking with Kunekune owners over the years. I don’t have Kunekunes so I don’t have direct experience with them. I also have little experience with fat pigs since ours are on a lean pasture diet.

  34. Carla asked by email: I have a female and male mini potbelly pig her clit hood was up for a few months now it is down for 5 days wondering if she is pregnant or not.

    First realize that Pot Bellied Pigs more compact and sway backed anatomy may make it a bit different that the farm type pigs I’m used to dealing with.

    In our pigs when I see the pattern of up for a few months and then down that means the female was pregnant and is approaching her farrowing date. Her vulva swells and the tissue softens in preparation for giving birth. If this is the case then she should start nesting and her teats should be engorged and she may give milk if you try and express it.

  35. Dave says:

    So this doesn’t fit specifically to this subject, only in a round about way. I have no other option than to AI my gilts at this point so your clitoral pregnancy test will be very valuable for me. My gilts are 9 months old now and have had about 3, maybe 4 heats now. I’ve read that that most people let them go through 1 heat and then breed, but I read on permies (if I remember right) that they shouldn’t go through too many heats without being bred, otherwise they might not ever take; or if they do they will have small litters from here on out. I can’t see that being true, but then again, I’m just starting out, what do I know!? Other things I’ve read say the older the pig the better the mother will be, so my thinking was to wait until they where a year old and then breed them so they’re a little more mature and hopefully far better mothers. My girls are registered Tamworth, pastured with some grain, so slower growing, slower maturing… Am I waiting to long or am I just reading too many opinions on the subject and getting mixed up? What say you?

    • It isn’t age but rather experience and genetics that produce good sows. If they go too long without breeding they may lose fertility – there is truth to that. Ours generally first take at about eight months. Occasionally we see a Lolita as young as six months get pregnant – no harm in it and some have made fine sows like Mouse. If a sow hasn’t taken by a year I tend to cull as she will likely never take. Fourteen months at the longest.

  36. Derek Neels says:

    Hi Walter
    Just wondering, what is the range of days when gilts will bag up before farrowing?
    looking forward to your reply

  37. Derek says:

    Great thanks for that. Expecting two gilts to farrow in a week, And two more in two months.

  38. Dave says:

    I’m stumped. I AIed my girls last month and this last week was the next heat cycle after AI. All the hoods in the house pointed down before the AI, after AI I’ve got one that has been pointing very up, but yesterday I noticed her starting to swell up. Today she is swollen but still pointing very up. This is the right time for her heat, she’s not pointing down or even straight out, she’s up. Am I fooling myself hoping she took or should I be planning for another AI?

  39. Gretchen says:

    I have a question our guilt went into what looked like labor 4 days ago. Contractions slowed down a little more for 2 days now nothing.? During this our vet told me to sleeve her I attempted but she was extremely tight. And still no milk present. I checked her this morning eating good. Vuva super swollen with a vagina smell still no milk. Are the piglets ok I’m so confused. We have always been blessed we have never even had to pull pigs before after several births. I’m so lost should I get abt going?? What should I do????

  40. Rj says:

    Will a sow kill her piglets to be rebred if a boar is close. Mine seems to be a cold weather female who gets frisky in snow storms in march. She just had her litter 3 days ago.

  41. chris says:

    Hi, my baby girl is nearing the end of pregnancy and she is urinating alot, is there a problem or would that be normal?
    thanks chris

  42. Ashley says:

    Our pig seemed pregnant. She did all the same things the other 2 pregnant pigs did before her. When it came close to time for her to farrow her vulva swelled and her milk seemed to fill up. We continued to check on her, but now her belly looks slimmer and the milk doesn’t seem as full.
    Did she possibly have the babies and (weird question) eat them? Or false pregnancy? Or could she still be pregnant and this is normal?
    Our other pig only had 1 surviving piglet, and now I’m starting to feel like a failure. I’ve read everything on your page and think I’m doing everything right. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • I’ve never had a sow intentionally kill and eat her own piglets. They will recycle the dead. That is natural and good recycling as well as removing food that would attract predators and pests. It sounds like she lost the litter. They might have been born dead. There are a number of reproductive diseases that can cause this which are preventable with vaccinations. Eating moldy food can also cause this from the mycotoxins. There are some poisonous plants which can cause that too. I would try again. Do vaccinate. FarrowSureGold B is a good starter baseline vaccine against reproductive ills.

  43. Mariel says:

    Our gilt is on her 113 day. She moved a little bit of hay into a pile, she has been breathing heavy and her vulva is swelled and pink. She is getting up and down quite a bit. The only thing missing are drops of milk, which I checked late morning. (today)
    Wondering when she will give birth? Could milk come during or after birth?
    Thank you, Mariel

  44. Krista Steele says:

    Hi Walter,
    We had our first AGH litter of 3 two days ago. The mom wasn’t nursing them right away, and a friend reaches inside to see if she had another one stuck inside. She now is acting sick, and not eating. We are guessing infection from the vaginal check. Is a shot of penicillin recommended? The babies are nursing off of another pregnant mom who is apparently very maternal. Although, I am nervous there won’t be colostrum for her babies when she gives birth…We have 3 pregnant moms living in a large fenced field with 3 separate hoop houses. We weren’t able to section off 3 individual birthing sections for moms and babies. Any thoughts are appreciated.

    • Congratulations on your first litter. It is a small litter but sometimes that happens with first litters, e.g., gilts. I’ve also read that American Guinea Hogs (AGH) have smaller litters.

      If your friend reached inside her then they likely introduced bacteria into her. I’m not a vet but I suspect if you consult a vet they’ll recommend appropriate medication. I would advise to check with a vet.

      There is a rather high incidence among new farmers to want to reach inside animals. I don’t recommend doing that. More specifically, I recommend not doing that. Consider that out of hundreds of sows farrowing thousands of piglets I have never reached inside one. If I had to do that sort of intervention I would then cull the sow after weaning and reconditioning. That is not genetics I would want in my herd. Select for quality.

      Colostrum is the first milk that comes out. If she’s producing then she produced colostrum. It lasts a couple of days.

      Separating the mothers is a good idea, especially with inexperienced mothers. Naturally they seek a private place out in the margins of the pastures to build a nest and then defend that spot.

  45. keith thorne says:

    I am new to breeding I AI in sept ,the gilts I am concerned with were pointing up but now 3 are straight out,could they still be pregnant?

  46. ruth schihl says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have a 2 year old gilt, that during her first year, my husband was only putting the boar in with her for 1 day and she never took. I spoke to the breeder and he said to just put them together. We had a miserable wet muddy winter here in MI, and weren’t able to put them back together until May of this year. So they were together from approx May 7th, until Sept 7th. She did get stressed from the heat/drought we had in the beginning of August with humidity over 100 degrees in the shade. She lost all her “hair”. I also noticed her built in indicator was pointing up.
    We separated them on Sept 7th as to the fact we didn’t know when he bred her and that was the earliest date possible, if she were to deliver. Sept 14th, she was really swollen like she should go into heat (still pointing up). She had a little milky/watery discharge about a week after we noticed her extremely swollen. and stayed extra swollen for 6 weeks. Today is Nov. 28th and she still hasn’t delivered, however she is still pointing up. Her belly dropped down, no milking up as of yet either.
    What are your thoughts.

  47. Emerald says:

    Hello everyone, we have a gilt that’s 10 months and very pregnant. It’s hot out and we keep getting her wet but she is breathing a little heavy and fast as well as when she’s laying down and relaxed she stretches her front and back legs out and sometimes kicks a little and lifts up her back leg like she’s uncomfortable. I’m worried something’s wrong because a couple weeks or so ago our boar was in there with her and wanted her food so he picked her up with his snout and threw her up and she fell on her side on a rock. We immediately took her away and she has her own little house. We can see movement in her belly and I feel like she’s days away but if something’s wrong that’s just more time for it to get worse. Any advice? Thank you all so much I’ve learned so much.

  48. Emerald says:

    Thank you so much for the quick response Walter! Ok, that makes me feel a lot better. We should just keep checking for movement until the day of farrowing, then? I am so pleased at your reply and your right. Pigs are tough . Thank you, great advice.

  49. Emerald says:

    Hello there Walter :)
    I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions.? Our gilt has just made her official nest and her teats are pronounced, producing a water sized drop of milk. Do you think she will farrow late tonight or early morning ? Also, We’ve been picking her pounds of green grass as well as feeding her maybe 5-6 pounds, I’m guessing, of water soaked corn a day. Her poops look ok but pebble-y and not very solid. Our local feed store didn’t have gestation food but we got some 16% protein grower pellets. Should we give her more of that than corn so she has enough energy for farrowing? Her mother had trouble. I’m no vet but I think uterine inertia. She got tired and it took her a long time. I just don’t want to go thru that again. I know there’s a possibility of bad genetics but What else can I do to avoid that situation? Thank you so much

  50. Emerald says:

    Hello Walter. Thank you very much for your blog and advice.
    I posted this question on your pregnancy indicator but it’s not showing up. Anyways, could you answer a couple questions for me? Our gilt officially mader her nest, her teets are very pronounced and producing a water drop size drop of milk. Do you think she will farrow late tonight or tomorrow? Also we couldn’t get gestation food but We’ve been picking her loads of green grass and feeding her I’m guessing, 5-6lbs watered rolled corn a day. We have 16% protein grower pellets. Her poops are pellet-y and I I think it might be the corn stopping her up. Should we give her 16% only or mix it with corn and or increase her food now so she has enough energy to farrow quickly? Her mother farrowed for almost 3 days so I’m worried it’s genetic. I’m no vet but I thought uterine inertia from what I’ve read. I want her to have all the strength she needs. What else could I do?

    • In a gilt, milk drop is generally a sign of farrowing within a day or two. She should be nesting now. Constipation is common, especially with concentrated feeds, just before farrowing. A high fiber diet helps. Generally farrowing only takes a few hours to half a day but it can day far longer. There are many variables.

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