Sow About to Farrow

Sow About to Farrow

A frequent question I get is what does a sow look like just before farrowing, that is to say, giving birth. The sow in the photo above is two days pre-farrowing.

Her bag, a.k.a. udder or breasts, are completely engorged such that the skin is smooth and they’re full. At this point sows will typically give milk although gilts (first time sows) may not. Older strong milker sows may actually drip milk just prior to farrowing.

Her vulva engorges at this point. Often sow’s spine will flatten from the normal curve and she’ll drop her belly as her ligaments loosen in preparation for delivery. The sow above still has a strong back curve.

Good sows see a private place and start nesting with what ever materials they can gather. In the fields they’ll typically build their nests of grasses and other plants, creating a bowl a little bigger than their bodies. Typically about four feet across for gilts and as large as seven feet for big sows.

The sow above is in fine condition with a layer of back fat to give her the reserves she needs during nursing.

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About Walter Jeffries

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9 Responses to Sow About to Farrow

  1. David B. says:

    I hope to someday need this information :) Ill get property someday. I need to download this site someday in case it ever goes away. Also I think you mean 4 feet not feed. Thanks again for the great info.

  2. Shanna says:

    We really appreciate the photo and information on your website. We’ve raised goats and sheep for years, and have cows, chickens, and horses. But these are our first pigs and this will be our first farrowing. Our sow (gilt actually) is a Red Wattle/Blue Butt and I’ve been really astonished as how quickly she and the boar grew and, honestly, how human oriented they are -sometimes a little too close for comfort. She’s pretty miserable right now and likes to have her back scratched with a stick. She enjoys her hay bedding so much it’s hard not to like her…although I hope she doesn’t become Ms. Hyde when the little pigs arrive. I always said pigs were the one species I wouldn’t have, and now I’m eating crow (and hopefully some home-raised pork soon.)

  3. Linda says:

    Do you have problems with boars trying to mat with sows that are to small and hurting them?

    • No, not in general. We did have one incident of something like this but it was caused by them trying to mate while ice skating. Pigs on ice is not pretty. Good footing is essential. With a good textured surface a 250 lb to 300 lb gilt can support a 1,000 lb boar with no problem. The very big boars keep three feet on the ground with small gilts.

  4. August says:

    Hello Walter
    I have a question and I am not sure where to post it so I hope you don’t mind if I ask it here. It is regarding a 1st time gilt- who is now a sow.Right? So she had 7 babies early Monday morning.. All is doing well. She is eating and being a good mommy but I have not seen her poop yet, should I be worried? Thanks
    I have referred to your info so much on your site and follow you on a Facebook group. Thanks for you input.
    PS.. She is eating locally made pig food- like a mash. And I bring her apples and hard boil eggs.. She had every opportunity to got outside but she won’t… Which is another story!! Thanks so much August

    • Correct, once she has farrowed a litter she earns the title of sow.

      I would not worry about it. She may have eaten less just prior to farrowing – very common. She might be a little constipated. She may be putting out a lot more fluid as milk. Just make sure she has food, fiber and fluids available.

      Her energy needs, calories, goes up with nursing as does her need for fluids.

      It is very common for a sow to stay in the nest or extremely close to it for several days post farrowing.

  5. Stephanie ward says:

    I have a question and I sure hope someone will respond quickly. My guilt was bred before I got her, we wasn’t sure she was pregnant until about two weeks ago when her tears started engorging and we could feel all the baby’s moving, we could even see them very well moving around, her vulva went from the perky little thing to saggy overnight and then the next few days swelled like a balloon, also her tears by her hind legs were so engorged and red that I was thinking she couldn’t swell any bigger, this morning when I come to check on her it looks as if her vulva again changed from the swollen ballon type to the saggier look and her teats near her hind legs are not so much engorged anymore but more flabbier. What is going on with her? I can still feel her baby’s moving although not as much as before and I’m not sure her exact due date.. I got her October 30, and the owner before said she probably need three weeks or more prior to when I got her. Do pigs go through this many changes during final stages of labor?

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