If you have pigs on your farm, odds are that you (at some point) will be expecting piglets. If that’s the case, then you will find yourself with a pregnant gilt or sow as well. I’m going to dive in to what you can expect with pig pregnancy.
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It can be a little overwhelming to think about the birthing process and pregnancy of a different species.
Pig pregnancy is no different. I know, we have pigs! Being a pig momma can be stressful at times, especially if something unexpected happens.
I don’t want it to be stressful for you though. I want to answer all of your pig pregnancy questions upfront (or most of them) before you start stressing yourself out.
Pig Pregnancy Questions Answered
1. How long are pigs pregnant?
This is a really common question that I hear regarding pig pregnancy. It’s also probably one of the simplest to answer.
Remember the rule of 3’s.
Pigs are pregnant right around 114 days. An easy way to remember this is with the rule of 3’s: 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days. Pigs will usually give birth with this time frame. Many pigs will give birth exactly 114 days after the onset of pregnancy.
Pig birthing dates are very predictable unlike some of the other livestock species. If you know the date that your pig was bred, you can use a simple calculator like this one or this one to approximate when she will give birth.
2. What is a ‘piggy sow’?
If you talk to someone that raises pigs, you may hear the term ‘piggy sow’. I mentioned above that pigs are pregnant for close to four months. However, not much about their appearance changes until they are about three months pregnant.
Once sows are about three months pregnant, they start to show. They will start to look more pot-bellied and round in the middle. Think pot-bellied pig. That’s where the term ‘piggy sow’ came from. A nonpregnant pig will look more trim and flat down the sides.
So, a piggy sow is a sow (or gilt) that is far along enough in her pregnancy that she is starting to show. A piggy sow will actually look pregnant.
3. What does the word farrowing mean?
This is another really common question that I answer. Scientists love to give weird names to processes, especially animal processes. Livestock are no exception to that rule.
When cows give birth, we say that they are calving, or have calved (past tense). When horses give birth, they are foaling. Goats that are giving birth are kidding (no, that’s really what it’s called). Pretty simple rule to follow when naming the birthing process.
Pigs however don’t follow the same rule. We don’t say that a sow is ‘pigging’. When sows (or gilts) are giving birth, we say that they are farrowing. Fancy name for the messy process.
4. While we are talking about farrowing, what is a farrowing crate?
Many breeds of pigs are notorious for being careless mothers. This is especially true for many breeds that have excellent meat quality. That being said, most of the commercial pigs raised for meat in the U.S. have a chance of being careless mothers.
Why does that matter?
Consider this. A typical sow may weigh 400 pounds. When she gives birth, the piglets may only weigh a couple of pounds apiece. And she may have 13 or so piglets. Pigs love to be lazy and lay down. When she gets up to eat or drink, the piglets move around her. When she gets ready to lay down, she may lay on top of some of the piglets. A small piglet doesn’t stand a chance under a large sow.
Many sows will crush their piglets on accident by laying on them. The piglets need to stay warm, especially when they are young. This is unfortunately the same time that they are smallest and most vulnerable. To combat this, animal scientists came up with the farrowing crate as an option for keeping piglets safe.
The farrowing crate is a narrow cage that restricts the space that the sow has to move around. On either sides of the crate, there are heating pads and lamps. The heating pads and lamps give the piglets a warm place to lay, without getting to close to the sow. They can still reach her to nurse and can lay next to her if they want to.
The sow is given a cooler area to lay in the middle of the crate. This helps her stay cool as pigs can’t sweat and are more likely to overheat than other livestock species. A farrowing crate can help lower the number of piglet deaths tremendously if used properly.
5. How many piglets will my pig have?
This is a question that is difficult to answer.
There are many variables that go into answering this question. For example, usually pigs will have larger litters as the get older (to a certain point then they start to become less productive). This happens for a couple of different reasons. As the pig’s body becomes used to maintaining pregnancy, the reproductive organs become better adapted to pregnancy. The uterus becomes slightly larger and able to hold more piglets. The sow’s body also releases more eggs for fertilization.
A typical litter in U.S. breeds is 8-13 piglets. I would consider 13 piglets to be an excellent-sized litter. Pigs today can have upwards of 22 piglets per litter but many of these piglets are born small and very weak. 13 seems to be the ideal goal to shoot for as many sows can raise 13 piglets without an issue.
Many Chinese breeds of pigs, such as the Meishan, are known for being extremely prolific and have litters consistently over 20 piglets. If you want more information about the Meishan and other breeds of pigs, read my post on the breeds of pigs.
6. Do I need to feed my pig differently while she is pregnant?
Yes! The nutritional needs of pregnant pigs are going to be different from that of nonpregnant pigs.
A good rule of thumb is to plan on feeding her an extra two pounds of food per day starting at day 100 of her pregnancy. She starts needing extra calories around day 100. The extra feed will not only give her the extra calories she will need to grow all of her babies, but it will also give her some extra fat to put on.
She will need the extra fat once she starts nursing her pigs. The last thing you want her to do is to lose too much weight after she gives birth. This is especially true if you plan on breeding her again soon after she weans her piglets.
If you have a sow that seems underweight during pregnancy, plan on increasing her feed more. You can check out this extension article about feeding pregnant pigs. It goes into more depth about feeding pregnant pigs. Also, if you aren’t sure, you can always contact your local livestock veterinarian to get more advice on feeding your sow.
7. Should I look for anything specific in a pig to breed?
If you’re looking at a pig that you like, there are a few things that you can look for to get an idea of how she will be as a mother. If you are going to spend the time and money to breed a pig, you want to spend it on one that will be as productive as possible.
The first thing that I check is the pig’s underline. In other words, I look at her abdomen. When I look at her abdomen, I’m doing one thing. I count how many teats she has.
I mentioned above that a good litter will have about 13 piglets. If the pig has 13 babies, but only has 10 teats to nurse, then odds are that she will only raise 10 piglets to weaning age. The more teats she has, the better. More teats can also mean that she will give birth to more piglets.
I also make sure that the teats are fully developed and look normal.
The next thing that I check is her rear end. You want to check her vulva. The vulva is the external female reproductive organs. A normal pig’s vulva looks like an upside down tear drop. The tip should point straight down to the ground. Occasionally you will see a pig that has a vulva that points out horizontally. Research has actually linked these vulvas to reproductive issues. Avoid pigs with a vulva that points any direction other than straight down.
8. Will my pig show any outward signs of pregnancy?
I mentioned above that pigs will start to look pregnant about 100 days into pregnancy. That’s great and all, but that’s a long time to wait if you are trying to determine if you pig is pregnant. There are a few hints that can help you figure out if she is pregnant or not.
One of the best ways to determine if she is pregnant is to monitor her heat cycle. If you think she is pregnant, then she shouldn’t come back into heat. If she comes back into heat, she either lost the pregnancy or she wasn’t pregnant to begin with. Pigs come into heat about every 21-30 days. You can start watching her three weeks after you think she was bred to see if she comes into heat.
Some farmers will check the ‘pregnancy indicator’.
Remember when I said the vulva should point down towards the ground? When a pig is pregnant, the vulva tip may gradually start to rotate and point up more. This isn’t a 100% accurate test and can vary among individual pigs. It does make sense though. As the piglets get larger and weigh more, they start to pull on the pig’s reproductive tract, which pulls on the pig’s vulva, causing it to tip up.
The fastest, most accurate way to determine pregnancy is to have a veterinarian perform a pregnancy test.
You can purchase small home ultrasound machines for a couple hundred bucks and look at the pigs yourself if you know what you’re looking at.
There are a number of pig pregnancy detection devices available online.
9. Will she show signs of farrowing before she farrows?
There are a few things that you can look for that will give you a heads up to when your pig is getting close. Keep in mind that all pigs are going to be a little different and that you’ll need to learn the normal process for your pig.
Also, remember that one of the best indicators is going to be the farrowing date that you calculated from the calculators above.
10-14 days before farrowing, the sow’s vulva and/or mammary glands may swell.
Usually sows that have had litters before will get milk before farrowing. Many gilts that haven’t farrowed before will not get milk in until they farrow.
Pig pregnancy is similar in that way to human or other mammal pregnancy. It’s pretty normal for new mommas to not get milk until right before the birthing process. Older animals that have given birth will tend to get milk in sooner because their body knows how to prepare.
You can also check to see if the veins around the teats show up more than normal. This is easier to see in light pigs than dark pigs. If you can see the veins more than normal, that means her body is bringing more blood and nutrients to the mammary glands to start producing milk.
Sows may become more restless than normal closer to farrowing. They may seem unable to get comfortable. It’s normal for them to move around, get up, lay down and even try to chew bedding before farrowing.
There may also be a mucous discharge from the vulva before farrowing. If the pig has milk, you can check to see if you can express any milk. If you can, farrowing isn’t far away.
10. What can I expect when she gives birth?
Just like pig pregnancy itself, there is some variance to what you can expect when your sow gives birth.
The farrowing process is generally going to take anywhere from three to eight hours. Gilts that haven’t had litters yet may take longer than sows with experience giving birth. The amount of time it takes also depends on how many piglets there are.
When the sow is getting ready to give birth, she will lay on her side. You may be able to see contractions. Right before a piglet is born, she will raise her leg up and may twitch her tail.
Usually the first piglet is born and then there is a wait before the second pig is born.
This pause in births can be as much as an hour. After the second piglet, the births usually happen pretty quickly. As she is giving birth, make sure that you monitor the piglets and that everything is going smoothly.
It’s a good idea to have the veterinarian’s number close in case you need to call him/her.
The first few pigs are usually born headfirst. The pigs born later in the litter may be born backwards. This is normal and not an emergency.
The sow is most likely done when she acts peaceful, isn’t shivering or acting uncomfortable. She will begin talking to the piglets. After the piglets are all born, she will pass the placenta. The placenta usually takes one to four hours to be passed.
You need to monitor the sow closely the first 24 hours after farrowing. Make sure that she isn’t showing signs of infection.
She will have bloody discharge for a few days, which is normal and expected. As long as she is eating, acting normal and comfortable, then she is most likely fine.
Occasionally, germs will get into the vagina and uterus during birth. These germs can cause an infection that requires antibiotics.
11. What are some problems that my sow can have during birth?
Pig pregnancy and birthing is not without its problems. There are a few things that you need to be on the lookout for when your pig is giving birth.
When the sow is giving birth, she may have a stillborn pig. If she does, continue to monitor her. Take note of the piglet(s) that were stillborn. This is important for future litters.
As long as the pig is old enough and large enough, you shouldn’t have problems with piglets that are too large.
If your pig is smaller framed and she was bred to a large boar, then you may have piglets that are too big to fit through the birth canal. This is called dystocia and can result in stillborn piglets and death of the mother.
This is an emergency situation and requires either an experienced breeder or a veterinarian to help pull the piglet.
Occasionally a piglet will be born not breathing.
This is commonly due to mucous in the nose. You can take a small piece of string or straw and tickle inside the nose to make the piglet sneeze or cough.
This will remove the mucous, allowing the piglet to breathe. If the piglet isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a pulse, it may be stillborn.
Last Piece of Advice
If you’re a first time pig momma, the best thing I can tell you is to relax. Keep your veterinarian’s phone number close by just to make yourself feel more comfortable. Odds are that everything is going to work out.
If there is an unexpected issue or it seems that the pregnancy or farrowing isn’t going as planned, call your vet! Call even if it’s after hours. He/she will probably be able to tell you over the phone if it is an actual emergency situation or if it is something that will work itself out.
You may also be interested in these pig articles:
Choosing a Boar
Raising Pigs for Meat
Why I Chose to Raise My Pigs on Concrete
Meat Pig Breeds
Common Pig Diseases
Artificial Insemination of Pigs
Well, I’ve reead all about having piglets on the farm, and I’m waiting patiently for the farrowing.
Katie T says
I have 6 potbellies, 2 adult females, 1 adult male, 2 baby females, and 1 baby male. My first adult female, Piper, had a litter of 8 and 7 survived, I kept one of her babies back. Any way the female I’m concerned about, Penny, I got as an adult so I don’t know how many litters she has had in her lifetime, but I do know she had a still born litter born last winter. Well she is pregnant again and I’m fairly certain she is in labor. With Piper it was super easy to tell because she’s my big baby and let’s me touch her fine and had her babies quickly, but Penny isn’t so friendly. She has been laying on her side like Piper did before she had babies for about 18 hours now. The first couple hours I saw her pushing a couple of times. Now nothing is happening and she doesn’t even have milk. But she is breathing super heavily and acting like she’s in labor. Is it possible for them to be in labor with no milk? I’ve heard a few people say it is. We were going to give her a shot of oxytocin but it’s bad for them if they aren’t in labor and I don’t really know if she is. Our vets going to be by tomorrow to check out goats so he can take a look at her, but I’m worried and dont want anything bad to happen to her before then. Any help?
It is very possible for females to go into labor without having milk. This is especially true in gilts, which are females that haven’t had litters yet. A lot of times gilts will not get milk until they start going in to labor, and even then it can be very little until the birthing process is over. That is totally normal and I wouldn’t be concerned about that unless she has a litter and still doesn’t get milk within 24 hours after giving birth. My concern is you said that she has pushed a couple of times and she is showing some signs of being in labor. If she is having active contractions, her body may just be leading up to giving birth. If she is actually pushing and acting like she is trying to birth a piglet and nothing happens, there may be a piglet that is turned the wrong way. If that’s the case, you may want to give your vet a call. If she has a piglet that is turned the wrong way and she’s trying to push it out then it could cause problems with the entire litter. Just because one is turned around weird doesn’t mean that the entire litter will be like that. If I were you, I may give my vet a call just to be on the safe side. He may be able to tell you what to look for and walk you through being able to tell if she is actually in labor or not over the phone. I hope that was helpful! I know it can be stressful being a pig momma sometimes! Let me know how everything goes!!
Katie T says
Vet came and gave her a shot because she was breathing funny, and she had a perfect litter of 6 piglets 3 days later.
That’s great! I was worried about her. Glad to know that everything worked out well!
Abby Alivio says
Hi ma’am… Can I ask about giving birth of the sow.. When our sow done of giving birth the ovary was came out.. What do we do.?
It’s very unlikely that your sow’s ovary came out. In order for this to happen, her entire reproductive tract would have had to come out. You likely saw a piece of afterbirth or small growth. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Nikaila Watkins says
Ok so my pig had her first litter just a few months ago the babies are healthy and happy, but the mom has lost too much weight and don’t seem like she can gain it back, the babies were with her and trying to nurse about 3 months old, when I noticed her lossing that weight. I separated them and she don’t seem to get better. When she was with her babies I didn’t watch to see how much food she was eating vs what the babies where getting, also I was thinking they might have dried her out trying to nurse for so long with her not getting double food like she needed. Is this a possibility? What do you think it could be or do you have any advice on what to do or feed her. She has lost hair and her skin is dry and red in places. I had got her when she was older and was scared of humans still like that and she won’t let me touch her.
Hey Nikaila! I can see why you are concerned. So typically when pigs are nursing you should expect to double or even triple the amount of food that they are eating each day. It does get hard to tell how much they are eating when the piglets are old enough to start eating also. I like to use a creep feeder when the piglets start eating food. A creep feeder is designed so that momma can’t eat out of it, only the babies can so it makes it a little easier to separate them during feeding time. As far as the momma’s condition now, there are a few things that you can do to help her put some weight back on. My first recommendation would be to worm her. You can purchase pig wormer over the counter at most co-ops and feed stores. Go ahead and give her a good worming. I would also increase the amount of fat that she is eating. When you are buying feed, compare the fat content of several feeds and choose the one with the highest fat content. If your options are limited, you can always add your own fat to her food. You can add things like soybean oil, vegetable oil and corn oil to her food. I usually pour about a half of a cup over the feed and mix it up so that it coats all of the pellets. You may have to feed her this way for a few weeks before you start to see her put weight back on, just keep feeding her. The extra fat will also help with her dry skin issue. I hope this helps!
Hello! Can you tell me , please, what may be the reason that the all the piglets die right after the birth.
There are a few issues that you may have run into. You can send me an email with more information and I can see if I can help you out. Email me at: email@example.com
How long will babies survive inside gilt, 1 baby had to be pulled yesterday about 1:20pm dead, had her checked because no more babies came, could feel a baby but couldn’t get it out, my vet went on vacation the day she told me to call if babies weren’t born, called every vet, either don’t answer or don’t do pigs, was told to give 5 ml oxytocin’s a few hours later a second dose of 3 ml Still no babies, she was pushing when I had my hand in wrist deep, I could feel tip if baby but can’t get fingers open enough to grab or pull, the vet that responded said if c section gilt would be a sacrifice, 6 hrs after 1st baby pulled. is it too late to save babies? It is now 21 hrs.
I hate to hear that you are having all of these issues! Not to mention that your vet is on vacation. I would try to get in touch with your vet on vacation and see if she can recommend someone or help you over the phone. Oxytocin is given to induce or help along labor. Were you able to give her oxytocin? I would be worried about not only the piglets this far along, but your sow as well. It sounds like someone needs to do an ultrasound on her to see what the underlying issue is. It could be something simple like excess mucus blocking the way or piglets that are too large. The underlying cause is going to determine the best way to handle the situation. Good luck and I hope you can get in touch with someone!
Why is my sow not coming to heat 3 months after farrowing?
Have the piglets been weaned? Most of the time the sow will not return to heat until the piglets have been weaned. Most sows will come into heat 4-6 days after being weaned. IF the piglets have been weaned already, then consider feeding and water. If the sows lost considerable weight while they were nursing the piglets then they should regain some of the lost weight before their body will cycle successfully. Sometimes if they nursed a large number of piglets, it will take longer for them to come into heat after weaning. Also, consider the temperature. Although pigs will breed pretty much year-round, they prefer to breed when it’s slightly cooler. If it’s excessively hot, that could cause them to not come into heat.
Betty Weiland says
I am a first time pig owner, I have 2 females and 1 male potbelly pigs. The male continues to ride the two females who have become very large we are watching for all the signs of pregnancy and think both females are pregnant but the male continues to ride them. Do they continue to mate even through their pregnancy. I am afraid they are going to get hurt by him. He will not let anyone near the females he will run people totally out of the pen. He has become very mean. We have not seen any signs of farrowing yet with the females. We have no vet in the area that does house visits. They are too wild to take them to a vet. This is my first time trying to decide when the pigs are going to farrow. When the females lay down they lay on their sides, so I can not tell if they are laboring. Is there any signs I need to look for, and what are your thoughts on the male pig continuing to ride the female? is there anything I can give the male pig to keep him from riding the females?
It sounds like you have your hands full! The male pig can’t hurt the females unless he’s just massively larger than them. I do recommend trying to separate them from him, though. If he’s becoming aggressive now, it’s likely that he will try to be mean to the piglets when they arrive. Male pigs will eat or kill new piglets so that the female will come back in heat so that he can breed her again. It’s harder to detect pregnancy in potbelly pigs by looking at them because they already have a slightly pregnant appearance. Pigs don’t show until a few weeks before farrowing. When they do show, you’ll notice the back of the stomach, near the hind legs, will drop. This usually shows about 3 weeks before farrowing. Before farrowing, the mammary glands may start to fill up and there could be some mucus and drainage from the vulva. Right before farrowing, she will become restless and start ‘nesting’. She will root around, possibly become more vocal and won’t be able to get comfortable.
my pigs started to meet when they are five months old, so it’s possible that they can get pregnant at five months old.
Benson ikimalo says
Thanks for this article. Please I’m a new breeder in Nigeria. I have two pigs that are overdue by over five days. Please is this normal? Them seem relaxed and have not shown reasonable sign of littering
Five days overdue is starting to get a little late for my liking. Pigs are usually farrowing within 2-3 days of their due date. Is there any possibility that the due date is off? That would be my first thought. Maybe the conception date wasn’t the day that you thought?
My potbelly had a still born baby at 9am and at 6pm she had no other baby’s but she still shows labour sighns and contractions what do i do
If she’s a first time mother, this may be within the window of normal. I would call your local veterinarian just to rule out that she doesn’t have babies sideways that can’t come out. If there are other babies, the vet may give her some hormone shots to help speed the labor process up. Good luck!
Hello I am Ebenezee from Ghana. I have read a lot about your interesting brief of pigs reara . I am now into this business and I am almost finished setting up my house. I need some advice of starting it as I have no ideas about it but I am interested to invest in pig farming. Kindly get back to me if there is any advice thank you.
What do I do with a aggressive mom shes in labor and having babies but pushed me up against the wall then threw one of her babies. Is this a normal labor issue so.etimes and the babies will be fine or do I need to get ride if her. Shes was fine but when she went into labor she turned psycho
I wonder if she was just extremely uncomfortable? If she is still aggressive to the piglets after labor I would get rid of her. I hope everything turned out well!
My pig is having her first litter we found a baby yesterday and that’s all she has had her belly is huge is this normal
Most of the time pigs will have anywhere from 7-13 piglets. Having just one isn’t normal. You may want to have her checked out by a veterinarian to see what’s going on. Good luck!
Hello.. i have a female and a male pig…. They are about 1 and a half years old.. despite efforts in trying to get the female pregnant it just never happens….what could be the root problem?
Is your female coming into heat properly? That’s where I would start. If she’s not coming into heat then you could try using hormones to make her come into heat. If she’s showing signs of heat, and they’re trying to mate, then I would check both of them for disease. Many pig diseases will cause reproductive problems. These diseases can be treated/prevented with antibiotics and vaccines. If everything checks out ok with your gilt, then I would look closer at the boar. You can have a reproductive soundness exam done on him by a veterinarian. This should pick up any issues that he may have with breeding successfully. I know it can be frustrating when you’re trying to have piglets and nothing is happening! Good luck!
Hi, I’ve bought 2 pot belly’s, 1male 1female. I was told the female was pregnant but the male was mounting her yesterday and has became aggressive towards me today! Will she still let him do this even if she’s pregnant? Or has she came in heat and he is keeping me away from her because of this? Thanks
Most sows will not let a boar mount them if she isn’t in heat. It sounds like she may be in heat, especially if he was trying to be aggressive towards you.
Hi, my potbelly pig Penelope had her first litter on August 14th. Unfortunately she had such a hard time having them we had to assist her. Two of them were stillborn and the last one was so tiny she was the size of a small kids juice box and she only live 3 days. My question is how long should I wait before we try again? Penelope seems sad, she didn’t get to keep any of her babies
I hate to hear that! Has she been vaccinated for reproductive diseases? If not, I would recommend vaccinating her for PRRS. You might also want to rule out a possible reproductive infection before breeding her again. A vet can check that pretty easily and give you antibiotics if she needs it. If everything checks out ok, I’d give her a couple of months to recuperate and then try breeding her again.
What should I do when my gilt’s gestation has clocked 121days? Is this still normal?
Pigs are usually pretty much like clockwork with most gestations falling within a couple of days on either side of 114 days. It’s possible that there was a miscalculation of when she came in heat or was bred; it happens more often than you’d think. If that’s not a possibility then you may want to have her checked out. Definitely get her checked out if she’s showing some weird symptoms.
Hi i have a female potbelly pig. when i got her i was told that she was preg. Today i went to check on her and she has some white discharge comeing out of her girly parts and about three weeks ago she passed what looked like a mucas plug. i have talked to other people who raise pigs and they do beleave that she is about 6 months old and she woud have gotten preg. on her first cycle. as i know this is not good. i guess my question is , is she starting labor ?
She could be. I would watch for other signs of labor, like restlessness, nesting, going off of feed and contractions.
Good day, i am working on pig farm in Denmark and i wondering how i can keep 100 percent of insiminated sows pregnant because we have to many of them empty, durring scaning every week i can found around 4-5 sows empty from all of the group sows. And that connectet not only to sows that also heppening with gilts
Our female Juliana pig looks pregnant. Do we need to separate her from the male before she has the piglets? Will he bother them?
Congrats Debbie! Maybe she is 🙂
I would recommend separating them once she gets closer. He will be able to give you clues as to whether she is in heat or not (and therefore pregnant or not). If he tries breeding her again in a few weeks, she may have come into heat again. But, pigs are pregnant for 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. If she is pregnant, I’d separate them about the time that you can tell she’s actually pregnant. This is usually when they’re about 3 weeks from farrowing. Some males are very aggressive towards babies and some are totally tolerant of them. I like to play it safe and separate the momma and babies.
Tena Cummings says
Yes, what kind of bedding does a micro mother need