Are You Ready For Your First Litter?
Farrowing your first sow or gilt can be very exciting, but you need to make sure you are prepared for it!
Everyone in the hog industry has a different way, and there is a bunch of right ways to do so. Here are a few ways we prepare for our litters and the newborn pigs.
First off, we must identify our goal, which is to have a large healthy litter of pigs. To do this, as a producer we must be prepared with necessary tools and have our facility prepared. Newborn pigs have a better chance of survival if they arrive in a clean, sanitized farrowing facility, and this is what we strive for. Our farrowing barn is cleaned and disinfected before each farrowing cycle. To clean our barn we power wash it, spray a disinfectant and treat it very similar to a hospital setting. We do this for more than one reason. We do it to fight bacteria in the barn, diseases that have entered our facilities and to just simply refresh the barn!
About a week and a half before the litter is due, we cut the sows feed back. We do this because a large amount of feed can make the piglets larger, making delivery more difficult for your sow/gilt.
IS SHE READY!?!
This is the most common phone call we get from people when the farrowing date is nearing. The first thing is, has your sow reached her due date?
An easy way to remember the length of gestation is the rule of threes: three months, three weeks and three days, for a total of 114 days. This is an average length; pigs born a couple of days early or late and should be healthy. The gestation lengths can vary with each pregnancy, so don't worry if your sow delivers at exactly 114 days for one pregnancy and 116 days for the next pregnancy.
What are other signs?
There are many different setups for farrowing. We really like farrowing in individual stalls. Our stalls allow the sow/gilt to be in the middle with two dividers on either side, this is where the baby pigs lay.
We like to keep our temperatures in the barn at a comfortable setting between 72-74 degrees and we use heat mats and heat lamps to supplement heat for the babies. They like the temperature to be between 80-85 degrees. If the barn is to hot, the sow will want to move around to cool off, causing her to get up and down in the create, which could in return could mean pigs getting laid on.
When the pigs arrive (fun fact – at birth your babies will weigh 2 to 3 pounds), we like to dry them off and put them in a plastic totes with warm towels on the bottom. Once we feel each pig has caught its bearings we introduce it to the sow and make sure it nurses.
It is essential for them to receive that first drink, which is called colostrum. This first suckle of colostrum is full of antibodies that protect the baby piglets against disease. It also contains nutrients that kick starts their systems and gets them ready for life!
Not every litter is what you might call successful, and for these events it is important to have milk replacer on hand and ready to use. We also like to supplement our newborns with shallow bowls of pig milk replacer just so we can make sure they are getting every bit of nutrients they may need.
Even though this might be a vague post, we hope it helps you on your first litter and as always, never hesitate to give us a call with your questions.
Andrew and Stephanie White