Some points for better Farrowing Management

Important Issues in our Farrowing Department


Representing:            TDM Farms

Presenting:                 Erick Soza

Supporting:                Steve Smith, Dr. Carolina Sernia




·The main function of the farrowing department is to meet weekly weaning targets.

·Saving as many pigs as possible and supporting their growth is a primary function.

·Proper care of sows immediately contributes to saving and growing good pigs.

·However, proper sow care also insures that the sow will be there to do well on subsequent farrowings.


Sow Acclimation


·Move sow on Day 110 of gestation to the farrowing house

·Start feeding 4 to 4 ½ pounds of lactation diet per day


Piglets Processing


·The faster processing is done, the less the amount of stress is experienced by pigs

·Delay castration to 5 to10 days of age

-         Detection of scrotal hernias is much better

-         Less depression of piglets growth and improved weaning weight (Kielly, 1997)


Sow Management


·Record the total daily feed intake for each lactating sow

-         Use to determine the amount of later feedings

-         Use to find off-feed ill sows

·Sow feeding schedule:

-         Feed at least 3 pound the day of farrowing

-         Increase at the rate of 2 to 3 pound per day

-         Day 4 to 5 following birth, sows given full feed

-         Full feed: As much as they can eat

·Drinkers: Limited water limits feed intake

·Outside temperatures: Sows do not eat well in summer heat


Question 1: What is the normal body temperature of a sow?


·A normal sow’s body temperature during lactation may range from 101.5º F to 104º F

·The expected high of normal body temperature varies with the stage of lactation


Stage of lactation

Expected High-Normal of Body Temperature, Degrees F.

Birth of first piglet


12 hours post-farrowing


24 hours post-farrowing


Day 7 pos-farrowing


Day 1 post- weaning



Question 2: What do you do if a sow becomes constipated?


·If a sow is affected by constipation, let her walk around the farrowing room for 10 to 15 minutes a day.

·If not corrected with exercise, top dress her feed with chemical laxatives

-         Epsom’s Salts (Magnesium sulfate)

-         DynamateTM (Potassium chloride)

-         Top dress 1 to 2 tablespoons per day

-         Off-feed sows are constipated and will not consume top-dressed laxative


Question 3: Should pigs be fed creep feed before weaning?


·Creep feeding: Giving piglets access to dry feed before weaning

·Creep feeding is beneficial to piglets as:

-         It helps pigs adjust more quickly to dry nursery feed after weaning

-         It builds a pig’s immune system

·Guideline for creep feeding baby pigs:

-         Start at 4 days of age by placing creep feed in their feeders

-         Begin feeding ¼ cup once a day to each litter

-         Increase to ½ cup, as pigs “clean up” the feed

-         Do not fill the feeder full to prevent playing in the feed or pushing feed out

-         The last week pigs are in the farrowing house, increase feeding by offering feed 2 to 3 time each day


Question 4:What temperature is appropriate for the mat under the heat lamp

during and after farrowing?


·Adjust the height of the heat lamp to provide temperature of 920 F. on the mat under the lamps

·Mats provide newborn pigs a warm and dry place of comfort


Question 5: How do you induce farrowing using prostaglandins (LutalyseTM or ProstamateTM)?


·80 to 100 percent of sows will farrow within 36 to 48 hours (1 ½ to 2 days) after being injected with prostaglandin

·Knowing the breeding date and the average gestation length in the sow herd is critical to using the product with a loss of piglets

·Do not induce sows that are more than 2 or 3 days from the average length of gestation in that herd

·Inducing too early results in:

-         Immature weak piglets at birth

-         Increased piglet mortality (higher preweaning mortality)

·Workers should wear gloves when handling prostaglandin


Question 6: How long should you wait after a sow starts to farrow before you manually examine her or pull her pigs?


·  Signs that indicate a sow is preparing to farrow. Watch for these signs:

-         Reduced feed intake

-         Refusal to get up

-         Increased respiration rate (breathing) and nervousness

-         Swollen vulva

-         Milk production (12-24 hours before farrowing)

-         Sow makes “mothering” noises

·  Pull pigs when you see one pig dry, no contractions, and no new pig within 30 minutes of her last check


Question 7: How do you use oxytocin to aid a sow during a difficult farrowing?


·  More muscle power in labor contractions with oxytocin injection

·  Assure the sow has delivered at least one pig before administering oxytocin

·  Manually check the sow to be sure she is completely dilated and nothing is blocking the birth canal

·  Use ½ cc of oxytocin per injection and wait 20 minutes before giving a second dose

·  Should not need more than 2 doses during a farrowing


Question 8: How much water does a sow need to drink when nursing pigs that are 18-20 day old?



Volume per day

Gestation sow

3 – 4 Gallons

Lactation sow

5 - 7 ½ Gallons

Suckling piglet

7 – 11 Ounces

Nursery pig

¼ - 1 ½Gallons

Finishing pig

1 – 3 Gallons


Question 9: How do you choose a propective “nurse sow?”


·  Nurse Sow: A sow with older pigs that is weaned and given a crate in a room with younger pigs. Small pigs from the room are then cross-fostered onto her as a new litter.

·  Must consider the following when choosing a “nurse sow:”

-         Parity of the sow

-         Body condition

-         Health

-         Ability to milk


Question 10: Is cross-fostering beneficial?


·According to genetic suppliers, cross fostering is beneficial, especially for pigs born into gilt litters

·Purpose of the cross fostering:

-         Reduce weaning weight variation

-         Match the number of pigs in a sow’s litter to her ability to feed them

Ø      8 pigs onto gilts (parity 0)

Ø      9 pigs onto parity 1

Ø      10 pigs onto older parities

-         Protocol will often require nurse sows or a “litter nursery” on the sow farm.


Question 11: What is the difference between procaine penicillin G (PenGTM) and long-acting penicillin (DuoPenTM or BP48TM)? What are their withdrawal times?


Procaine Penicillin

Long-Acting Penicillin

300,000 units Procaine Penicillin G per cc

150,000 units Procaine Penicillin G and 150,000 units Benzathine Penicillin per cc

Administered in the muscle

Labeled for use under the skin. Prescription required for use in the muscle.

Prescription required for dosages exceeding 1 cc/100 lbs. Prescriptions often recommends 1 cc/ 20 lbs. or 1 cc/15 lbs.

Prescription required if not labeled for swine. Prescriptions often recommends

1 cc/ 20 lbs. or 1 cc/15 lbs. 

Slaughter Withdrawal Time:

Label - 7 days when 1 cc/100 lbs.

Script - Often 14 days or longer when given at the rate of 1 cc per15 to 20 lbs.

Slaughter Withdrawal Time:

Label - 30 days when 1 cc/100 lbs.

Script - Often 60 days or longer when given at the rate of 1 cc per15 to 20 lbs.


Question 12: How do you medicate a sow that has a fever?


·  Use an antibiotic to impede bacterial infections that are associated with an infection.

·  Dexamethasone can increase appetite and cause the sow to “feel better.”

·  Must determine if the sow is pregnant before treating her with dexamethasone

-         Give Dexamethasone when a sow is not pregnant

-         Dexamethasone aborts pregnant sows


Question 13: How do you treat off-feed sows?


·  When we have several sow off feed, we check the in-door temperature, the out-door temperature, and the temperature of off-feed sows in the room

-         Average normal body temperature about 101.5º F.

-         It is known that every one-degree rise in temperature will cause a sow to eat 0.2 pound less of feed per day

-         Maximum sow feed intake occurs when sows are housed at 60º to 65º F.

-         We slight the sows to give warmer room temperatures in an effort to benefit the piglets that want to be 92º F.


Question 14: How can you prevent sows from discharging after farrowing?


·  Check the procedures you use when examining sows and pulling pigs

-         Clean sow’s vulva

-         Your arm and hand must be clean

-         Use a large volume of Vaseline or OB Lube

-         Enter the sow slowly

-         Stop and back-up if the uterine wall seems to bunch around your arm

-         Never push against the sow while she is pushing

-         Pull the pigs slowly.

·  If you see signs of discharges after the last pig is pulled, initiate one of the following treatments:

-         Penicillin G procaine, BP 48, or Gallimycin 200 for three consecutive days

-         If the discharge is severe, you can use ¼ to ½ cc oxytocin each day.


Question 15: Why is it necessary to give iron at birth?


·  Pigs are born with a limited store of iron (approximately 50 mg)

·  Piglets use about 7-11 mg/day of iron

·  Sow milk does not contain adequate iron.

·  Piglets get about 1 mg per day from sow milk

·  Piglets can easily run out of iron in a week to 10 days


Question 16: What causes the joint of piglets to become infected and how are they best treated?


·  Swollen joints are usually an infection that is causing arthritis

-         Some bacteria, like Strep suis, colonize the piglet’s body during birth

-         These piglets carry the bacteria in their tonsils and mouth

-         Open navels, cut tail stumps, castration wounds, injured gums from needle teeth trimming, and other skin lesion provide entry sites for bacteria

-         Septicemia (bacteria traveling in the blood) occurs quickly after bacterial entry

-         The blood carries bacteria to the joints where they locate and infect

-         Multiple joint infections occur when pigs have bacteria in their blood stream

-         Pigs with swollen joints have retarded growth and are often culled in the nursery or finisher

·  Common bacteria: Step suis, Other Strep, Hemophilus parasuis, Some Staph, and a type of Mycoplasma, and occasionally erysipelas

·  The best medications are the antibiotic shown by testing to be effective against the particular infection found in the pigs.


Question 17: What can be done to increase the birth weight of piglets?


·  Parity distribution of the sow farm: A relationship exists between number of parities the sows have delivered and the quantity of small piglets born

·  Nutrition: The last term (4 weeks) of gestation


Question 18: What can be done when the number “born alive” is low?


·  Sow condition at weaning

-         Challenge feed sows during lactation

-         Sows weaned in good condition settle with more pigs

·  Gilt size at breeding: Small gilts bred before 30 weeks of age have small litters in their first farrowing, small litters in later farrowings, and reduced longevity in the herd

·  Parity distribution of the sow farm: A relationship exists between number of parities the sows have delivered and the quantity of piglets born

·  Adequate performance in breeding: Semen quality, good matings, good heat detection




·  Summary Take Home Message

-         Although the farrowing department must meet weekly targets for number weaned, proper sow care assures sow productivity and the capability of achieving future weanings with adequate pig numbers.




Kielly J, Dewey CE, Cochran M. 1997. Castration at 3 day of age temporarily slows the growth of piglets. Journal of Swine Health Production. 7(4):151-153.