Considerations At Farrowing Time

Gordon King, Animal Science, University of Guelph, Canada

Piglets can be born outside, in huts, in pens or in crates but proper attention is necessary throughout the farrowing interval to insure health of sows and survival of piglets. Under any improved husbandry conditions, sows or gilts should be placed in the farrowing area a few days before they are due. This allows the dam to settle into her new environment and adjust to the new management routine. In most total confinement systems, farrowing usually occurs in crates or stalls. Farrowing environment design is a continuing process so new systems and modifications appear regularly. Although there are many models on the market today, none are perfect so producers should be continually seeking improvement.

Even the best the farrowing area is a compromise between what is the best environment for sows and for piglets. Crates or pens require guards to prevent the sow from suddenly lying down and crushing piglets. A proper farrowing environment provides a special, heated area for the newborn piglets with temperature reduced gradually during the first 7-10 days as piglet grows. This is necessary since the uterine temperature is around 39.5 C and piglets exit quickly into a much cooler world. Since neonatal piglets have very little fat or glycogen, they are poorly equipped to adapt to the lower temperature. Their reserves are depleted quickly if piglets must metabolize glycogen in an attempt to stay warm. This leads to piglets becoming hypoglycemic and inactive. Some may die from chilling but many are lost from crushing since they are too lethargic to escape when the sow lies down.

The usually quoted figure for stillborn piglets is 5-7 %, but only about a small proportion of these are actually dead when parturition begins. Some piglets become anoxic from compression or premature rupture of their umbilical cords during parturition.

Proper facilities and the presence of competent attendants during farrowing can increase piglet survival by 0.5 to 1 piglet per litter. Attention should be directed at the following:

Birth Weight and Survival

Birth Order and Survival

Teat Imprinting

Cross-Fostering Piglets


Feeding Parturient Sows

Feeding Piglets


Routine Activities


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