Breeding pigs is relatively easy, and it’s a good way to make a profit on your small farm. Even if you don’t breed pigs for meat, you can breed them to sell the young pigs or shoats. If you keep a boar and breeding sows year-round, you can expect each sow to have a couple of litters annually. Read on to learn more on how to breed pigs.
What You'll Learn Today
Breeding Pigs: 3 Different Ways
There are three different ways to breed pigs. Depending on your setup, you could choose from:
1. Pen mating
Pen mating involves simply allowing your boar to run freely with your sows. This is a good choice if you just have a few sows and you have a spacious pen. Allowing your boar to run free with multiple sows can prove to be overtaxing for him. Overcrowded pigs will tend to aggress toward one another.
2. Hand mating
Hand mating involve supervising the mating of one boar and one sow. This method involves some work on your part. You’ll need to keep track of your sow’s estrus cycles and introduce her to the boar once every 24 hours for at least the first 3 days of estrus.
Alternately, you may wish to introduce the sow to the boar daily until she refuses to accept him. This can be an indication that she has been bred.
3. Artificial insemination
Artificial insemination, or AI, can be conducted without a boar. Frozen semen is purchased and artificially introduced. This method involves a great deal of effort on your part.
You’ll need to locate a source for the semen; assemble all the paraphernalia necessary to inseminate the sow; keep track of the sow’s estrus cycle and then take her temperature multiple times during that cycle performing the inseminations at appropriate intervals approximately 12 to 16 hours apart.
How Many Babies Do Pigs Have?
Sows can give birth twice annually. Although it is most common for litters to consist of about 8 piglets, it is possible for them to contain as many as a dozen piglets. Keep in mind, however, that it’s very common for newborn piglets to perish. In fact, the mortality rate can be as high as 40%.
Why is there such a high mortality rate for piglets?
Unfortunately, between 5% and 10% of piglets are stillborn. Additionally, many newborn piglets are smothered accidentally by the sow who may lie on top of them.
Piglets also take a chill quite easily, so a piglet that is unable to stay close to its mother to stay warm could very easily perish. Runt piglets may be unable to take first milk and get colostrum, and this may cause death due to lack of defenses against viruses and bacteria. Other causes include birth defects, diarrhea and other common maladies.
Because of these problems, it’s important to keep a close eye on sows that are about to farrow (give birth). Unfortunately, sows often have their litters at night when there is no one around to help out. Monitoring sows electronically, or simply camping out in the barn, old-school, can help reduce piglet mortality.
It’s important to keep the sow’s stall or the farrowing house warm during birth. This helps reduce chances of piglet mortality and chances of stillbirths.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to be present from the outset of farrowing because walking the sow a bit before she begins giving birth can help reduce instances of stillborn piglets.
If your sow has difficulty farrowing, you can call your vet in to evaluate the complications and intervene as needed. Your vet may wish to manually assist the birth, or he or she may provide an injection of oxytocin or other treatment to help encourage birth.
How can you tell when your sow is about to give birth?
When it’s nearly time for your sow to give birth, you’ll notice that her mammary glands swell and begin to secrete small amounts of milk.
Additionally, she’ll become restless and begin to exhibit nest building activities in the final 24 hours before giving birth. This should give you plenty of time to observe her during the day and expect piglets during the night.
How Long Are Pigs Pregnant?
The length of a sow’s gestation is 114 days. When the piglets are born, they will weigh about two and a half pounds each. They grow very rapidly, and will weigh as much as 5 pounds within a week. You can wean baby pigs when they are only 3 weeks old.
It is possible to re-breed the sow a week after the young pigs have been weaned. Within a week of weaning, the sow will go into heat or estrus and can be bred again.
If you’re looking for more info on this subject, here is a guide on feeding your pigs.