Choosing a breeding animal of any species can seem overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. Choosing a gilt that you intend to breed is no different. I’m here to guide you through the process of choosing a breeding gilt.
Body structure. The first thing that you’ll want to look for is structural correctness. You’ll look at the pig to make sure that she is built correctly and will be able to hold up for you for years to come. She should have nice straight legs. When you view her from the side, her back should be level and her back legs shouldn’t be tucked under her.
Look at her from behind and watch her walk away. She shouldn’t have sway in her hips. If she does, that’s a poor indication that her back end isn’t built right. One of the most common issues pigs have is leg problems. Prevent that by choosing breeding gilts with correct legs.
Musculature. Next, you’ll want to look at her muscling, similar to how you would look at a pig that you would raise and take to market. She should have good muscle definition. You should see muscling in her hams, along her loins and in her shoulder. Remember, she will be passing some of these traits onto her offspring, which you’ll be raising as meat animals, so meat characteristics are important.
Reproductive traits. She should also have sound reproductive traits. You should look at the vulva and teats on gilts that you are considering to breed. Make sure that she has at least seven good teats on each side. Check for inverted or blind teats. Piglets will not be able to nurse from these, so you want to make sure she has enough good teats to nurse a large litter.
Also, look at her vulva. A pig’s vulva is shaped like an upside down teardrop. The point should aim down towards the ground. If it points up, this can get in the way of natural breeding. It can also indicate that she has some reproductive issues inside that you cannot see. It’s best to stay away from an upward tipped vulva.
Femininity. Lastly, she should look feminine and able to carry a litter of piglets. She should have decent length and body capacity. When you look at her head, she should have a feminine face. She shouldn’t look like a boar in the face. She should have a trim neck and head.
When you’re trying to pick out a gilt to use in a breeding program, it can be hard to choose the right one. I would put the most weight on structural correctness. If she can’t walk around comfortably now, she’s going to have major issue when she is carrying or nursing a litter of piglets.
I also like to put emphasis on muscle qualities. What good will she do you if she can’t have piglets that don’t have good muscling? Lastly, check her reproductive traits and make sure that you won’t run into problems there. If you get to the stage of making sure she looks feminine, that’s not quite as important. I’ve seen many top-producing sows that could have looked more feminine in the face. I've got more on pig pregnancy over on my site, Farminence.
Shelby DeVore is an Agriculture Educator in western Tennessee, where she works with education companies to create study materials for college students who are interested in taking the certification tests to become agriculture educators. She also works as an Agritourism Consultant to help farmers increase visitors and promote their commodities. Connect with Shelby at Farminence.com.