How to Breed Pigs

If you've cared for weaned piglets and want to take the next step in swine herding, the author has a lot of advice on how to breed pigs.

| July/August 1980

In a previous article I tried to pass along all the know-how necessary to rear eating-size porkers from weaned feeder pigs. Of course, a number of folks will want to set up a year-round breeding operation. If you're thinking of learning how to breed pigs, however, you should know right off the bat that rearing newborn piglets is a somewhat involved and risky undertaking. In fact, from 30% to 40% of the baby swine born in the pig-breeding business in this country die shortly after birth!

But a small scale homesteader is able to provide more conscientious caretaking than can most large enterprises, so you should be able to save almost all your curly-tailed youngsters ... and successfully raise an average of 16 hogs per sow (from two litters) each year. All it takes to achieve the goal is a lot of tender loving care and some solid know how.

Mating the Sow

Obviously enough, the first step toward rearing healthy piglets is making sure the intended mother is mated! A gilt (a young female hog) should reach sexual maturity at five or six months of age, and be receptive for two or three days of each subsequent 21 day cycle. You can be sure that a sow's in estrus (heat) if the female has a swollen vulva. She also may or may not have a slight mucus-like or bloody vaginal discharge, act restless, urinate frequently, twitch her tail, hold her ground when you press down on her hindquarters, or try to "ride" other sows.

You should mate gilts on their first day of heat and older "gals" on the second day. (Both young and old sows should receive a second mating 24 hours after their first.) As for the male partners in a porcine union, an 8- to 12-month-old boar can usually service 12 females in pasture or be "handmated" (matched individually in a barn) with 24 gilts or sows. A yearling (or older) boar can service 50 sows in stalls or 35 to 40 pasturing females.

Preparing for the Big Day

The gestation period for your pregnant sow will be approximately 113 days, or as the old saying goes, three months, three weeks, and three days. But there are some important preparations to be made before that magic moment of birth arrives.

For one thing, you should in advance take steps to help keep diseases from striking those fragile newborns. So be sure to worm (for parasites) and spray (for lice) each sow about two weeks before her due date. You should also immunize an expectant mother against erysipelas to strengthen both the sow's and offspring's resistance to this most common—and usually fatal—swine disease. Likewise, good sanitation is a vital part of preventive health care, so thoroughly clean the farrowing pen (and keep it clean) ... and wash the pregnant porker with a mild detergent and warm water before you pen her up for delivery.

1/26/2018 4:27:02 PM

Can pregnant pig nurse for sisters ?

1/26/2018 4:27:00 PM

I have tamed wild pigs approaching for food n plan on corralling. G ma sow nurses and I thot she was pregnant. Can a sow nurse for others while pregnant ? Maybe a mock nursing (?).

6/10/2016 2:21:49 PM

Some stellar info here. I've recently looked into raising show pigs and found some great information here: Really looking for more info on how to feed, shelter, and all that. any suggestions?

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