Christmas day was extra busy for Dale as a new group of sows started to have little pigs. A sow’s gestation period is about 114 days ( 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days as we learned in our Intro to Animal Science class) so these sows were bred last September.

Quite a bit of observation goes on during this time. Dale is making sure the sows are comfortable in the farrowing room. Once a sow starts to farrow, he makes sure she isn’t having any problems and that the pigs are being born on a regular basis, about one pig every 20-25 minutes. If it takes much longer than that, he may have to help.

Dale likes to keep the farrowing room cooler for the sows, about 70 degrees, but the little pigs need it warmer, so we use heat mats (think in-floor heating), to provide a warm surface for the pigs. We’ll also use a heat lamp over them if necessary to provide additional warmth.

It’s critical to make sure the pigs nurse on the sow right away. The rich colostrum provides energy and immunity for the young pigs. Pigs that eat well the first few days will grow better the rest of their life.

Farrowing pigs takes extra time and effort. But the reward is having a group of sows with many healthy active pigs.