The Breeding Barn
Nowadays, most farmers breed female pigs by artificial insemination (A.I.), a technique that does not require direct contact with a boar (male pig). This helps to produce healthier litters and prevent injury.
Boars can be quite hostile and need to be penned individually, but they are kept on the farm to help stimulate and detect estrus (or heat) in female pigs.
Until they have their first litter, young female pigs are called gilts. Once they give birth, gilts are called sows. Gilts are ready for breeding at 6-7 months of age. Signs of heat, which usually last 1-3 days, indicate a readiness for breeding. If they are not bred during this time, gilts and sows will come back into heat after about 21 days, the length of their estrus cycle.
During the first trimester, pregnant pigs are especially susceptible to miscarriage. To provide them with privacy and protection, farmers usually keep gilts and sows in individual pens within the breeding barn for 4-5 weeks. During this time, farmers perform pregnancy tests using ultrasound equipment. If the female pigs are not pregnant, they stay in the breeding barn. If they are pregnant, they are moved to the gestation barn.
Did you know?
Farmers follow several standards of animal care related to handling, feeding, air quality, transportation and more. The quality of care is essential to pigs’ health and well-being.
Following high standards of care:
- Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs - comprehensive guidelines that promote optimal care on farm and during transport.
- Animal Care Assessment - assessment of animal care practices, routinely audited by veterinarians.
- Manitoba's Animal Care Act - regulation deterring the abuse and neglect of animals.