The Farrowing Barn
The process of birthing a litter of pigs is called farrowing. Sows are moved to the farrowing barn a few days before their expected due date. There, they are housed in individual farrowing pens which provide them with comfort and privacy for their arriving litter.
Depending on their age, sows will usually farrow 8-16 piglets, weighing about 1 kg (2.2 lb) each. Comparatively, the mother pig weighs between 180-300 kg (400-650 lb), making her up to 300 times heavier than her piglets! Farrowing pens are designed with adjustable rails to prevent the sow from lying down too quickly and crushing her piglets. They also have built-in creep areas to which the piglets can retreat. Heat pads and heat lamps help keep the piglets warm and comfortable, increasing their chance of survival.
Newborn piglets will start suckling from their mother’s udder within a few hours of birth. Colostrum, the milk produced by the sow on the first day, is rich in nutrients and antibodies which enhance the newborn piglets’ immunity. Farmers ensure that all piglets have access to their mother’s milk during their whole suckling phase, which lasts about 3-4 weeks.
Did you know?
Farmers continually monitor sows and piglets during and after farrowing, doing their utmost to keep sows comfortable and piglets safe and healthy. To help piglets thrive in the farrowing barn, farmers:
- Monitor farrowing and assist sows that are having difficulties.
- Dry newborn piglets and clear fluid from their mouths and nostrils.
- Foster piglets from larger litters onto sows with smaller litters.
- Temporarily prevent larger piglets from suckling to give smaller piglets a chance.