MANAGEMENT                                        PIH-46


        Care of the Sow During Farrowing and Lactation

David C. England, Oregon State University
Hobart W. Jones, Purdue University
Steven Pollmann, Decatur, Indiana

Ellen T. Blocker, Starkville, Mississippi
Jerry Hawton, University of Minnesota
John and Nancy Joyce, Anderson, Wyoming
Ronny Moser, University of Minnesota
Richard H. Simms, University of Tennessee


     Proper care of the sow during gestation, farrowing, and lac-
tation  is  a means to reach a goala large litter of healthy pigs
at birth that will remain healthy and grow rapidly.  Care  during
this  time must also prepare the sow for a successful repeat per-
formance at the earliest time within the system  of  weaning  and
rebreeding  used. The sow must reach farrowing in the best nutri-
tional  and  microbiological  health  for  herself  and  for  the
expected  litter.   Properly  balanced  rations  should be fed in
recommended amounts so that newborn pigs are well  developed  and
strong.  A  herd  health program that assures minimal exposure of
the sow to disease or disease carriers during gestation is essen-
tial  for  maximal litter survival during the first weeks of life
and for effective growth to weaning and market. The  sows  should
be  managed  in  a  gentle  and confident manner and on a regular
daily schedule.

Deworming Sows

     If there is indication of worm infestation, sows  should  be
dewormed  about  two  weeks  before moving to farrowing crates or
pens.  Treatment  for  external  parasites  at  least  twice  (in
approved repeat times for the product used) also should be accom-
plished within a few days before movement to the farrowing facil-
ity (See PIH-44).

Preparing the Farrowing Unit

     If possible, the total farrowing unit should be cleaned com-
pletely  of  organic matter, disinfected, and left unused for 5-7
days before a new group of sows is placed in the unit. When  this
is  not  practical,  at least the individual pen, stall, or crate
should be completely cleaned of organic  matter  and  disinfected
before a new sow is placed in the unit.

     ``Clean'' means what it says. The floors,  partition  walls,
ceilings  and equipment should have all organic matter, including
dust, removed. This can be accomplished by scraping, use of  high
pressure cleaners, steam cleaners, and/or a stiff scrub brush. Do
a complete job.

     Disinfectants are ineffective unless  the  cleaning  job  is
complete.  There are many good disinfectants available, including
the quaternary ammonium compounds, iodoform compounds and  others
such  as  lye,  to  use  when the cleaning job is done well. Some
disinfectants such as those that contain coal tars or lye  should
be  thoroughly  rinsed  off  after several hours, especially from
surfaces having direct contact with pigs (See PIH-80).

Washing the Sow

     Before the sow is placed in  the  farrowing  pen,  wash  the
teats  and  belly  with mild soap and warm water. This will elim-
inate soil and fecal material that may contain numerous  bacteria
that  are  potential  diarrhea-producing  agents  for the nursing
pigs. This procedure will also eliminate ascaris (roundworm) eggs
that would serve as a source of infection to the nursing pig.

Feeding the Sow

     During prefarrow in the facility, sows can be  fed  as  they
have been during gestation, that is limit fed 4-6 lb./day depend-
ing on weather and housing conditions. Better results  are  often
reported  by  producers,  however, from feeding a laxative ration
prefarrowing  to  prevent  constipation.   Constipation  can   be
prevented  or  corrected by changing to a bulky diet, by addition
of 20 lb./ton of epsom salts or 15 lb./ton of potassium chloride,
by  use  of linseed meal as part of the protein in the ration, or
by use of other laxative ingredients. Oats or wheat bran  may  be
used as 25% of the grain to create a bulky ration; in some areas,
other fibrous feeds such as alfalfa meal or beet pulp may be pre-
ferred.  Remove  bulky ingredients from the sow ration soon after
farrowing. Water should be freely available,  but  spillage  that
could cause wetness of the pen should be prevented.

Farrowing and Lactation

Environmental Requirements

     Temperature in the sow area should be  in  the  sow  comfort
range  of  55-75o F;  at the higher temperatures of this range sow
appetite and performance may be depressed. On  solid  or  slotted
floors  without bedding, baby pig areas should be kept at 90-95o F
for the first few days, and then in the 70-80o F range until wean-
ing at 3-6 weeks of age.

     Provide adequate ventilation at all times. Cooling  the  sow
may be beneficial during hot weather (See PIH-87). Researchers at
Kansas State University found good results when  drip  irrigation
emitters  were  mounted  so  that water dripped onto the neck and
shoulder area of sows in farrowing crates.  Each nozzle  provided
0.8  gallon per hour and was operated only when temperatures were
above 85o F. Sows that were cooled had  lower  respiration  rates,
ate more feed per day, and lost less weight during lactation than
sows not cooled. Sows in this study were on total slotted floors.

Knowing When a Sow Will Farrow

     The sow must be at the right place at  the  right  time  for
farrowing,  according  to  the  management  system used. Recorded
breeding dates, calculated farrowing dates, and close observation
are  essential for proper farrowing management. Signs during late
pregnancy help to ensure that sows do not  farrow  at  the  wrong
place and without proper attention.

     If farrowing is to take place in a crate  or  pen,  the  sow
should be in that place no later than the 110th day of gestation.
This avoids loss of litters farrowed on the short end of a normal
gestation  period  (111-115  days)  and  permits time for dams to
become accustomed to the  facility  and  routine  of  daily  care
before  onset  of birth. If breeding dates are not recorded, each
sow should be carefully observed daily during obvious late  preg-
nancy  for enlarged abdomen area, swollen vulva, and filled teats
as basis for estimating the farrowing date.

     Presence of milk usually indicates that farrowing will occur
within  24  hours.  The milk may be grayish in its earliest stage
but becomes white as  time  of  farrowing  approaches.  Sows  may
become  restless or nervous, may try to escape the crate, chew on
anything available, urinate frequently, and attempt  to  build  a
nest or bed.

     If milk is present, the sow should  be  prepared  and  moved
immediately  to  the  farrowing  facility.  If farrowing facility
space is available, move questionable sows to the facility  early
rather than waiting ``one more day.''

     Farrowing can be induced by an injectable  product,  prosta-
glandin,  (available  on  prescription of a veterinarian only) to
induce farrowing to  facilitate  scheduling,  building  use,  and
other  production  management  practices; however, if it is used,
definite breeding dates must be known.

The Birth Process

     Attending  sows  at  farrowing  decreases  the   number   of
``stillborn''  pigs that die during birth or within the first few
hours afterwards; pigs can be freed  from  membranes,  weak  pigs
revived,  and  care can be given that reduces other deaths in the
first few days after farrowing.

     Duration of labor ranges from 30  minutes  to  more  than  5
hours.  Pigs  may  be  born either head first or rear feet first;
either is normal. Fetal membranes or afterbirth may  be  expelled
several times during delivery, but afterbirth generally occurs in
a larger amount near the end of farrowing. Occasionally, if a pig
is  enclosed  in the afterbirth material remove it immediately or
the pig will quickly suffocate. ``Stillborn'' pigs are those that
have died during farrowing; dead pigs may have been dead for only
a few days or for an extended time;  ``mummies''  are  pigs  that
have been dead long enough for much reabsorption of the soft tis-
sues, but not of the skeleton, to have taken place.

     The average interval between birth of pigs is  approximately
15  minutes  but  can  vary from simultaneous to several hours in
individual cases. Use of oxytocin to speed up rate of delivery is
helpful  if  correctly done and if farrowing is proceeding slowly
but otherwise normally. A rule of thumb, not  universally  recom-
mended  but  widely  followed, is to administer oxytocin when the
first interval of 30 minutes after birth of the previous pigs has
occurred  without  birth of another pig or without expelling mem-
branes that indicate farrowing is completed. Oxytocin should  not
be  used  until  birth of one or more pigs has occurred. Oxytocin
should not  be  used  if  symptoms,  such  as  straining  without
delivery, indicate that a pig is blocking the birth canal.

     Prolonged labor, especially that which  is  associated  with
difficult  birth,  and litters produced by large, older sows, are
often accompanied by increased numbers of stillbirths  and  added
death  losses  in  the  first few days after farrowing. Sows that
have been overfed during gestation are more subject to  prolonged
labor,  and some individuals seem to be genetically prone to this
problem. Proper feeding can prevent overweight, or thin sows  and
selection  and  culling  may  eliminate animals that are prone to
difficult births.

Assisting Difficult Births

     At times,  manual  assistance  is  necessary  to  accomplish
delivery but should not be used until obviously needed. Continued
strong labor for an extended period without birth of  pigs  indi-
cates  need for such assistance. Keep some organisms from gaining
entrance to the reproductive tract  by  careful  washing  of  the
external  genitalia with a mild soap solution, using a clean con-
tainer for fresh clean water.  A  well-lubricated,  clean  gloved
hand  and  arm  should be inserted into the reproductive tract as
far as needed to encounter a pig ``in place'' for birth; the  pig
should  be  grasped  and  gently  but  firmly  pulled  to  assist

     Difficult births often enhance the occurrence of symptoms of
MMAmastitis  or  inflammation of the udder, metritis or inflamma-
tion of the uterus, and agalactia or lack of milk  (See  PIH-37).
To  decrease the likelihood of creating complications as a result
of manual assistance, an antibacterial solution, such  as  nitro-
furazone is recommended. It will also serve as a lubricant. Infu-
sion of 50-100 cc of such solution into  the  reproductive  tract
following conclusion of farrowing often helps decrease or prevent
infection. Intramuscular injection with an antibiotic can also be

Nervous and Hysterical Sows

     Some sows may become temporarily ``hysterical'' and vicious;
these  are  likely  to trample or lie on several of their pigs or
kill them by biting; some producers cull these sows  on  tempera-
ment. Such sows must be attended to prevent loss of newborn pigs;
loss can be prevented or minimized by removing  pigs  to  a  warm
place  until  farrowing is completed. The hysteria generally sub-
sides in a few hours. Test the sow by placing only one  pig  with
her and watching her reaction.

Nutrition of Newborn Pigs

     It is highly important that each pig  receive  colostrum  to
provide  immediate  and  temporary protection against common bac-
terial  infections.  Pigs  are  born  into  a  hostile  bacterial
environment. Antibodies in the sow's milk are the best protection
against these bacteria. Proper nutrition of the sow, including  a
laxative  ration  prior  to  and following farrowing; maintaining
proper environmental temperature;  and  freedom  from  contagious
disease organismsall help to ensure normal milk production.

     Baby pigs may be unable to nurse because of a hostile sow, a
large  litter of pigs, small or otherwise weak pigs, death of the
sow, or failure of the sow to have milk. Other ways baby pigs can
get  antibodies  are  by  being  bottle-fed  colostrum;  they can
foster-nurse another newly farrowed sow; or they can nurse a  sow
whose  litter  is well beyond the 3-day-old stage frequently con-
sidered as the upper limit for transferring pigs.  Colostrum  can
be  hand-milked  from sows, frozen and used later to provide ini-
tial artificial feedings; although not as effective, cow's colos-
trum  can  also  be frozen and used for newborn orphan pigs; pro-
longed needs may be met by rotating  pigs  to  other  dams  whose
litters  are  removed  for  an  hour  or  two,  or by a permanent
transfer to a foster dam. Gentle sows with litters as  old  as  3
weeks  can be used as foster mothers for newborn pigs; it is good
insurance to feed some colostrum before transfer to such a sow.

     Sow milk replacers are nutritionally  adequate  for  newborn
pigs,  but  they  lack  antibodies;  they do contain antibiotics,
which help to control growth of unfavorable  bacteria.  Good  pig
performance  and livability has been obtained with excellent com-
mercial products available. Effective use of sow  milk  replacers
requires  stringent  cleanliness of feeding equipment and housing
area for baby pigs to control bacterial  growth.  Diarrhea  is  a
common  hazard  for newborn pigs reared artificially in makeshift
conditions. Wetness, chilling, and engorgement promote diarrhea.

Feeding the Sow During Lactation

     Sows need not be fed for 12-24 hours  after  farrowing,  but
water  should  be  continuously  available. Two or three lb. of a
laxative feed may be fed at the first post-farrow feeding; amount
of  feed  should  be  gradually  increased until the maximal feed
level is reached as soon as possible after farrowing. Full  feed-
ing from the day of farrowing can be successfully used. Sows that
are thin at farrow may benefit from generous feeding in the early

     Sows nursing large litters  need  essentially  full  feeding
during lactation.  This may depend somewhat on the energy content
of the ration and the length of the lactation period if sows  are
mated at first post-weaning estrus. In sows that finish lactation
with excessive weight losses and in an energy-depleted condition,
estrus  tends  to be delayed well beyond the usual 3-7 days post-
weaning. Supplementing the sow's diet with fat during late gesta-
tion  and lactation may improve sow and pig performance (See PIH-

     Experiments are underway to re-evaluate what constitutes the
most economical lactation feeding programs. Sows in normal condi-
tion at  farrowing  can  lose  weight  during  lactation  without
impairment  of  pig  growth  or loss of breeding efficiency. Sows
nursing fewer than 8 pigs may be fed a basic  maintenance  amount
(6 lb./day) with an added allotment, such as 0.5 lb. for each pig
being nursed. It is not necessary to reduce  feed  intake  before
weaning. Regardless of level of feed intake, milk secretion in an
udder will cease when pressure reaches a certain threshold level.

     Sows should be encouraged to stand up in the farrowing  area
2  or  3 times daily. This stimulates feed and water consumption,
encourages normal elimination of excreta and gives the manager an
opportunity  for  good  observation.  Some sows may need exercise
outside the farrowing area.

Feeding the Pig During Lactation

     Sows' milk does not contain enough iron for baby pigs.  Iron
must  be  given to pigs within their first 3 or 4 days to prevent

     Pigs can be supplied with iron by giving them clean sod (not
from  a  hog  lot),  iron  injections (iron dextran in the ham or
heavy neck muscle), or iron compounds mixed with  other  minerals
which pigs can eat (See PIH-34).

     When pigs are about 1 week old, start feeding them  a  pres-
tarter  (about 20% protein) or starter feed in a shallow pan. The
prestarter is usually more acceptable and pigs will start to  eat
earlier.  It  is  used only to get pigs to start to eat. A little
prestarter or starter feed mixed with some clean sod  will  often
start pigs eating earlier.

     After pigs start to eat, switch to a starter feed (about 18%
protein)  and  feed  this  until the pigs weigh 25-30 lb. At this
time, the ration can be switched to a lower cost (16%) pig grower

     Clean, fresh water should be available to pigs  even  before
they start to eat dry feeds.

Controlling Health Problems

     Sows should be observed carefully during the first few  days
after  farrowing.  Lack of appetite, listlessness, and failure to
respond positively to nursing activity of the pigs indicate  need
for  corrective  treatment.   Prevention of these conditions will
decrease incidence and severity of the MMA syndrome.

     If MMA is prevalent,  a  prevention  and  treatment  program
should  be  developed  through  veterinary  consultation  and  by
management programs. The  same  is  true  for  diseases  such  as
atrophic  rhinitis,  transmissible  gastroenteritis (TGE), parvo-
virus (SMEDI) and mycoplasma pneumonia. Checking for normal bowel
activity and use of a rectal thermometer to detect fever can pin-
point early need for treatment.

Disease Prevention

     Although there have been recent advances  in  the  diagnosis
and  preventive  procedures for the control of some diseases, the
sow and her newborn litter remain  vulnerable  to  a  substantial
number of pathogenic agents. Most successful producers plan their
management programs to circumvent disease transmission as much as
possible  during  this  critical  time.  Maximum isolation of the
pregnant sow and gilt from all rodents, cats, dogs,  humans,  and
new  herd  additions  is a productive practice. Likewise, careful
cleaning and sanitizing of facilities as described is  important.
Thorough  cleansing of the sow as she enters the farrowing facil-
ity seemingly has been a factor in  controlling  some  contagious
disease  organisms. Managing the sow and litter to ensure maximal
colostrum intake has distinct advantage for the newborn litter.

     If swine are being reared in areas of heavy swine concentra-
tions,  vaccines  and  bacterins  should  be  used to the fullest
advantage. This is particularly true during seasons of  the  year
when stress is unavoidable and when the viability of pathogens is
high. Examples of diseases for which immunization seems wise  are
transmissible  gastroenteritis  or  TGE (See PIH-47), erysipelas,
leptospirosis (5 strains), in some localities  perhaps  pseudora-
bies,  and  colibacillosis  or E. Coli (See PIH-30). Vaccines are
now available for use in the prevention of atrophic rhinitis (See
PIH-50). The large number of enteric disorders that pose a threat
to the newborn are perhaps best prevented by  eliminating  stres-
sors such as cold and drafty pig areas, high humidity and unsani-
tary surroundings within the house. Some herds are now  receiving
autogenous  types  of bacterins in situations where enteric prob-
lems are extreme.

     The old axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth  a  pound
of  cure  seems particularly applicable to this stage of the life

Schedule of Events

     1.   First week after weaningbreed sows.

     2.   Three weeks  before  farrowingtreat  for  internal  and
          external parasites.

     3.   One week before farrowingrepeat treatment for  internal
          and external parasites.

     4.   At 110 days after breeding,  thoroughly  wash  sow  and
          move  to  farrowing  facility;  begin  feeding laxative

     5    From  111  days  to  farrowingobserve  for   signs   of
          approaching  farrowing.   Attend  at farrowing, or make
          judgment that attendance is not warranted.

     6.   Provide special care for weak or small  pigs,  and  for
          large  litters.   Observe  sow  and litter for signs of

     7.   Bring sow to maximal feed level  as  soon  as  possible
          after farrowing.

     8.   Cull sows at weaning on basis of productivity, tempera-
          ment, and other economic factors.


     1.   Institute and maintain  a  disease-prevention,  health-
          maintenance  program  for the herd at all times to pro-
          tect sows and litters from diseases  at  and  following

     2.   Treat sows twice for internal  and  external  parasites
          within  the  shortest  recommended  time  (for products
          used) before moving to farrowing facility.

     3.   Record breeding dates, calculate farrowing  dates,  and
          observe  sows  closely  during late gestation to assure
          that sows are moved to the farrowing  facility  by  the
          110th day of gestation. Record sow productivity data to
          use later in selection and culling.

     4.   Feed a ration with laxative effect from  110  days.  If
          bulky ingredients are used remove these from the ration
          soon after farrowing.

     5.   Farrowing will usually occur within 24 hours after milk
          is  present. As farrowing approaches, sows may be rest-
          less and excitable; some may be vicious.

     6.   Normal farrowing may be completed in less than 1  hour,
          or  may exceed 5 hours. Injection of oxytocin can shor-
          ten total farrowing time but should not be  used  until
          at least one pig has been born and if there are indica-
          tions that the birth canal may be obstructed.

     7.   Attending sows at farrowing can prevent death  of  pigs
          caused by trauma, biting, suffocation in membranes, and

     8.   Manual assistance in delivery of pigs should be  under-
          taken  only when signs indicate inability of the sow to
          deliver unassisted, use arm-length glove,  lubrication,
          and  inject  an antibacterial solution if manual assis-
          tance is necessary for delivery.

     9.   All newborn pigs should receive colostrum.  Extra  care
          for weak or small pigs and for large litters can result
          in more pigs weaned.

     10.  In the first few days after farrowing, observe sows and
          pigs  carefully  for  evidence  of disease condition or
          inadequate milk production or intake.

     11.  After farrowing, attain maximal feed level as  soon  as

     12.  Production level, temperament, and other  economics  of
          using  sows  vs.  gilts  should determine when sows are
          replaced which generally should not  exceed  the  sixth

     Reference to products in this publication is not intended to
be  an  endorsement to the exclusion of others which may be simi-
lar. Persons using such products assume responsibility for  their
use  in  accordance with current label directions of the manufac-

     Additional information can be found  in  the  following  PIH
fact sheets:

     PIH-3    Energy for Swine
     PIH-7    Principles of Balancing a Ration
     PIH-18   Baby Pig ManagementBirth to Weaning
     PIH-23   Swine Rations
     PIH-30   Enteric Colibacillosis of Newborn Pigs
     PIH-34   Baby Pig Anemia
     PIH-37   Mastitis, Metritis, Agalactia (MMA)
     PIH-38   Pseudorabies
     PIH-40   External Parasite Control
     PIH-44   Internal Parasites of Swine
     PIH-47   Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE)
     PIH-50   Atrophic Rhinitis
     PIH-87   Cooling Swine

REV 9/86 (5M)

Not Included: A picture of piglets nursing.
%             Picture is available in hard copy

Cooperative Extension Work in  Agriculture  and  Home  Economics,
State  of Indiana, Purdue University and U.S. Department of Agri-
culture Cooperating. H.A. Wadsworth,  Director,  West  Lafayette,
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It is the policy of the Cooperative Extension Service  of  Purdue
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             access to our programs and facilities.