GETTING READY TO FARROW
This time of year the question “What do we need to have and know to farrow our first gilt?” shows up in our inbox and on social media a bunch.
We aren’t going to go into facilities except to say you need somewhere that you can keep 70 degrees or so draft free and provide supplemental heat for the pigs.
The first list of things are what you might need if you have to assist her. As a rule we try to avoid assisting if we can but show pig producing gilts are decidedly not maternal and sometimes we have to help. We like to tell folks to get two rubbermaid like totes. One for the farowing gear and a second in case you want to split suckle. (More on that latter.)
Inside the first tote you want to have at a minimum OB Sleeves, lubricant, pig puller, chlorhexidine disinfectant, a small bucket, paper towels, a bottle of calcium gluconate, syringes and needles, and a spray bottle of iodine. In addition to what is in the container you also want to have a drying agent available. Drygiene is our favorite. Putting it on pigs after they are born helps them warm faster and studies have shown they will get to a nipple to nurse faster. You’ll also want a bottle of oxytocin in the refrigerator but we really advise you not to use it unless its absolutely necessary and work with your veterinarian on when and how to give it. Oxytocin is a prescription product so when you are getting the prescription is a good time to talk about it. Other things you need to have on hand but don’t need to keep in your tote are a broad spectrum antibiotic, ear notcher, #12 castration blades, scalpel handle and side cutter, The side cutter is for tails there is no need to clip teeth and it actually does more harm than good.
If your gilt stalls out we like to give them 60-100 ml of calcium gluconate before we do any other interventions like sleeving them or a dose of oxytocin. As far as farrowing interventions Darin Kulow did a good job going through that on his blog a couple years ago. We aren’t going to repeat what he wrote and you can find that blog here.
If you assist one we strongly recommend a broad spectrum antibiotic to the sow to help her ward off any infection. Talk to your vet about what they recommend but penicillin is not a broad spectrum antibiotic.
We like to apply iodine to the navel as they are born. To be honest, it’s probably as much habit as something that has any basis in science.
After the pigs are farrowed you might want to split suckle them to ensure they all get adequate colostrum. Sort the biggest or strongest half of the litter and put them in that second rubbermaid container for about an hour or until the smaller weaker half of the litter nurses. Use a heat lamp to keep the pigs in the box warm but not too warm.
Once you’ve got pigs born the schedule goes something like this:
Day 1 Iron and ear notch use the iodine on the ears. The Barrier product we linked has a local anesthetic for pain management
Do any cross fostering within 24 hours.
Some farms give an antibiotic at this time if they have a history of a specific disease. Talk this over with your vet An antibiotic isn’t an absolute necessity.
Day 7 Process the litter castration and tail docking (Use the Barrier iodine for on these wounds as well)
Administer a second dose of iron
Day 10-14 Start creep feed
Day 21-24 Wean