Farrowing Manager, Karen Kilmartin, shows the “baby” monitors she has set up within our Fort Edward barn to watch the pregnant sows she has determined to be ready to deliver within the next 12-24 hours. The monitors are set to an app on Karen’s phone, so she can watch and listen from home during the overnight hours.
Prior to having the monitors in the barn, Karen said she would sleep on a cot in the front office of the barn, so she would be there when the mother’s were delivering in case she needed to assist them in anyway.
Karen can tell when a pregnant pig is within that 12-24 hour delivery time frame based on when her milk starts to come in and often times the sow will start nesting-building behavior. She performs very specific patterns of behavior: increasing her restlessness and activity levels, carrying substrate to a preferred area (i.e. nest-site), digging and rooting that site to create a hollow and then manipulating and arranging the substrate. Also, about a day before or the day that she is giving birth, the sow or gilt will usually not eat much food (if any). All of these signs are included and described as “the first stage of labor” in farrowing.
The second stage of labor is the actual pushing of pigs out of the birth canal. This process can take up to 2-3 hours. In general, the fluid from the uterus is released out of the birth canal (breaking of the membrane sac) and piglets are pushed down the birth canal. Most piglets are delivered every 15-20 minutes, but can occur faster or slower. If the interval between piglets is longer than 30-45 minutes, then the sow or gilt needs to be evaluated to see if she is having difficulty having her piglets.