To say our Farrowing Manager, Karen Kilmartin, has been busy at our Fort Edward, NY farm the past two weeks would be an understatement.
Karen has helped deliver 25 litters of piglets over the past two weeks and she is expecting another 3 to be delivered within the next two or three days.
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.