Dr Mary-Louise answers your questions on starting with pigs


By Digital team | 7 January 2017
pig breeding
A sow and her piglets on the holistic pig farm of Mr Hendrick O'Neill taken on his farm Radium near Bela-Bela. (Jasper Raats)

I have started pig farming with five six-month-old females and a nine-month-old boar. I don’t know very much about pigs and would like to find out about pig breeding. I’ve read that females should be eight months old and of a decent weight before breeding and that the boar should be 10 months old. When, and how often, will the females come on heat and for how long is a sow pregnant?

Your gilts are probably already coming on heat at six months as long as they are sharing the same air space as the boar (although not the same pen). You’re right to wait until they are at least eight months to breed them.
Female pigs come on heat every three weeks. The length of pregnancy for pigs is about 115 days, or three months, three weeks and three days.

The boar’s smell stimulates the females to cycle, so it is likely that all five gilts will come on heat together. With only one boar, don’t serve more than two females at a time, as a boar should not work more than two or three times a week. He needs time to build up his semen reserves in between services.

Having five litters at once would have other disadvantages. Lactating sows need extra, good quality feed and extra water. And somebody should be there while they are farrowing just in case there is a problem – although there usually isn’t.

Piglets would need a quality creep feed before and after weaning, as well as warmth and lots of clean dry bedding. You can only recover the costs when you sell the piglets.

Start off with the two biggest gilts in the best condition to be bred first when they are in standing heat.

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