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Pig Breeding Cycle: Helpful Hints
Uploaded September 2004

Separate gilts for breeding from boars by 16 weeks of age. Gilts are best reared in pairs, if this is not possible house a single gilt on a public part of the farm or holding so that she can see and hear people and other animals.

She will come on heat at about 5 months old and can be mated at 6, but it is best to wait until she is 8-10 months as she is still growing, and will not have reached maturity until her second litter. At this time she should be receiving 4-5 lbs of good quality 14-16% protein nuts per day. We have found that increasing the ration by 2 lbs per day for 14 days during the service period helps to improve the conception rate. The gilt should be wormed a couple of weeks before mating, be well and fit. Grossly over fat or very thin gilts often will not breed until the correct condition is reached.

The selection of a suitable boar is important, a young boar should be paired with gilts, older boars are usually only used on sows. A large, heavy boar can damage a small gilt's back and legs and may easily damage her internally; this is particularly nasty as it may not be obvious right away. 

Pigs come on heat every 21 days, and stay on for between one and three days. The changes during heat are various. The vulva swells and becomes very pink; she will stand to back pressure. At this test, if ready for service, she will stand rigid; lop eared pigs ears are held halfway up! Temperament may also change, placid sows can become agitated and fidgety, rather flighty sows can become quiet and tractable. Gilts kept on his or her own are not so obvious, but after a few days near a boar, or even penned next to a sow who is cycling regularly, will soon do all the right things.

She will be at the height of her heat a few days after redding begins. When standing to pressure she should be introduced to the boar who will talk to her, chase her around a bit and prod her in the tummy with his nose. If properly on heat she will stand still and allow the boar to proceed. If not she will keep on the move or even try to bite him, in which case take her away and try again half a day later.

If standing, the boar will mount her, care must be taken to see if she is served in the correct place, the boar may aim too high or to low. The service will take 10-20 min. Once the boar is in position he may appear to go to sleep, but things will be happening. He will deliver approx 200cc of seminal fluid (5cc from a bull and 1cc from a ram!) Followed by a tablespoon of 'bumpy jelly', which blocks up the passage to retain the fluid.

After service leave the gilt quiet and reserve 6-9 hours later. Care must be taken to avoid too much stress in the early stages as pigs can re-absorb all or part of their litter if too upset. So try to avoid deep mud, mixing in new pigs, chasing around, man handling, bad feed and certain drugs as these can all cause abortions during the last weeks. Make sure you vaccinate for certain diseases at 6 weeks and three weeks before to allow the piglets to gain immunity through the milk.

Anne Petch

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This page updated 25/09/2006 01:00