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Guide to Pig Management: Farrowing (Part 3)

Farrowing is the culmination of all effort and activities to ensure the success of the farm. When the previous stages have been correctly and effectively managed, farrowing is the moment to reap the rewards: a high number of uniform, vital piglets that receive plenty of colostrum which is essential for their future health and performance.

Diego Padoan

In Brief

• Hygiene, of both the farrowing crates and the animals themselves, is particularly important to minimize contamination and disease.
• The change of diet from the highly fibrous gestation diet to the highly nutrient-dense lactation diet can result in constipation which hinders farrowing.
• Mitigating mycotoxins and supporting gut health with supplement products will ensure herd performance.


It is strongly recommended that rooms are thoroughly cleaned, and the sows showered before farrowing. This is the only time when an ‘all-in/all-out’ system can be applied to the sows. The temperature should be maintained at 24 °C for the comfort of the sow, and a dedicated nest area with a temperature of up to 34 °C should be provided for the piglets.

It should be possible to segregate the piglets for split suckling if the litter size exceeds the number of nipples on the sow. Crate floors should be dry and the sow lying area should be made of metal slats to allow heat to dissipate when temperatures are high.

Water flow should be a minimum of 2 liters per minute. Nipple height should be 45 cm. Automated drinkers are suitable for this period, as they prevent waste and ensure that water is continuously available. Adding water to the feed is good practice.

It is essential to dry the piglets and get them to the teat for colostrum intake as quickly as possible.

It is essential that piglets are dried at birth as this prevents body heat from dissipating. Piglets come into the world with enough energy reserves to survive an average of 16 hours, so the second requirement is to get the piglet to the teat for colostrum intake as quickly as possible.


In practice, the transition period starts when the sow is transferred from the group-housed gestation barn to the farrowing crate, and finishes at the end of the first week of lactation. However, housing is not the only change experienced by the sow during this time.

Lactation diets have a higher nutrient density and a limited amount of fiber compared to the preceding gestation diet, which is more fibrous and contains more by-products.

Adjusting the diet from the gestation ration to the lactation ration gradually will avoid cases of constipation.

Slight constipation is common close to farrowing, as the reproductive tract increases in size and draws more water at the expense of the intestine (Klopfenstein et al., 1995). Water absorption increases to facilitate milk production (Mroz et al., 1995) and insufficient fiber in the feed may result in severe constipation. Constipation can increase the release and absorption of bacterial endotoxins and causes postpartum dysgalactia syndrome in sows (Tabeling et al., 2003). Constipation also creates a physical barrier to expelling the piglet. The time it takes the piglet to pass through the birth canal is prolonged, increasing the duration of farrowing and the number of stillborn piglets (Oliviero et al., 2010).

Preventing constipation with a higher fiber transition diet can help prevent both lactation insufficiency and constipation around farrowing. Using fiber to stimulate higher water intake around farrowing may also help prevent postpartum dysgalactia syndrome (PPDS), mastitis, metritis and agalactia (MMA), and constipation.

BIOMIN solutions

  • Mycotoxin mitigation is always important, including during farrowing. Signs of prenatal T-2 toxicosis (e.g., glandular dysfunction of the endometrium, gastrointestinal edema, and hematopoiesis leading to death) have also been observed in suckling piglets (Hussein and Brasel, 2001). The Biotronic® product line of feed supplements can also be of benefit in the farrowing unit by:

     + reducing the prevalence of pathogens in the feces of the sows, posing less of a challenge to the piglets at birth
     + reducing urinary pH
     + improving hygiene at birth
     + reducing the risk of infections
     + lowering the pH in the vaginal fundus
     + stimulating the growth of lactobacilli which protect the newborn piglet
     + improving the physiology of calcium metabolism
     + enabling a more efficient farrowing process with less stress for the piglets
    + helping the piglets reach the teat earlier

Mycotoxin mitigation is always important, including during farrowing.
  • Biotronic® also enables earlier and more abundant colostrum and milk production. The minimum colostrum uptake is 250 ml/piglet to ensure protection against subsequent pathogen challenges. The Digestarom® product line helps the sow by reducing the irritation and inflammation in the gut that is always present around farrowing.


Hussein, H.S. and Brasel, J.M. (2001). Toxicity, metabolism, and impact of mycotoxins on humans and animals. Toxicology 167(2). 101-134.

Klopfenstein, C., D’Allaire, S. and Martineau, G.P. (1995). Effect of adaptation to the farrowing crate on water intake of sows. Livestock Production Science 43(3). 243-252.

Mroz, Z., Jongbloed, A.W., Lenis, N.P. and Vreman, K. (1995). Water in pig nutrition: physiology, allowances and environmental implications. Nutrition Research Reviews 8. 137-164.

Oliviero, C., Heinonen, M., Valros, A. and Peltoniemi, O. (2010). Environmental and sow-related factors affecting the duration of farrowing. Animal Reproduction Science 119(1-2). 85-91.

Tabeling, R., Schwier, S. and Kamphues, J. (2003). Effects of different feeding and housing conditions on dry matter content and consistency of faeces in sows. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 87(3-4). 116-121.