When you are thinking about getting into breeding your own pigs, you’ll have have tons of questions and notice a lot of options. Here are the basics of what you need to know.
|Pig breeding question||Quick answer|
|How often can pigs breed/give birth?||every 5-6 months|
|When can pigs breed?||year round|
|When will piglets be born after breeding?||114 days (about 4 months) later|
|Breeding age of gilts||8 months|
|Breeding age of boars||8-10 months|
|When are the best times for piglets to be born?||spring and fall|
|Can you breed related pigs, like littermates?||yes, if you have a plan|
Pigs can breed year round
Pigs can breed any time of the year. But, just because they are capable of year round breeding and farrowing, does not mean that you want year round breeding and farrowing at your farm!
Pros And Cons Of Raising Pigs gives you the good and the not so good of raising your own pigs!
The great news about pigs breeding year round is that you can adjust the breeding dates to suit your needs. Need weaned feeder pigs in February or breeding age replacement gilts in January? You can make that happen.
If you have an unusual or slow growing breed, all bets are off, they will not follow the months of age listed here.
Pigs that are slower to reach finishing weight are also likely to take longer to reach appropriate breeding size and condition. Make sure your pigs are well grown before you breed them.
Only breed your best pigs! Not all pigs that are born will be breeding stock quality. This is a common misunderstanding for new breeders, but something you must know and select for if you want good stock.
Gilts should be bred at 8 months of age
Once pigs are sexually mature, 5-6 months of age for gilts, they will start coming into heat, meaning they can be bred.
I wait until my gilts are 8 months old to breed them, so they are well grown and farrow at one year of age. Some folks wait until they see the first heat cycle then put in the boar. This will work fine, as long as the gilts are well grown.
Boars reach reliable breeding age at 8-10 months of age
Boars take a bit longer to come into a reliable breeding age, more like 8-10 months.
Don’t let that fool you, they’ll be trying to breed gilts earlier than that. The 8-10 months is what it takes for boars to be more of a sure thing. They are capable of breeding earlier than this but just not reliable yet.
Sows and adult boars can breed anytime of year
Sows can breed anytime of year. Sows come into heat 3 days after weaning the litter, so if you wean on the 1st, plan on her coming into heat on the 4th or so.
You can wean anytime after 4 weeks, but keeping the piglets on their mom a bit longer than that, more like 8 weeks, gets them off to a better start.
You should know that if you keep your piglets with the sow for longer periods of time, more than the 8 weeks, the sow may come back into heat before the pigs are weaned.
This is not a problem, just be aware of it if you are planning to order semen. If you are using a boar, no worries, he’ll take care of all this for you.
Boars can breed anytime of year. The only caution here is if you just moved the boar, for example hauled him a few hours to your farm, he may go through a period of stress induced infertility. You just have to wait this out.
Breeding age pigs can live together
You can keep breeding age pigs together, one boar per 8-10 sows. Breeding stock (assuming they are all healthy and in good body condition) kept together will be bred, whether you saw the breeding happen or not.
Do not combine boars, they must grow up together or be kept separately. Combining adult females is tough, but doable, if they have plenty of room to work out the squabbles and fighting that are sure to occur at first.
Having all the breeding age pigs live together is the easiest way to breed pigs but also the way with the least control, specifically over recording breeding dates and keeping each pig at ideal weight.
When the breeding pigs live together you have the highest chance of the boar will hog all the food and get too big to use. Keep a close eye on the boar and monitor his weight.
You can hand breed pigs
Hand breeding means that you keep the boar separate from the females and when you notice a female in heat, you walk her up to the boar pen and witness the breeding.
While this is a bit more work, the great news here is you’ll have a definite breeding date and other pigs in the pen will not interfere with the breeding.
You would also have more control over his diet, preventing him from getting too big to use.
You can use A.I. to breed your pigs
A more popular way to breed pigs now is to use A.I. There are many boar studs available to choose from.
You’ll look through their selection and order semen delivery for the dates that you expect your females to be in heat.
If you have been keeping track of heat cycles on the calendar, this will be easy. You can also order semen as soon as you see the gilt/sow in standing heat, since she’ll be in heat for 3 days.
I prefer to use the calendar and plan for the semen to be shipped, I don’t want to miss the breeding window.
Read Cost to A.I. Your Pig, where I go over what I paid plus other choices I had and what that would have cost.
Pigs can be bred every 5-6 months
A sow can have piglets every 5-6 months, depending upon when you wean the litter of pigs she is nursing. The most common breeding/weaning schedule is every 6 months, which is weaning the piglets at 8 weeks then rebreeding.
Some people choose to wean earlier, more like 4 weeks, which will get the sow to come into heat and breed back sooner. If you wean at 4 weeks, your farrowing interval is closer to every 5 months, with gives you 5 litters in 2 years.
Each sow can have 2 litters per year
Each sow can have 2 litters of pigs per year. Those litters are generally 6 months apart, but could be closer or further apart depending upon the farm.
Pigs from the same litter can be bred together
Pigs from the same litter can be bred together. However, the real question is should they? What is it that you are trying to do with this specific breeding?
If you are working on specific genetics, you may find that using closely related pigs is your best option, if you just want piglets, using an unrelated breeding pair will increase the chances for a fast growing and hardy litter of piglets.
Can You Breed Related Pigs? in an article I wrote going over all the details with breeding closely related pigs and what you can expect.
The best times of year to farrow pigs are spring and fall
The best times of the year to farrow (pigs giving birth) are spring and fall. Of course, if you have a temperature controlled barn, farrowing any day of the year is fine. Without temperature control, go for spring and fall.
I like spring and fall the best because the chances of having a decent day, weather wise, are higher than in the summer or winter.
When the weather is more mild I have less worries about piglets being too cold or the sow being overly hot and uncomfortable enough to move around a lot and accidentally step on piglets.
If you have a specific purpose or set of dates that you are scheduling around, you’ll need to plan to fit your own schedule, instead.
For instance, if you are planning to sell feeder pigs in the spring, let’s say the first part of May, you’ll need those pigs born in February to get up to a good selling size, 50-60 pounds, by May.
Farrowing pigs in mild weather gives you more options
The other benefit of farrowing pigs in mild weather is that you have more options for where you keep the sow pre farrowing and where you put the sow and her piglets once they are up and going.
For instance, I would happily put my sow and her pigs in an outdoor pig hut in the fall or in the spring (if the ground is not too wet), but not in the winter. For me, the risk of piglets dying of exposure is too high.
If you have an imperfect set up, like me, chances are you also have some areas/pens that are fine in milder weather, but not acceptable in the middle of winter.
I want the best shot at the weather cooperating with me and the pigs, so I shoot for farrowing in April and October.
If I move the dates any (and I am leaning this way), I’ll go more to March and September rather than later, May and November, simply because it works better for me.
Breed pigs 4 months before you want piglets
You need to breed your pigs 4 months before you want piglets. The actual numbers are a 114 day gestation, which is easily remembered with the “3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days” saying, but for easy math, think 4 months.
Remember to also add in the time that the pigs are nursing, usually at least 4 weeks, up to a more common weaning time at 6-8 weeks. I wean at 8 weeks, to give the piglets more time to develop before they are on their own.
Examples of calculating breeding dates for litters born or weaned at a specific time of year
To figure up some breeding date examples here, let’s say your sow will come into heat March 1st (you know this since you’ve been keeping track of dates on the calendar!)
Breeding the sow March 1st will give an expected farrowing date of June 23rd, this can vary 2-3 days either way, so be ready by the 20th.
If she farrows on the 23rd, her piglets will be ready to wean on the 23rd, or there about, of August. These pigs will reach market weight of 280-300 pounds in about 4.5 months, so they will be finishing just after Christmas.
Now that you have the idea, move the dates around to get the breeding and farrowing dates you need to fit your operation. Here’s a handy breeding calculator to use.
Here’s a second example: let’s say you want to sell 50 pound feeder pigs to homesteaders who want to raise their own pastured or woodlot pigs for the freezer.
These feeders will need to be at selling size and condition in May, around here, or April if you are a bit earlier to warm up than Ohio. We’ll go with May for this example.
Feeder pigs sold at 50 pounds in mid May are the result of breeding the sow in the second week of November and her farrowing somewhere in the first week of March.