what makes a sow eat her young?

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by Milkwitch, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. Milkwitch

    Milkwitch Well-Known Member

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    My sow is an older gilt. It appears our pig is bred. We have not had this happen on our place yet. It is cold here and she would be due in March, which is still pretty cold. When she was young she ate all my chickens, because i did not consider that it would be an issue with all the them in the warm place....
    anyhow, i am now a bit concerned that she will eat her litter,because she did that and because she is older (2 years)before she will have babies, .
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  2. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Pigs are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they can get ahold of. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Are you farrowing in a crate or a pen?
     

  3. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If she seems particularly agitated when she farrows you might want to feed her a six pack of beer.
     
  4. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Just because she ate a bunch of chickens does not mean she will eat her babies. I have found that if you provide adequate protein in a pig's feed they will not go about finding it elsewhere. Now if she squish's a baby or if one is born dead she will eat it. That is nature's way of cleaning up after itself. A preservation trait-clean up the dead so it doesn't attract predators. My sows do that all the time but they never eat live babies. Heather
     
  5. desertshi

    desertshi Well-Known Member

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    My sow has farrowed 3 times and is an amazing mother. She eats my chickens if they are stupid enough to get within biting range. She ate 30 broilers last spring!! And she had a litter of 11 with her at the time and never touched one! This farrowing she had one that was dead when I found her with the litter but it was off to the side and definantly didn't have any signs of bad treatment.
    I will say this though....if yours eats babies, put her in the freezer! There are too many pigs out there to deal with one like that. Frankly you wouldn't have any reason to keep her anyways if you couldn't trust her to not eat babies!!!
     
  6. Sanza

    Sanza Crazy Canuck

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    The oldtimers would say that sometimes a sow will eat her litter if she's stressed out about something....usually it's somebody bothering her too much when she's farrowing...lol
     
  7. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Milkwitch, don't go looking for problems before they occur;)

    It is typically called "Gilt Hysteria" although it also happens with older sows. What causes it seems to be open to conjecture but is more than likely stress related and not necessarily any stress imposed by humans. There are specific tranquilizers than can be administered via a vet in these situations and the sow will normally recover within 12-18 hours at which time the piglets can be re-introduced to her - that is assuming you were around in time to remove them in the first place.

    I've never had a problem with sows eating their young other than to dispose of already dead ones for the reasons Up North has given. If you provide good farrowing facilities and make the farrowing a comfortable experience for your sow, I doubt you will have any problems.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  8. DianeWV

    DianeWV Well-Known Member

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    Ronney really hit the nail on the head. Several years ago (1996) I got my first group of gilts to raise some litters of pigs. I remember one particular gilt, she was a Landrace. When she farrowed, she wouldn't accept the babies and attempted to kill them. I was on hand, and was able to remove all the babies out of harms way. She gave birth to 17 live pigs and 2 still-borns. Large litter
    She went a little crazy to say the least.

    After I removed the little ones and got her to settle down, I then took each baby and held it, one at a time, to the mother's teat for them to get milk. I did this for about a 24 hour period or longer. It was pretty exhausting but it worked. The mother then started her contented grunting which was music to my ears. I then slowly increased it to 2 or 3 pigs at one time, then more.....to finally she accepted the whole litter. Of the 17 born alive, she raised and weaned 14 of them.

    On her second litter, she did fine. We actually kept her around for quite some time, and she raised many healthy litters for us. She turned out to be a fine sow.
     
  9. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    Did you happen to keep any of her female offspring and breed them? If so how did they perform on their various litters?
     
  10. RedHogs

    RedHogs Well-Known Member

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    This is not a genetic problem or even a breed problem, it is unfortunately more of a newbie problem. You don't see this on many large farms because they understand what causes it.

    I would expect to find this is 25x's more likely on a hobby farm. The gilt or sow in question is stressed. Any unknown or new event freaks out a gilt.... the natural instinct is to go away privately and do her thing. So when a normally free roaming gilt is thrown in a pen or barn and checked on 10 times a day, she freaks out... you would too.

    The solution is "normal".... The gilt need to be in her pen far in advance of birthing.... quiet and quick feeding... and no noise of distress or feeding from other hogs.... in a barn this can be done with a fan that taps a stick and makes a bunch of noise... the gilt will quickly accept this noise and not hear other hogs screaming for feed or water and jump up to see what is going on, thus killing pigs. some people play the radio in a farrowing barn, it all about creating a safe bubble for the gilt, where she is in her own little world.

    you can cull sows for twenty years and never eliminate this problem, understand it and it will go away for ever.
     
  11. Gregg Alexander

    Gregg Alexander Well-Known Member Supporter

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    RedHogs is right on the money.
     
  12. Milkwitch

    Milkwitch Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all very much. I am definitely a newbe! We have raised pigs but now had one get bred. I am still not even sure this one IS!!!
    I had just heard that they do that and I wanted to make sure I didn't make any stupid mistakes. she is our only pig. she has her own space, so she should be ok. In my limited experience with animals they all do better when everything stays calm.
     
  13. DianeWV

    DianeWV Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I most certainly did keep some of her offspring and used them for breeding stock. They were good mothers/breeders. I was pleased.

    The gilt, that I described in the above post, was the first and only case that I have ever witnessed. I contribute her isolated behavior, to the fact, that she was a gilt that became totally overwhelmed/stressed with the birthing process and the large litter that she birthed. She birthed a total of 19 pigs, 17 living and 2 still-borns. Without a doubt in my mind, if I hadn't taken the steps that I did during that critical time period, that litter would have perished. Once she got over her initial "shock" or whatever you call it, she sucessfully raised and weaned 14 of that litter. Now, I don't think that was too shabby at all!!

    I don't believe one should become involved/overly involved when a mother of any livestock is giving birth. I respect their need for isolation/privacy. I primarily have dealt with hogs and cows. BUT, there does arise certain circumstances when human interaction can be a life-saver to the mother and/or newborns involved.
     
  14. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    It should also be understood that this is a condition that is not only applicable to pigs. It happens in cows, sheep and even humans. In humans it is called Post Natal Depression and there is (or should be) a lot of help on hand to deal with this. I've had heifers give birth and want nothing to do with their calf to the extent that one kicked it almost to death before I was able to get in and remove it - and this was before the calf had stood. I've also had ewes walk away from their lamb and want nothing to do with it. With perseverance, the problem is usually righted within 24 hours and subsequent births are trouble free.

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
  15. Gregg Alexander

    Gregg Alexander Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It will happen with gyps as well. Mostly with 1 st litter gyps. In older gyps , she will cull off those pups that are weak between 6-10 hr old. If you don't remove dead she will eat them, this is nature, I know but very not excitable.