Your gilt or sow’s farrowing is always a miraculous time. It can also be a worrisome time if you’re new to pigs! We were once new to all of this too, but thankfully have had some great mentors and we are constantly learning and adding to our knowledge base.
We keep the following items on hand just in case they’re needed. And our vet’s emergency number is always handy! We rarely need to use all of these things- in fact, most farrowings use the towels, bulb syringe, scissors and iodine only. As well as milk and electrolytes for the sow. I used to use puppy pee pads placed under the sow to catch birth fluids, but I’m changing up this practice due to the large number of piglets we have been having aspirate at birth. I suspect that the pads could be contributing, as the fluids don’t absorb into the pad fast enough at birth, allowing some piglets to go face first into a pool of blood and meconium-filled fluid. Using hay or shavings would allow the birth fluids to be absorbed or at least for them not to pool, and hopefully preventing aspiration.
Prior to farrowing, our gilts & sows have been vaccinated with Rhinishield TX4 (5cc at 5 weeks before farrowing and a second booster of 5cc at 2 weeks prior), and wormed with Dectomax (intramuscular injection) OR Ivomec (subcutaneous injection). We carefully monitor their diet for the last few weeks, to ensure they are not overfed, which can result in large piglets that can potentially become stuck.
Our farrowing kit usually includes:
– puppy training pads to place under sow when afterbirth starts arriving (see my explanation above as to why we’re no longer using these for piglets to arrive on)
– white flour sack towels to dry off piglets
– a large towel/blanket or two
– clean bulb syringe
– nitrile gloves (required if you enter sow to pull a piglet)
– vet wrap to wrap your sow’s tail if you wish to keep it clean (farrowing can get pretty messy!)
– Hoof trimmers (Use your sow’s down time to give them a little pedicure!)
– small scissors to cut umbilical cords
– a basket or tote to place piglets in if necessary
– beer (Can be used for calming a sow but it can go either way- not always the desired result)
– melatonin (Can be more effective than a beer to calm a sow, great trick learned from Bill Garlough/Ohio Valley Kunekunes)
– Oxytocin + (syringes, needles and alcohol prep pads) – use only under direction and guidance of a veterinarian
– Calcium Gluconate injectable, if labor is progressing slowly
– Meloxicam (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, given to sow if pain or swelling presents)
– electrolytes for sow ( Manna Pro Bounce Back)
– Karo syrup (rub on sow’s gums to keep energy up)
– Milk or dairy (given to sow for a few days before/after)
– trash bags or pail to dispose of trash and/or afterbirth
– powdered colostrum
– goats milk (in case of milk issues)
Last but not least, you should have a plan for humane euthanasia, in case you have any piglets born that are deformed, or with birth defects that will prevent them from having quality of life.