Inducing Labor in Show-Pig Females


After posting "Avoiding Farrowing Problems" there were several readers with questions about inducing labor. Below is an informational blog about inducing labor in show-pig females. While often times a controversial topic, this article and the research it references should give some peace of mind for those worried about this procedure. Hopefully I've addressed most of your concerns. Feel free to post comments in the comments area below! 


For many show-pig producers, farrowing gilts and sows can be a stressful experience. As the due-date approaches, the anxiety grows as you are both excited to see your new piglets and worried that there may be problems with the delivery. Below is a strategy to help ensure that your females do not extend their due-date excessively. This is a method used in many commercial farms and proven effective both by research and field experience. This involves the use of injectable prostaglandin so please consult your veterinarian regarding the risks and proper handling of this product.


Allowing first-parity females to exceed 116 days of gestation presents a risk of farrowing complications due to increased piglet size. Often times older sows will have no complications with farrowing at day 117, 118 or even longer, however there is little reason to permit sows to gestate for that long. Some females naturally have a longer gestation period but for the majority of sows and gilts the risk of having small, low-viability piglets at day 116 is extremely low. Therefore in order to prevent farrowing complications due to excessive piglet size, a good strategy is to induce the females to farrow on day 116 of gestation (if they do not naturally farrow sooner). This also can be utilized to ensure someone is present to attend the farrowing to reduce the number of stillborn piglets and assist the newborns with nursing, finding the heated areas, etc.


Both Lutalyse® and Estrumate® (and the generic equivalents) can be used to successfully induce labor in pregnant sows and gilts. Keep in mind that administration of these products is relatively effective in nearly every stage of pregnancy, so it is extremely important to know the exact breeding date of the females which you intend to induce. Use of these products in early stages of pregnancy will result in abortion of the litter a high percentage of the time. These products are labeled for a single injection, however a study published in the Proceedings of the IPVS Congress in 2002 referenced a study done by Dr. Roy Kirkwood that demonstrated an improved response of these products by dividing the injection into two parts with a 6-hour interval. The study showed a 25% better response to the injections by using the two-shot method with a 6-hour interval. In practice, this method has been very successful in my clients’ farms around the world. Both products are equally effective, however Estrumate® tends to be gentler for the animal where Lutalyse® tends to agitate the animal noticeably.


To induce sows and gilts to farrow, inject them with a half-dose (1ml in the case of Lutaylse) 24-30 hours BEFORE you would like them to begin farrowing. Follow-up with another half-dose 6 hours after the first shot. You can expect about 96% of the sows injected with this protocol to farrow the next day. Try to time your injections so that the sow or gilt is farrowing when someone is present to assist her if necessary. For gilts, I recommend making sure they farrow no later than day 116, therefore the injections should be given on day 115 of gestation. Sows and gilts should not be injected prior to day 113 of gestation in any case or there will be a greater risk of small, low-viability piglets.


Some recommend the use of a small oxytocin injection 24-30 hours following the Lutalyse® injections to initiate the farrowing process. While this can be helpful to get labor started, it also carries with it a much higher risk of stillborn piglets. In comparisons of labor-induction methods across large commercial farms, I always find a lower incidence of stillbirths when oxytocin is NOT used as part of the induction protocol. Therefore in the interest of having a higher percentage of live, high-viability piglets, I do not recommend the use of oxytocin to initiate labor. 


Today's Questions:

Tim from Lodi, WI,

Your posts are awesome!!! You answer a lot of good questions customers frequently ask, now I just send them to the PIG PEN!  

Thank you for the kind words Tim and I am glad you find something useful in the Pig Pen. Thank you for being a reader and let me know if there is anything else we can help with!

Caleb from California,

Good morning Mr. Kuhlow,
I follow you quite a bit on the forums and I was curious which microscope and supplies do you recommend that I purchase for analyzing showpig and commercial semen? Also where can I purchase what you recommend. Thanks again for your time and we look forward to hearing from you!!!

Thank you Caleb. We generally recommend the binocular microscope which we sell in our online store alongside the SimpleCount Sperm Kit. You can find information and a demonstration video on the site Any good-quality microscope with 100x and 400x magnification should do the trick. 

Dale from OK,

So what are yall bringing to Duncan?

Hi Dale. Thank you for the question. We will be at Duncan for the Fall Classic with a good share of the family, the Kuhlow Girls farm manager (Savanna Williams) and a trailer full of hogs! We have Yorkshire and Duroc boar and gilt entries in the breeding show as well as a pretty cool white crossbred boar. We'll also have Duroc and Yorkshire pigs in the sift. We're looking forward to the show and hope to see a lot of new friends there! I enjoy meeting folks in person which I otherwise only know from the internet, so please look for our pens and introduce yourself! 

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