Constipation in Gilts and Sows


Constipation in gilts and sows, particularly post-farrowing can be a serious condition.

It is possible that the gilt or sow will not defecate properly for 5 day.

Clinical appearance

Normal faeces should be firm and formed but easily squashed by light pressure from the feet

Faeces normal1.jpg

No faeces behind the sow – this sow had not passed any faeces since the piglets were born

Farrow rear 2.JPG

Very hard faecal pellets behind the sow

Constipation farrowing.JPG

It is imperative that sows are observed each day and that normal defection is recorded


The consequences of constipation can be devastating to the gilt, sow, litter and batch

Prolactin production is reduced

The slowing down of gut movement reduces a major defence of the intestinal tract, defecation.  Bacteria, particularly gram negative bacteria – such as E. coli in the large bowl will multiply and die.  As they die their cell walls become a powerful toxin – Lipid A.  This is absorbed by the blood stream and reduces the production of several hormones – Prolactin in particular.  Prolactin is the hormone that controls the production of milk

The toxins also contributes to the gilt and sows inappapetence

Reduced milk supply

The reduced milk supply will reduce both colostrum and milk availability – reducing piglet growth rates and thus weaning weights.  Reduced weaning weights increases post-weaning mortality.

Reduce feed intake by the sow

The toxins reduces the appetite of the sow.  Reducing the feed intake of the sow reduces the total feed intake.   Thus reduced weaning weights – increased post-weaning mortality

Reduced feed intake also increases wean to service interval  - this

reduces subsequent farrowings rates and

reduces litter sizes



Individual sow

Check the sow’s water supply.  A lactating sow will drink 40-80 litres of water a day.  Ideally water should be added to her feed – about 8 litres per feeding.

Check the position of the drinker – ensure that the sow can drink

Provide Magnesium sulphate (MgSO4 Epson salts) by mouth as an emergency treatment (150 mg/gilt or sow) or another laxative such as mineral oil (liquid paraffin) the pig will require 500 ml by mouth



Check the water supply before allowing the gilt or sow into the farrowing crate

Water farrow extra.JPG

Plenty of water

Ensure the gilt or sow has 5 days to accustomise herself to the farrowing crate

Reduce feed intake from 3.5 kg prior to entry to the farrowing crate to 1.5 to 2 kg a day.  Feed once a day.

Be regular in your feeding regime

Farrowing  house set up.jpg

Few days to get used to the crate

Provide 2.5 kg warm scalded bran from 3 days prior to farrowing until the day of farrowing

An alternative is 100-150 g of molasses each day from 3 days prior to farrowing

Air farrow cooling kr.JPG

Cool comfortable environment

Ensure the temperature of the farrowing house is cool.  Or drip cool or provide additional cooling – air cooling shown

If the gilt or sow appears constipated, remove her from the farrowing crate and exercise for 20 minutes.

Play a radio in the farrowing area to relieve stresses