Heritage Breed Pigs

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by ebook, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. ebook

    ebook Crooked Gap Farm

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    I know that some of you on here are using purebreed "heritage" pigs or a combination there of to do your pasture farrowed and finished pigs. I was wondering what breeds or combinations you have found to work best and where you find these smaller breeds?

    We would like to add some pastured pigs to the mix, possibly as soon as next year, but would like something that is adjusted to foraging and such. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    GOS are excellent on pasture. Snow barely slowed them down. It's by far the best tasting pork we've raised.
     

  3. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    We've got Berkshires here
     
  4. bybiddie

    bybiddie Well-Known Member

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    I've just started two GFH gilts - they are a very endangered, small homestead-sized pig. The people I know who are raising them put them on almost pure pasture - except in winter, of course. They have a high rating on Slow Foods as far as pork quality, and they are friendly and intelligent. You can go to this site to find out more.

    www.americanguineahogassociation.org/
     
  5. stoneunhenged

    stoneunhenged Well-Known Member

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    I raise red wattles. Voted best taking pork in a blind taste test of several rare breeds. Hardy, gentle, easy to raise. And, they could use an expanding network of breeders given their very limited numbers.
     
  6. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Do you have some pics of your red wattles you could share? This is a breed I've been curious about. I recently found out there is somebody fairly close to me that raises them so have been considering getting this breed.

    By the way, I raise Herefords.

    Heather
     
  7. beeman97

    beeman97 Well-Known Member

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    We have Berks. & Tamworths,
    Not sure why your thinking heritage breeds are smaller, there are acouple of breeds that do not grow full size but most do. as a matter of fact in the old days what we call heritage breeds now were BIG, FAT hogs.
    Pictures i see in old books on hog breeds show berks in particular as a very large very Fat hog, which is nothing like the examples you see today.
    Tamworths of old are about the only hog i've seen that still resembles the breed of 100 yrs ago, long lean bacon hogs. heritage breeds grow slower but they are far from smaller. the biggest reason they are endangered now is because they grow to slow for commercial breeders, who only look at the bottom line & not what the finished product is. The commercial market wants a small fat free product, where a hertiage breed farm grows a slower product that has some nice marbling in the meat for a much better taste. The commercial market wants a hog that has stood inthe same place for it's entire life so there is no muscle fiber, meaning a softer, mushier meat, a heritage farm likes it meat with some chew in it.
    Of course the hogs 100 yrs ago provided alot more in the kitchen then they do now.
    all that fat was rendered into lard for cooking for example, where now days people buy there Crisco & what not to cook with.
    personally we use lard, it makes for much better cooking & we know where the fat came from. all that processed stuff scares me.
    good luck in your choices
     
  8. ebook

    ebook Crooked Gap Farm

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    beeman97 - Sorry, I didn't really mean smaller in size. I meant smaller as far as numbers in the US.

    Thanks for all of the input. I was wondering why you use the hogs that you do? Beeman97, do you cross your berks and tamworths or keep them pure? Do you pasture raise them? I would also be interested in hearing more about the red wattles. Another thing I need to think about is whether or not there are breeders in Iowa. I know that I could get berkshires, but I don't know about the rest.

    Thanks for all of the good information!
     
  9. beeman97

    beeman97 Well-Known Member

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    We are now moving to breeding pure berks, but will keep our Tam sows for the X, I really like the X that these 2 breeds make & yes we do pasture 100% including farrowing.
    I don't believe in cheating a sow out of her natural behaviour of making a nest & what not that they go through during farrowing by putting them into a crate where they can't move to have there babies. This crating in my opinion creates a great deal of stress on the sow & we work very hard to insure all of our animals live a stress free life here on our property. It is 1 of my thoughts that stress, especially in a hog is very detrimental to the finished product. If a sow giving birth is under alot of stress by being contained then that stress is passed on to the babies during there 1st moments of life in the world. this nervousness will then be with those babies throughout there life.
    ALot will argue that crating will save babies from being crushed or stepped on & killed during birth but i argue that based on our experience that a calm natural birth is safer, & we have very little losses do to laying or stepping during birth. of course this was learned by trial & error, If you mess with a sow when she is birthing she will get up & move around alot because you are making her nervous. if she is left alone to do her thing she will choose a place she feels safe in to birth, she will make a good protective nest for the babies & she will lay quietly & do her job & all will go well. Of course this is hard to do when you know your 1st sow is giving birth & you want to see the entire process. We now have sows that are not upset with us being present during the process & will allow us to watch her & even help out without getting stressed out, But these are sows we have had for several farrowings & are quite used to us being around.
    We don't clip tails, or cut there teeth at birth, have never had an issue with the sows teets getting infected because the babies have all there teeth. We do castrate because that is what the market DEMANDS, an intact boar will bring little to nothing at market if you happen to get stuck taking them to auction, & most if not all of our customers want there hogs cut before leaving here when we sell feeders. If it were all up to me i wouldn't cut the boars either, but some things will take some time to change. It is my opinion that most feeders never reach the age of sexual activity & therefore are not a risk for boar taint in the meat. Not to mention that the testoserone left intact will help grow a hog faster & therefore cost less to raise.
    We will have to start notching ears if we want to register the berks but im not a big fan of that either.
    We try very hard to raise an animal the way they would raise themselves if they were left to there own natural behaviour. Our hog herd all runs together all the time except when we wean the youngsters. they have to be isolated from there mothers or they will never leave her alone to recover. Although in nature they would eventually be refused access to milk, but if you want to maximize your farrowing schedule you have to wean in order to give the sow time to recover & be in good condition for her next foarrowing. We leave the babies on momma for 8 weeks, most if not all commercial operations wean at 3 weeks of age.
     
  10. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    Go with what ever you can find. Most pigs do great on pasture from what I've seen and read. Ours happen to be a mix of Yorkshire, Tam, Berk, GOS, Hamp and what ever - All American Pigs. :) They do great on pasture. Look around at what is locally available.

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
    http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
    http://NoNAIS.org
     
  11. RedHogs

    RedHogs Well-Known Member

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    Make sure you get registered stock, the hogs are often way too valuable too eat....I think the money in heritage hogs is selling breeding stock. I used Berks for along time and got a bunch of super bred grade hogs and wasn't getting what i needed too for them so i de populated and have now gone exclusively registered mommas.

    Don't go cheap on farrowing, use a quality pen or crate....My second litter of large blacks is 8 days old now. 13 born..... 13 alive( I had to pull one, she quit pushing and I didn't want a still born, so a crate saved me $300 dollars in 2 minutes) and well past the danger stage.....Her 1st litter she kept 2 of 11 alive and both male.....I didn't even break even on the AI cost, but this time I'm making up for it.
     
  12. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I wonder how a guy might go about purchasing some Large Blacks?
     
  13. ebook

    ebook Crooked Gap Farm

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    Thanks everyone for your responses!

    RedHogs-Are you basically saying you are in the registered hog business selling seed stock? If so how does that work for you, and do you sell freezer pigs on the side or breed with other pigs for commerical hogs?

    Walter- I know from your blog (or at lest I think I do) that you have selected over time for the genetics you desire as far as foraging ability and farrowing. Where did you get your starter stock from? Just farmers, purebreds, etc.?

    Beeman- You have a lot of good thoughts. I am especially interested in the idea of pasture farrowing, mainly because I like the idea of letting the pigs do the work as opposed to me! But, I'm glad to hear that you are having success with it (I've heard other positive reports). What sort of pastures/areas are you pigs in? Do you sell most of yours to people to raise out (feeders), as freezer pork, or on the commerical market? I know there are places that give a slight premium for berkshire meat, have you dealt with any of those?

    Again, thanks everyone for all of the great responses and help!
     
  14. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

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    Hi eBook,

    Our first four sows came from another local farm. We visited several farms and I looked at the pigs they had, how they were being raised and based on that picked the source of our starter gilts. They were month old weaner piglets at the time. See this post and pictures:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/blog/2007/02/little-pigs-tale.html

    The second photo with two piglets and the livestock guardian dog are from the day they arrived at our place. Little did we know at the time we would become pig farmers. :) My goal at that time was to produce enough meat for our family and maybe a little extra to sell justifying the expense of a couple of sows.

    When they were ready to breed we found a local farmer, Archie, who loaned out boars. He had several which he described to me over the phone. I picked the one that was closest to our goals and he brought it over to meat our gilts.

    Three of our ladies were fertile - Soviet didn't take but she was delicious. From those litters I kept the very best few gilts back and sold the rest as freezer pigs and piglets. They went quickly.

    When the time came we borrowed another boar from Archie to breed our sows and new gilts. Rinse and repeat. After three boars we swapped with Archie for a proven young boar, Archimedes. Archie's picked the best of our young boars plus several other piglets - he wanted a son from his big boar, Longfellow, who was getting to old. Longfellow hung at 1,062 lbs and was slaughtered intact - Archie said he was fine tasting. At some point I'm going to need to look for another boar, probably several young brothers, to bring in new genetics.

    We did not look for purebred sows and boars because the cost was too high for us and the travel distances were too great. We're a long ways from nowhere and I don't travel much. Rather we looked at local pigs for good conformity, length, those that had been in our local climate for generations and other characteristics in the starter group. I figured that picking pigs that had survived on pasture without barns in our climate would give us a head start on good genetics. We continue to select the best of the best with each generation. I have added one unrelated sow since the originals. She's a large black.

    With each pig I keep track of as much data as I can. In addition to the life characteristics I also look at tenderness, taste, marbling, etc when possible. This I can relate back to their relatives. One of the fun things about pigs is they reproduce so quickly, have so many young per litter, so many litters per year and grow so fast. Much like rabbits or mice but twice as nice and a whole lot bigger. :) It makes genetic improvement quick and easy.

    One of the characteristics that is important to me is livestock that are hardy, can birth outdoors on pasture and thrive in our climate year round. I don't have barns. I don't crate. I don't shovel manure. I don't provide heat lamps. I rarely attend births. The pigs pretty much take care of themselves maintenance-wise and that is what I like. I visit with the pigs every day, check things out, walk the fields, etc. I do careful setup. Getting the fencing right, water right, pasture and feed balances, open sheds for winter (actually the mud seasons of November and March are the worst due to wetness), loading and sorting systems, etc. Getting the system right makes maintenance a lot easier and less time consuming. My goal is that eventually the dogs will be able to take over the farm. :) Just kidding. Although Kita, the head LGD, insists she could drive the delivery van if only I would giver her the keys...

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
    http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
    http://NoNAIS.org
     
    lrd3 likes this.
  15. RedHogs

    RedHogs Well-Known Member

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    I am totally into the breeding side, I do run a commercial operation to sell the culls of my farrowings. I sell 85% of hogs as feeders to get rid of them. The rest are grown out and sold as gilts or boars to other breeders or to show in the ring. I have been trying to start for months in selling AI to breeders and commercial farms in bulk. I hope to shift from a gilt operation to more of a boar producer.

    As to success, it is a subjective thing....I have elevated my stock every two generations with outside purchases, Although I keep back gilts...I buy them regularly.

    My commercial operation is steady for 3 years running at 32%.....For every dollar invested over the year....I have 1.32 at the end of the year after paying taxes. The Show side is break even at best to date. I started paying 200 a gilt and have AIed or bought Show winning boars and sold the offspring and then replaced the gilt with higher quality with the proceeds. So now I'm averageing 1000 - 1200 a gilt and double that for boars, and lose maybe a little every year... but showing hogs is an expensive hobby that is paying for its own improvement every year and has not grown in quality from its own profits. If you enjoy the genetic side, it will break even and produce culls for meat hogs....I have given up on making money on showhogs... I am just trying to get better every year without going broke.