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Discussion in 'Pigs' started by Mountain Mick, Oct 27, 2010.
Why would I get Large black pigs??? Please.
30 years ago, prior to the Heritage breed hoopla, a friend had purchased a few Large Blacks and was crossing them with a top quality Landrace boar. The Large Blacks are known for their large litters, often extra working teats, calm disposition. But they have far too much lard to be popular as a production breed.
Back then, I owned a pair of Large Blacks and a Landrace boar. Couldn’t get them bred. Butchered the boar and took the gilts to a local pig farmer. He couldn’t get them bred either.
Fast forward to today. Through some excellent salesmanship, a renewed interest in older, somewhat obscure breeds, Large Blacks are staging a comeback. Just as prices once shot up for Ostriches, Emus, Scottish Hilanders and Angora Goats, the Large Black market has been hot. People are getting $500 for a 50 pound female. Rather than compete with commercial operations, one can raise these rare pigs and cash in on huge profits…. for awhile.
Seems every breedable Large Black is in production, without regard to breed standards. Just breed them and rake in the money. It has become uncommon for litter size to exceed 10. Breeding problems exist, perhaps due to over-feeding, perhaps to insufficient culling.
I believe we are close to the collapse of the hot Large Black market.
These hogs can forage, but most will admit forage alone is seldom enough, unless they get loose in your garden. LOL
Since most every Large Black is getting bred, I would shun Large Blacks from small litters and you might want to bring a hog expert along to judge unsoundness and marginal quality.
You should buy Large Blacks if you want some quiet, friendly pastured pigs. If you want to put something in your freezer, you can do better, much better.
If I could get a Large Black to raise 13 of 14 Landrace/ Large Black piglets, I’d be a lot more positive. But I can’t and I don’t think you can either.
Mmm, I think I rather echo Haypoint's view on this - and that is from the other side of the world. NZ's Large Black stock almost died out so that they became a rare breed. I think, but don't quote me, there was one sow and two boars or two sows and one boar left and the whole breeding stock stems from these. With the advent of smallfarmers and a swing back to keeping rare breeds going, whatever progeny is available fetches big money - and it's money that I'm not prepared to pay for a pig that is no better in terms of breeding or meat than many other varieties.
The States has a much wider variety of available pig breeds than we do and I personally think you could do much better than opt for Lge Blacks.
Ibid. We are crossing large black genetics with our herd for the large litter size, wintering ability, many litters per year, good temperament and maintenance of condition even on pasture with so many piglets born.
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
I dont post here regularly but do use the site often and had to jump in on this one. I have LBH's and absolutely LOVE them. I got them because I wanted to get a breed that would do well in a pastured setting, and after alot of research decided on LB's. This was several years ago, at that time there were only about 200 in the US and they had not become as popular as they are today. I have been very happy with ours, especially since I am raising them alongside other breeds and am able to directly compare. The LBH's have wonderful dispositions, stay in good condition on VERY little supplemental feed, and are great mothers. I would suggest if you want to get into it to sell 400 dollar pigs then think on it some more (as others have pointed out) and do your research. If you are getting into them because you want the best type of pig for a homestead/pasture based system that is easy to handle then you cant go wrong with them. We have also been very impressed with the crosses from our LB boar.Of course that is MY opinion and everyone has one :lookout: Just do your research and look at the parents, ask questions, etc.. But you should do that on anything that you buy.
Thank you for your replies.
I Australia the bubble pop a little while ago. as LB's were as high is $1500 ea for piglets, now we can buy them from $130 to 275 ea, with papers. I have love Lb's for over third years but just not able to get them and now we are after them because we want the best type of pig for a homestead/pasture based system, that is easy to handle then and make great old style ham/bacon, with fat and flavour. like Prosciutto, Gammon, pancetta, Guanciale & coppa , again thank you all for your reply. Mick:viking:
We have used a few breeds for sows. Our large blacks were the most tame, best mothers, and the best on pasture. We only ate two lrg black cross hogs. But they were great. Beefier texture.
If you need one because they are fun to watch, easy to handle, good mothers, good on pasture and small litters aren't a problem, consider Finn sheep. Plus you'd get something of value from them, wool. I've never tried smpked leg of lamb, but I'll bet it would be tasty.
Why not try a smaller version of heritage hog, if you must raise one, like a Tamworth or Old Spot, which will give you the same forage ability(maybe better), docile attitude and great mothering abilities.
I noticed that my 2 Old Spot gilts were much friendlier than my York/Hamp crosses right away, and also had larger ham regions, thicker shanks....
Will find out what kind of mothers they are this spring.
A mistake people often make is to compare heritage pigs to more modern breeds. It's apples and oranges. You choose a particular breed of animal for a particular need.
Large Black hogs retain their ancestor's traits to do well outdoors on pasture and in the woods. They have very long bodies with lots of pork belly. They have marbled meat. They are very docile, very good mothers, and, despite their name, don't grow into huge monster hogs. They can easily handle heat and cold. Their pork to lard ratio is excellent.
If that is what you want from a hog then you can't find anything better.
If instead you want lots of lard, large hams and roasts, light and lean pork, hogs that do well under intensive conditions or in small pens and barns, hogs that stay small or grow huge, have 14 piglets per litter, then Large Blacks are not the ones for you.
Despite haypoint's claim to the contrary the market for Large Blacks is growing quickly and will expand by several times over the next five or six years. Prices for weaned piglets are increasing due, in part, to the unmet demand for Large Black pork. Large Black pork is basically unavailable to the market except for a few niche farmers markets. It is receiving a lot of interest because of the incredible quality but, due to the very low numbers of hogs, there are not enough hogs to provide a reliable source for pork. Within a couple of years there will be enough and you will start seeing LB pork on menus. Almost all of the LB breeders know that the pork market is where we are headed and we are selectively breeding to prepare for that.
The breeders who got into LBs looking for a quick buck usually disappear within a couple of years, after losing their butts, mostly because they don't know much about hogs. Those who expect them to look, grow and breed like modern breeds also stop quickly and bad mouth the breed; mostly because they don't know much about heritage breeds. But those who understand the unique traits and value the breed brings, and how to develop a market that appreciates that, are doing very well and investing for the long term.
this post is off topic in a large way but on topic in a small way. I have been thinking how to make my small 5 acres productive and pigs come to mind. I like the old ways of doing things. I like the qualities of keeping the animals on pasture or range. I like simple and good. I like dry aged beef and good pork flavor most of what you get in the store is watered down, injected,pumped and pre-flavored and cro-vac packed. I believe there is value in small scale niche marketing of farm products. I believe this to the extent that I am seriously looking into starting a small business on my little 5 acres. when I read the responses to this post I wished to pm one responder with a question. I found that option unavailable and though ht had changed things then I found it quite easy to pm all other responders with a simple click on there name. makes me wonder because this party that I couldn't pm had freely posted there Phone number in another post
Hi Greg. I turned off the pm thing because I never check it. Made folks angry that I had not responded so I just turned it off. The best way to contact me is via email at HomegrownAcres@gmail.com.
just my 2 cents here. every contact is a potential business contact. with all the spam of email I like the chat and instant message feature's of different site's
Brian has done an excellent job explaining his view, his opinion. It is clear and complete. I appreciate his display of a differing viewpoint.
But, I disagree with just about everything he has stated. :duel:
He believes there is a growing demand for LB pork. I believe that very little LB pork can get to market while the breeders market is pushing, and getting, $500 for a feeder pig. Since these new âbreedersâ are small farms, like most of us here, there is even a good demand for boars. Tasty pork might appear as a reason to grow them, it is the $500 price that is attracting all the attention. I think that the only pork to make it to the meat market would be those LB that they couldnât get bred, sold by disgruntled former breeders.
Who really knows when the market for $500 feeders will exceed demand? Like a sinking ship, these things go down faster than expected. We saw it in Emus, and a few other special animals. The term âbottom dropped outâ isnât a gradual weakening of the market.
The reason the LB fell out of favor and almost became a lost breed was because they are a lard type hog and there isnât much of a market for hog fat anymore. They were well known for their large litters. Their extra teats and their calm nature made them very productive with low piglet mortality.
I do agree that to capitalize on Heritage breeds, youâll need to know âhow to develop a market that appreciates thatâ. It is mostly salesmanship that drives this LB market.
Bison meat is lean and lower in cholesterol than a Hereford. But put a Hereford out on the prairie and youâll see a comparable level of leanness. To a good degree, itâs the same with hogs. All hogs will graze, just they arenât as good at as the LB. Put a LB in a pen and throw the corn and soy to him and youâll have pork similar to commercial varieties. Vice versa. It isnât apples to oranges, more like Honeygold to PaulaRed or composted to fertilized.
In the Registered Large Black Association web site, there is talk of selective breeding, but most are openly committed to breeding everything they have, even breeding sows that have repeated litters of 7 or less. That waters down the very reason to resurrect this ancient breed.
As Old Spots & Tamworth are very rare in Australia. very rare. MM
Raising heritage breed hogs, especially the ones with low numbers of individuals, brings with it more than a business proposition, more than a cost per pound of meat or return on investment. To be happy you must reset your expectations.
I often speak with folks that have raised modern crosses and are frustrated by the low profits, if any, and are looking at heritage breeds as a way to renew their hog businesses based on the selling price of heritage hogs. I have to caution them that they will probably be disappointed as their metrics for success, their baseline for what makes a good hog, is skewed by their experience with modern cross hogs. They consider things like average number of piglets per litter, weaning weight, time to butcher weight, ratio of meat to bone, and many heritage hogs just can't compete. This makes a lot of sense; of course modern crosses are better because the breeders who created them were pretty smart folks. They started with heritage breeds and selectively crossed those that had larger litters, larger muscles, etc. It would be unrealistic to take a foundation hog and expect it to be as good a piglet or pork producer as the improved breeds.
However, as "better" hogs were created, they lost some of the traits their ancestors had. This also makes sense because modern breeders raise their hogs in environments where things like cold and heat tolerance and pasturing ability are not necessary. To maximize the survival of piglets you provide them the least risky environment possible. You artificially inseminate the sows to prevent mating injuries and maximize insemination success. You raise the sows in an environment that is designed to improve fetus retention. When farrowing time comes you restrain the sow so that she cannot possibly injure the piglets and you keep her restrained so that the piglets can suckle easily, balancing the numbers of piglets between sows so that teat competition is eliminated. You wean the piglets early on a specialized feed so that you can breed back the sows at the earliest possible opportunity. Then you feed the piglets with a special diet to encourage rapid growth, including antibiotics that enhance feed efficiency. All of this makes sense if the metrics you use are as many piglets as possible raised to butcher weight as soon as possible.
There is nothing wrong with this from a business perspective, except perhaps the result of a saturated pork market with continued pressure from customer expectations of consistent quality pork at a low price.
However, replace these specialized cross hogs with heritage breeds and this model won't work. Your litter numbers will be low and growth rates will be slower. You will only be able to produce a limited amount of pork because the market that will pay the price to make this profitable will be very small. And the cuts that will come from your hogs will not look like the traditional cuts that most people are accustomed to.
This also is true on a smaller scale. Hog farmers that raise a few hundred hogs per year will see the same issues; low litter numbers, low piglet weight and growth rates, lower feed efficiency and non-traditional cuts. Those that have learned their craft from modern crosses will be very disappointed.
In order to be happy with heritage breeds, one has to reset their expectations and understand the unique value that comes from the old breeds. Heritage breeds are best for those who are living the "homestead" life, making the change to living on a small farm in a simple, natural manner. This holistic view of farming is often more beneficial to the soul than the wallet. It is a decision to appreciate the intangible value of traditional farm life; doing things the old way and appreciating the benefits of providing food from your own effort. Usually hogs are only a part of this plan; a square to be filled. People take a look at their farms and eating habits and decide to try to make the farm provide as much of their family's dietary needs as possible. They eat vegetables so a garden is a natural; they eat chicken, beef and pork so poultry, cattle and hogs are needed. They may want to do some old crafts, such as cheese, wool and honey so their cow (or goat) needs to provide milk; they need sheep to provide wool and bees to make honey. Once they have defined their needs they then start the process of choosing the breeds that will work for them.
It is easy, and inexpensive, to choose commonly available breeds and vegetable varieties, and many folks start with that. But since the choice to homestead is as much about emotional fulfillment as anything else, some folks decide to choose breeds that better fit this concept; going "old school" by choosing heritage livestock and heirloom vegetables. A Holstein cow will provide beef and milk, and a Hampshire hog will provide lots of pork, but a Canadienne cow or Large Black hog brings the real satisfaction of helping to resurrect a rare breed. Rare breeds have connected groups of like minded people that brings the enjoyment of belonging to a community. I've made lots of friends, around the world, that I would never have met had I not chosen to raise heritage breeds.
Heritage breeds also have meat that looks and tastes different than the stuff that you find in the grocery store. The first time you see the dark colored pork from a Large Black you might think it was beef. But cook Large Black pork low and slow and you will be ruined; grocery store pork will just never satisfy again.
Some heritage breeds, especially the rare ones, can also help pay for the homestead life, and although that should not be the primary consideration, it is nice to be able to make a little more off the hogs so that I can have other livestock that don't provide much return. My sweetie and I call it our "traveling money"; we get to go see our kids every once in a while.
It's also nice that the livestock we have chosen can utilize the food that grows naturally on our farm. Sustainability is all about lowering the need for outside inputs; making your farm "sustainable". We started with Duroc and Chester Whites but left those breeds behind because they required too much supplemental feed. Our Large Blacks need less than half of the supplemental feed and our GOS even less.
I think that the current price for Large Black and other heritage pigs will endure for many years as more people are choosing the homestead life due to the economy. Even when companies start hiring again the lessons will be remembered; you've got to have more to your life than a title and a paycheck. Life in a cubicle is just not fulfilling; even a part time farm will make life more complete. And if you choose livestock that don't require constant attention...
With any hog, the true future is not in the breeding market but in the pork market. There will always be farmers who provide high quality breeding stock but the most successful will be those that can make the transition to pork. Large Black crosses will be the product; hogs that retain the taste and quality of LBs while providing better proportioned cuts. The Large Black has lots of pork belly and ribs but relatively small hams and roasts; cross it with a Tamworth, Duroc or Hamp and you get the best of both. We have several LB X Hamp litters each year and they all sell out quickly to people who want traditional cuts with old world flavor.
My point in this very long post was to try to explain why you simply can't compare heritage breeds with modern crosses (and perhaps to answer the OP's question). Different strokes for different folks; the markets are different. When choosing what hog you want to raise you need to match the breed to your expectations. If you like the natural life, the simple pleasure of raising livestock in the manner they were raised in the 1800s, then choose livestock that retain the ability to do well in that environment.
I hesitate to put words in your mouth, but I'd like to try to express, what I think your real concerns are:
1.You don't believe either that pastured pork is noticeably better than CAFO pork (given the same breed), or that heritage breed pork is perceptibly better than production cross pork raised under the same conditions.
2. You don't believe that there is a significant number of potential customers willing to pay a premium for "happy critter" rather than CAFO meat.
From these two, it follows that
1. A business plan built on charging a premium for pastured heritage meat is doomed to fail, and
2. Any success a person following such a plan may achieve is built on "salesmanship", a term that to you is apparently synonymous with spouting BS.
Am I right?
Your point about bubbles is well taken, but honestly does not seem to me to be the foundation of your position.
LOL, they are pretty rare here in Ohio, as well, friend....
In fact, they (Heritage Pigs) are rare in all of the United States, for they had fallen out of favor by the consumer for more "modern" breeds capable of producing a lean cut of meat in 6 months in an intensive farming condition versus 8 months(some are much longer than that, to reach the magical weight of 250#-270#).
Yet, I obtained two Old Spots gilts, which when mated to my York/Hamp cross boar ought to produce some very beautiful piglets next spring.
These should have hybrid vigor, produce a well marbled, large hams, and should do so in approx. 6 months....
Perhaps, off season buying is your ticket to owning some of these stock, when folks do not want to feed said animals through the winter(when forage is not available)but they wish to keep their sows cycling, thus bringing a lower buying price.
I paid $60 a piece for my two full blooded Old Spot gilts because of this(out of season)
I will start with the admission that I raise the modern show hogs, but I still love the large blacks.... They are just as good as any modern hog, just more fat....
They excel with green chop or pasture and then will turn around and do just as good in a barn. They have very solid hips, this is a major complaint with heritage hogs.... The inbreeding crowd is not culling bad hips because it dosn't show up until it is too late. The tamworths and GOS I've have had horrible hips.
They are real good breeders, they are good around new experiences.
They are the only heritage hog I'll breed to my sows.... they are actually quite common in commercial hog operations for breeding maternal sow lines... the AI studs will often have LB boars.
I don't have one right now, but I'll probably wish I did.... I just traded a duroc boar with a super pedigree for a GOS boar at 6 weeks old.... I could possibly have some AI for sale off of him in April or may 2011....
I don't really like the way GOS behave, but some people just love them....
It's preference.... the Large balck is just like any modern hog in attitude....
Some of the heritage breeds are real soft temperment and some people love that... If you do, I'll hook you up.
If there is a real demand for large black AI, I'd love to have one of those around the farm also.
Bad hips? Could you describe exactly what that deformity is?
My two Old Spot gilts are now approaching 100-125# range, and look VERY good.
I really do enjoy my GOS behavior, very friendly.
Sadly, though, getting to the feed trough, with those two under foot, plus my York/Hamp crosses can be challenging at times