Two years ago, we made the decision to start breeding pigs. It started as an effort to be more self-sufficient. It didn’t make sense to keep buying piglets from various sources every 6 months. First of all, we were always worried that we wouldn’t be able to find piglets. At the time, supply hadn’t quite caught up with demand and available piglets at a reasonable price went quickly. Second, the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) had us concerned that pork and pig prices were going to skyrocket. Third, the piglets we did find didn’t always turn out to be great meat producers. Our first two pigs were on the feed bill for 8 months, then ended up having as much lard as meat on their bodies. Our third pig and half-brother to our sow was an excellent meat pig. He grew fast, large and long. We butchered him at 7 months old. He didn’t produce a lot of extra lard, but the marbling on his loin was amazing. Those were the best pork chops I’ve ever tasted. The two pigs after him were again a disappointment. They were on the feed bill for 8 months, were very lean and never muscled out very much.
So we bought a male and a female piglet from a friend who had some pigs that I liked. The male we raised for meat and the female we intended to keep for breeding. As a piglet, we didn’t think our sow was going to make it. Some of you may remember when she got really sick. Because she was such a sickly little thing, she earned the named Little Bit.
Well, Little Bit bounced back and then some. She certainly isn’t a little thing now. I’d estimate her weight at over 400 lbs, but I haven’t confirmed it. We decided to wait until she was a year old, then bred her to Doc Logan from Shipley Swine Genetics. We couldn’t have been happier with her first litter. She had 11 piglets, but 2 were stillborn. It wasn’t totally unexpected for a first time gilt who had gone 2 days overdue. She took great care of the other 9 piglets and proved to be a wonderful mother.
We decided to keep 2 piglets from that litter: a male who would go in the freezer and the best female to be a second breeding sow. Even though the male we kept was the smallest of the litter, he also turned out to be a really nice meat pig.
For this next litter, we wanted to try to improve some conformation flaws to produce better quality show pigs for our county fair this spring. Our ultimate goal is to provide show pigs for local 4-H and FFA kids. We wanted a slightly higher quality Exotic cross boar with good width and muscle to sire this litter, so we chose Dirty Deeds from Shipley Swine Genetics.
Little Bit ended up having 10 piglets this litter, but she did crush one of the pink ones when they were a couple days old, so we’re down to 9. It’s still a little early to tell how good these piglets are going to be, but I’m already in love with their colors. A few of them are looking pretty thick too, so I think we may have some nice show prospects in the bunch.
Farmboy has already tried naming them and he wants to keep the mostly black one. He wasn’t very happy when I told him that we’d be selling them in a couple months. I don’t plan to keep any from this litter, but I may change my mind if the little orange, pink and black spotted gilt turns out to be a nice little pig. Is it too much to ask for a pig to be beautifully marked and nicely built?
Farmboy is so good with these pigs. I wish he was old enough to show one in 4-H, but he has to wait until he’s 9. I would show one in an open show if we had more open shows close to us. Most of them are up north and I’m not sure I’m ready to travel that far just to see if we might do well, especially with no show experience.
This one is really cute too. She looks like she has a paw print on her butt. She’s a pretty stocky little thing too.