Heritage Livestock: Pigs

I realize I haven’t completed my full series on heritage breed livestock via TLC!

This post is regarding heritage breed pigs. I thought it was fitting as we are preparing to get our first pigs at the farm. Pigs can be beneficial on a small homestead in so many ways. First and foremost, they provide pork, sweet delicious pork. Pigs can also quickly and easily aerate a plot of land, making it more suitable for planting and habitation by microorganisms (earthworms and various other soil flora and fauna). While they are aerating the soil, they’re also fertilizing it with their manure, and tilling everything together. Pigs can be a great way to turn a garden plot in the fall and prepare it for planting the following spring.

While pigs make good homestead workers, they do require some care. They need access to a shelter to prevent frost bite in the winter and sunburn in the summer. They also require a place to wallow, which helps them stay cool and free of biting insects. They love the water, so it’s best to water them via a watering system, similar to what we do with our rabbits – this prevents them from taking baths in their water tank. They are voracious eaters, but can and will eat pretty much anything, so if you can work out an arrangement with your local farmers market or grocery store or even with your neighbors to gather their food waste, feeding pigs can be relatively simple. Pigs are notorious for escaping fencing, but there are ways to train them – electrifying hog panels can teach them not to challenge the fence, and they can often be moved down into double or triple strand hot wire which will contain an educated hog very well. You can also use very sturdy fencing such as pallets or hog panels, just ensure that they can’t be rooted under.

There are 3 breeds listed as critical, another four as threatened, and two on the watch list. I will briefly outline each breed below.

CRITICAL

Choctaw: American breed of Spanish stock; small size bred for lean meat; hanging weights around 100lbs; aggressive breed; named for Native American tribe with which they were associated

Mulefoot: American breed; has solid, non-cloven foot (like a hoof of a mule); compact but moderately sized hog; hanging weights around 150lbs; lean meat; docile and active

Ossabaw Island: southern US breed; active breed that forages and is currently a “wild” population on Ossabaw Island; bred for lean meat; moderate size; hanging weight around 105lbs average; active breed

THREATENED

 Gloucestershire Old Spot:  developed in England; historic breed; excellent foragers and grazers; large breed; 180lb average hanging weight; docile temper

Guinea Hog: American breed; small breed; bred for meat but also fat and the cured products that can be made from it; 100lb average hanging weight; unique flavoring to their meat

Large Black: English breed; bred for high quality pork and bacon; large breed; average hanging weight 144lbs; lop ears; docile temper

Red Wattle: large red with fleshy wattles on neck; hardy, rapidly growing; large breed; 180lb hanging weight; docile temper; novice experience level

WATCH

Hereford: marked similarly to Hereford cattle; unique to United States; large docile breed; do well in homestead or commercial operations; 153lb hanging weight

Tamworth: English breed; long, lean, athletic breed; active; hanging weight 160lbs; best suited for outdoor life

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