LARGE BLACK HOGS
IN ALL THEIR GLORY!
Updated December 31, 2008!
PIGS NOW IN HAITI
Here is a picture of Ken with his baby pigs in quarantine at the USDA facility in Miami. He personally drove the 24 hours to get them there and would not leave until he was convinced they would be well taken care of. After working for more than a year to complete the process of permits, testing, vaccinations, inspections and getting tons of paperwork signed by numerous vets and officials, he wasn't taking any chances. The process was frustrating and overwhelming at times but the pigs passed with flying colors and were real troopers through it all. We are just extremely happy to know the people of Haiti are now joining us in preserving this endangered breed. We feel blessed to be chosen by the country of Haiti to provide the genetics for such an important and expensive repopulation project. It's also very rewarding to know our work with this wonderful breed will go on long after we are gone. Many thanks to all that were involved in making this possible.
We recently heard from Haiti. They have had their first litters and the herd is expanding. They are currently being housed in a concrete room to protect them but their offspring are expected to be raised outdoors eventually. After seeing the news recently with the food riots in their country, we think it's best if they are kept in a safe house for now. We will continue to watch their progress with interest.
Here is our oldest boar. We have to watch how much he eats or he tends to get too large for his own good. We want our boars to be healthy and muscled but no extra fat. His only purpose is to breed so we want to protect his hind feet and legs. Too much weight can prevent him from doing his job, make it uncomfortable for the females, or cause injury to his legs. As you can see, he is an excellent specimen of what a Large Black should look like.
We have two boars so we can provide breeding pairs if you prefer. We are also using imported semen from Europe on a select few sows to provide new blood lines. If all goes well, we will have a limited number of litters available in 2008 from a European boar. We plan to replace this boar with the best from those litters.
These are mature sows. They are large but then again, they are supposed to be. Notice the deep body and the long back with an amazingly wide loin. This particular breed matures to a large size but that does not mean they are overweight. These sows continue to raise large litters WITHOUT laying on their young. Nature has prepared the pigs by making them more active and stronger immediately after birth so they tend to get out of her way. We also provide heat lamps so they will not huddle under her for warmth. Large blacks make excellent mothers and her size provides a reserve to feed litters of eleven or more. The pigs will grow amazingly fast on her rich milk. The color variation is actually a water mark from laying in the mud. The black skin enables them to spend all day in the hot sun but these big girls do need to take a dip in the mud hole occasionally to cool off.
Warning, this stunt is performed by a professional pig man. Do not try this at home if your pigs aren't Large Black Hogs!
OK, I added this just for fun. This is one of our original sows and she is spoiled rotten. She loves Ken and wants his attention so much she will push the others away from him. We affectionately call her Big Black Sally and Kay has a lot of fun teasing about Ken and Sally to those who don't know Sally is a pig. On the more serious side, this does show the strong bond and gentleness these hogs show their owners. Ken would feel safe doing this even if Sally had a litter with her. She is just that gentle and loving as are any large black sows that are treated humanely. Pigs are one of the most intelligent domesticated animals created and truly have the capacity to love.
Last July, we farrowed 5 litters in tents like these. We like to farrow on dirt in the summer months because it's cooler on mom and its easier on the pig's knees. Here is a couple of our hog tents that we use for just about everything. Once the pigs are all born, we give them a few days to grow and then we notch their ears and let everyone out on pasture. These little ones will start eating with mom at a week old and will be grazing at about 2 weeks old. The shade is important too this time of year. When pigs are raised on dirt there is no need for iron shots since the iron is in the soil and the pigs are smart enough to know they need it.
PILE OF PIGS
Here is a view from inside. These pigs are 4 days old and growing by the minute. If it were not a warm day, we would have a heat lamp for them but they seem perfectly fine here. Mom is getting some well deserved rest too. We use straw as bedding but try to not over do it. If there is too much available, the mom will make a huge nest and the pigs will hide under it to sleep and get smashed as mom plops down. She is very careful as long as she knows where they are but if she can't see them, they are for sure in danger.
The pigs on the left are just hours old. Notice how thin the skin is and how the ears are laying back. The pigs on the right are just 4 days old but as you can see, the ears are starting to move forward and the body has already started to fill out and plump up. If you look very close at the tip of the ear you can see the notches on the 4 day old pig. Notches are used to mark and identify each individual.
I often get questions regarding their ability to withstand harsh winters. As you may have seen on TV, this winter has been particularly harsh in MO. This 6 month old female is walking on sleet, not snow. As long as you provide some sort of shed to get out of the wind and snow, add a thick layer of bedding on top of a dry floor, they should do fine regardless of the temps. I would not confine them to the shed, just have it available. This breed is large and their size helps withstand the weather. They of course do better in groups so they can help keep each other warm. When the sun comes out, they come out to play in spite of the cold!
This is how our hogs spend their days. This breed is a true grazing hog. As you can see in this picture, they are not digging up holes as other hogs would. They are grazing and they do not have hog rings in their nose! This grazing makes for a huge savings in feed and it produces a healthier hog.
Hogs are still hogs and will need grain along with the grazing except for the adults. Our boars make it just fine all summer on grazing only but young growing pigs or lactating moms will need more energy and protein than grazing alone can provide. We have found that pig feet do more damage than pig's rooting. In the wet season (winter here), their feet can quickly turn the turf into a muddy mess. As a result, we move ours to their winter home and feed alfalfa or Bermuda hay along with grain and save the grazing for the rest of the year.
Yes, its Saturday so the hogs want a bath whether they need it or not! Large Blacks can stand the heat and sun better than other breeds due to their dark pigmented skin but they do get hot. We enjoy using the water hose to play with them and our girl Matilda has a favorite tub that she likes to bath in.
Its nap time for a group of young grazers. Of all the wonderful things we could say about the Large Blacks, the most surprising is their personality. These are not considered pet pigs, they are livestock, bred to produce food but it doesn't hurt that they are a joy to be around. I have never seen a breed of hog that is this easy to approach and handle.
HOW MUCH LAND DOES IT TAKE
I wish I had a dollar for every time I've been asked that question. I also wish I had an answer for you but there are just so many variables that the answer has to be "it depends." As you can see in this picture, we were in the middle of a two year drought and we were lucky anything was green. In a year like that, you can quickly become over stocked with any grazing animal. On the other hand, the picture above this one was taken during a good year and we could have put twice the number of animals on our pastures. But, notice the pastures were not destroyed in either year. We simply made sure our hogs had plenty of room and always had something to eat above ground. We have never ringed a hogs nose here and never will.
Other things to consider is what type of forage you have? If you have a variety and it includes some clover or other legumes, you can have a higher stocking rate. If you have pregnant sows, you will need more land as the little ones join the herd and begin to graze. If you have good pasture, it is during the growing season, and you have no drought, then you can expect to have a pair of adults on 1/2 acre or more without over grazing or having a pig smell. Start from there and adjust the amount of land they can use as conditions change. You will soon learn what rate is best for your animals and your pasture. No two are alike so you just have to learn to watch your grass.
I WANT ONE!!!
Who wouldn't! Here a group of youngsters are chasing us on the ranger as we drive through. I love the flopping ears as they run.
We are currently on a break from breeding large blacks and are focusing our attention on the old spots. Thankfully our efforts to educate others about the large blacks have paid off and they are much more plentiful now so you should have no problem finding a breeder near you.