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GLOUCESTERSHIRE OLD SPOT

LARGE BLACK HOGS

A RARE HERITAGE BREED HOG KNOWN FOR IT'S TENDER MOIST MEAT AND IT'S CALM DOCILE TEMPERAMENT

TINY TEXAS RANCH

HARLINGEN, TX

wolfe1@getgoin.net

 

QUESTION AND ANSWERS ON LARGE BLACK HOGS:

Note:  This information is based on our experiences here on Wolfe Mountain Farms.  We are not veterinarians and the information is not intended to replace professional help.  It's merely suggestions and you should take them as such.

Please click on the question and the answer will appear! 

 WHAT KIND OF FENCING WILL I NEED FOR LARGE BLACKS?

WILL THEY NEED SHELTER?

WHAT DO I FEED THEM?

WHAT WILL THEY EAT IN THE PASTURE?

SHOULD I ROTATE  THE PASTURES?

WHAT ABOUT MY OTHER ANIMALS?

HOW DO I WORM THEM?

WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS SHOULD I WATCH FOR?

HOW OLD ARE THEY WHEN THEY BREED?

WHERE SHOULD THE SOW GIVE BIRTH?

HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN DELIVERY OF THE PIGS IS NEAR?

WHAT'S THE DELIVERY LIKE?

HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF THE NEW PIGLETS?

HOW DO I GET A BREEDING PAIR?


WHAT KIND OF FENCING WILL I NEED FOR LARGE BLACKS?
These are pasture hogs and are not bred to be confined in small lots or "pig sties."  You will need a temporary holding pen for various reasons so build one out of hog panels that you can purchase at your local farm supply.  For large pastures, you will need woven or web wire placed all the way to the ground. In a large area they may not bother the fence but if you have more pigs on the other side, you will need to run a hot wire (electric fence) along the inside bottom about snout high. This will discourage them from leaning or using their nose to lift on the fence.

Many people use electric fencing only. Iím a big believer in electric fencing but I prefer to use it for the interior divisions rather than the perimeter. No matter how good your fence, electric fences can go out (because of a short, limb down on the fence, animal pulled a wire lose, etc.). We also like the woven wire because you can use it for a variety of animals. We want our fences to be hog tight, horse high, and bull proof. Thatís the kind of fence we strive for here at Wolfe Mountain.  The picture above may be hard to see but there are two strands of barbed wire along the top and a white ribbon "hot" wire about snout high to keep them off the web wire.  This is a great way to teach the young to respect a hot wire so when they encounter it in the interior fence they know what it is.                

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WILL THEY NEED SHELTER?
In warm weather, hogs need shade and air. We make ďhoopĒ houses out of flexible horse panels. Take three or more metal ďTĒ posts and hammer them down in the ground to anchor one side of the panel. Bend the panel long wise to form an arch and then hammer the other three T posts in the ground to hold the other side. Cover with a tarp and stretch it tightly with bungee cords. We have the open ends facing the north and south. This seems to form a breeze way that draws a nice breeze even on still days. Not only do the pigs love it but our calves often lay with them inside. If itís really hot, we attach a soaker hose in the ceiling and leave the water on to keep it wet and cool inside.

In winter, the challenge is to keep them dry and out of the wind.  If you use the hoop house, you will want to close in the north side and fill it with old hay or straw to use as bedding. If you can't keep it from getting muddy inside, build a simple floor out of plywood or something you may have available around the farm.  As long as they can get in out of the wind and have enough bedding to completely cover themselves,  they will be fine in the cold weather too.  You can build these hoop houses as long as you want.  Just keep adding a new panel until it's the size you like.          

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WHAT DO I FEED THEM?
These are outdoor grazing hogs but they do not have a rumen like cattle so you must supplement their grazing.  We feed a mixture of ground corn and soy meal but you can feed what ever good nutrition you have available. The more soy the formula has, the higher the protein. The more corn you add, the higher the fat, so you want to make sure you keep the protein level at about 14% (higher for very young pigs) or you are going to produce mostly lard.  Do not use self feeders.  If there is food available all day they will eat all day even when they are not hungry.  These hogs will grow too big for their own good and become unproductive.  The young ones do not need self feeders either but always feed enough for them to get full and walk away.  We feel it's best to feed in the evening so they spend most of the day grazing.  Pastured pork is the ultimate in taste so you want to make sure your pigs are grazing.       

We feed small pigs twice a day until they are around 3 to 4 months old and then we feed only once a day. The amount will vary depending on how many pigs are in each pasture, there age etc., but you will soon learn how much to feed by experience. Feed them and if there is anything left after they walk away, feed less next time. If they eat it in 5 minutes and are still standing around talking to you, give them more. Pigs like to eat moist feed so add water to the corn/soy mixture. If you feed dry products to a hog it will drink afterward and the food will absorb the water and swell inside, causing discomfort or even death in rare cases.


When grazing is not available, we feed high quality alfalfa hay or Bermuda.  Again, go with what is available in your area but it just needs to be palatable and not all fiber.  Hogs of course will eat scraps but go easy on it if you are raising the animal for pork. What they eat has a lot to do with the quality of pork and scraps can produce an inconsistent product. It should be a treat, not the main source of feed. You may feed scraps to breeding animals as long as it is balanced with protein and vitamins. If itís not good for your kids, donít put it in your hog feed (no day old cakes, white breed, etc.). 

Pigs are famous for over eating so itís up to you to monitor that. Itís not a problem for growing youngsters but you canít allow your breeders to become overweight. A young gilt that is over fed can store fat around her ovaries and never be as productive as she should have been.  Large Blacks are obviously huge hogs but there is a difference in having a large frame and being fat. If your boar is fat, he will have trouble breeding and may not even want to try. If your sow is fat, she will have problems giving birth. Just try to keep your breeders on the lean side. When your sows begin to get a belly the last month of gestation, then increase their feed so the growing pigs get all they need.  I admit it is like walking a tight wire.  You do not want to stunt their growth by not giving enough food but then again you do not want to hurt production by giving too much.  It is as much an art as a science but in time, you will learn.            

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WHAT WILL THEY EAT IN THE PASTURE?
A mixed pasture is always best for every animal. The most important thing is to keep the forage young and growing. Donít allow it to be over grazed. Thatís what rotation is all about (in addition to parasite control). If it gets away from you, as it can in the spring, then mow it back so it can start fresh growth again. Hogs wonít eat that overgrown dead stuff but they love young green pastures. They prefer legumes (clover, alfalfa, lespedeza, etc.) and it has a higher percent of protein. Legumes require lime so try liming your pasture yearly. I prefer a little each year instead of a lot every few years. They will also do well on the turnip, kale, rape, type forages but the seed tends to be more expensive. So far, I have not found anything that is poison to them. Maybe they have enough sense to stay away from those things but we have not had a problem.                                         

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SHOULD I ROTATE  THE PASTURES?
Most certainly. If you donít, you are just asking for trouble with parasites. Not only that but rotation will produce more forage and increase the organic matter in your soil, which increases the quality and drought resistance of your pasture.  Many state conservation departments give seminars on rotational grazing and I highly recommend them. It will teach you how and why along with the science behind the plant growth. Here in Missouri, you can get government subsidies to help with your fencing and water needs if you take the seminar and agree to use rotational grazing. We could have never been able to afford the fencing we have without this government grant. Itís there for a reason so take advantage of it.

If you are going to raise more than a few hogs, you will need to design a system of electric fences so you can move your animals often and efficiently.  The best method is the wagon wheel design.  Imagine an aerial view of your farm divided up into large squares.  At the center of each square is a water trough and hoop house.  This does not need to be a large area, just big enough for your hogs to all congregate, eat, drink and get out of the weather.  Surround it with a fence of gates.  Each gate opens up to a new paddock or separate pasture.   These pastures are divided with electric fencing (3 strands should do it if they are placed properly).  From the air, this will look like a squared wagon wheel.  When one paddock gets eaten, bring the hogs in to feed, close the gate to that pasture while your hogs are eating and open the next gate.  In time they will completely rotate around the spokes of the wheel (made of electric fencing)  and be back where they began.  If you have more than one wheel, switch wheels each year and follow in behind with goats or cattle.  This design works great for them too.         

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WHAT ABOUT MY OTHER ANIMALS?
If you have visited our web site www.wolfemountainfarms.com then you know we raise a lot of different animals. If you'll notice in this picture, there is a large black between the calves and neither one seems to care.  We have found them all to be compatible except for the horses. We have had animals killed by the horses so now we keep them separate. Otherwise, we run the hogs, goats, cows and chickens together without a problem. There is one exception and thatĎs at feeding time. I guess itís an animal's nature to want what they canít have, but when we try to feed a group of animals, the pigs will leave their feed and go for the goat feed while the cows are stealing the hog feed. You must find someway to feed separately or just stay with them at feeding time and carry a big stick! I in no way advocate beating or abusing animals but a tap on the behind when they need it is necessary. Otherwise, your animals will not respect you and can even trample and hurt you. They donít mean any harm, they (as in all animals) just get pushy at meal time. Do the minimum that is necessary to get the job done and always use verbal commands along with it so they learn to obey your words without the tap.      

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HOW DO I WORM THEM?
There are lots of products out there and I can't tell you what's best for you. That is your preference and you may want to try different things before you make up your mind. We always choose the natural method over the chemical method when we can. There are times when modern medicine is needed so donít let an animal suffer when medication is called for.  If you are going to use chemical wormers, we recommend a granular wormer added to their feed when necessary. We do not worm the young ones with chemicals if they are to become pork.

We very seldom use chemical wormers on any of our hogs and we have no intestinal parasites!  We have found a wonderful natural product that has worked for us known as Diatomaceous Earth (DE). You can purchase it over the internet or ask your local feed store to purchase it for you.  Make sure you buy food grade. Itís a fine powder made of ground sea diatoms (whatever that is). It works by cutting the outside of the parasite, making it bleed to death. It's lethal to parasites and insects but doesn't hurt mammals.  We have our feed custom mixed at a local feed mill and they add a 50 pound bag of DE to a ton of feed.  That way, we know they are constantly protected from hatching worms.  If you can't have your feed custom mixed, just sprinkle a hand full in their feed daily.  For everything else on the farm, we mix it 50/50 with the loose cattle or goat mineral. We offer the mixture free choice to all our animals and have seen a major improvement in everything. Our horses look better and eat less than they ever have, and we no longer have anemia problems in our goats during the usual summer slump.  It is not 100% effective but it certainly helps.        

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WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS SHOULD I WATCH FOR?
If you watch your animals daily you will learn what a healthy pig looks like. They have their tail curled, are active and alert, and eat with enjoyment. If you ever feed and one does not come to eat, you have big problems. That is usually the last sign though. Most likely you will first notice the tail is straight and they just seem droopy and uninterested. Watch their breathing and compare it to others the same age under the same circumstances.  If itís different, you have a respiratory problem. Pigs can get pneumonia and take a turn for the worst in a day. Iím not a vet so your first responsibility is to call a vet. I have done that and now I have the regular antibiotics in the refrigerator so I can take care of the problem the minute it appears. Itís much more likely to show up in an animal that has been transported or has been stressed in some way. 

If you believe in vaccines, I recommend you use "Rhini Shield" which protects against Bordetella, Bronchiseptica Erysipelothrix, Rhusiopathiae Pasteurella Multiocida, Gacterin-Toxiod.  Basically, they won't get the respiratory problems as easily.  You can buy this through the mail and give the shots yourself.  To give a pig a shot, keep them busy by scratching the belly and then quickly stick the needle in the fat part of the neck like you are throwing a dart.  You may be tempted to slowly push it in thinking it will not hurt as bad.  Actually that is the worst thing you can do.  We use the smallest size needles we can use for the particular drug and they act as though they don't feel it when we dart it in to them.  Once in, push the plunger slowly or that will sting.  We like to vaccinate the sows two weeks before they give birth so they pass the protection on to the litter.

For young pigs, the best way to pick them up is grab them by the hind foot and hold them upside down while giving the shot.  For some reason they don't kick or squeal like they do if you are holding them in your arms the way you hold a puppy.  I have seen people pick little pigs up by their ears or tail but I don't like that.  I just don't see how that cannot cause damage.  The hind leg is plenty strong enough to hold the weight but an ear or tail is not.        

Heat stress can be a problem in extreme heat. Our hogs do fine in 100 degree heat as long as they have a hole filed with water to cool off and then shade. If you find a hog laid out and panting, he is close to a heat stroke and you must cool him down. Do it slowly so you donít throw him into shock. Get a bucket of cool water or a water hose and splash it on his neck and body but try not to put it in their face. Give them a moment to adjust and then do it again. Donít just hold the hose on them constantly. In a matter of minutes they should begin to cool off and get better. After they are OK, itís time to figure out what you need to change to keep it from happening again.

We have very few health problems and we attribute that to healthy pastures, plenty of exercise and fresh water, and the Diatomaus Earth.  There should be books available on the complete health of pigs but this wraps up the problems we have seen.  

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HOW OLD ARE THEY WHEN THEY BREED?
This breed is larger and a little slower to mature. You should be able to breed the gilts when they are about 9 to 10 months of age but a boar will be sexually mature before that. A sow/gilt in heat will stand planted firmly while the boar mounts from behind.  Sows will only breed during a short time span of the heat cycle.  If she is not in heat, she will walk out from under him. Unless you are with them all the time, you may not know if she has been in heat or not.  If you see them breed, mark it on your calendar. Sows come in heat about every 3 weeks so if you watch her closely, she will come in heat again if she is not pregnant.  If not, then she is most likely pregnant.

If your hogs bred, you should get pigs in 3 months, 3weeks, and 3 days, or just under 4 months. We have found that not every breeding is successful so we leave the boar with the sows right up until a few weeks before they give birth. He does not hurt them and we are sure not to miss any heat cycles.  We do not leave the growing weaned piglets with the breeders though. 

Now, a word about breeding.  This is a rare breed and granted more expensive than the more common breeds so the temptation is there to breed every animal you have.  If you own a breeding Large Black Hog then you hold the future of this breed in your hands.  You owe it to the breed to learn what to look for in a pig.  Not every pig born from a litter should be bred.  Breed only the best and eat the rest.  If you don't, soon problems will begin to show up in the breed and they will no longer be prized for their outstanding qualities.  If, on the other hand, you keep the best gilts from the best sow who gives you the largest litters and is a good mom, chances are these gilts will be even better than their mom.  When they grow up and become productive and one does not live up to her expectations, take her to the processor.  You owe it to the breed and the generations that come behind us to keep her problems out of the gene pool.  The breeders before you have been careful and I ask you to do the same.    

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WHERE SHOULD THE SOW GIVE BIRTH?


You donít need anything this fancy but you do need something. You want her up off the cold ground and a floor with sure footing. Itís best if you have slats on the inside wall to prevent the sow from laying up against the babies (see the picture). Itís best if you can lock her in or else she may decide to go have her litter in her favorite mud hole. Add some hay or straw but not so much that the babies will hide up under it and get smashed (yes, we have had that happen). We add a heat lamp in the corner so the babies will go there to sleep but mom wonít get too hot.

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HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN DELIVERY OF THE PIGS IS NEAR?
The sow will get larger and larger and you will think it has to be any day, but they wonít come until her teats get firm and extended. When you notice a change in her teats, check them daily. Place your thumb and finger at the base of the teat and gently squeeze and pull down at the same time. When you first notice a drop of milk, you are just days away from deliver. When you do this and a real squirt shoots out, you are hours away from delivery. She will stop eating or if she doesnít, stop feeding her. Her stool will soften and she will defecate often to clean out her intestines before she gives birth. Her digestive system will stop for a few days so thatís why you donít want her to eat. If she does, it will not digest and she will throw up while in labor. Offer her all the water she wants though. Itís now time to move her to her farrowing house. Before the babies start coming, go get your survival kit together. Youíll need a cooler with drinks, some chips, a comfortable chaise patio chair with a blanket and pillow because this could be a long night!

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WHAT'S THE DELIVERY LIKE?
I normally like to let nature take itís course and see no need to get involved unless itís absolutely necessary but I have found you canít always do that with pigs and save them all. It really depends on the sow and the relationship you have with her.  Some prefer us to be with them while it just makes others nervous.  You will have to be the judge.  If you want to be with them, the following paragraph describes the process.  If you find that the sow gets up and moves around a lot because you are there, it's time to leave and let her do the job alone.  You can come back later and see how it went.  If you choose to be there, here are a few things that I like to have handy. A small scoop or dust pan, large roll of paper towels, plastic gloves if you donít want that stuff on your hands, a garbage bag, a pair of scissors, and iodine.

Talk to your sow and scratch her belly to calm her down. You will know when she is having contractions (the tightening of the uterus muscles) because her belly will get hard and round like a big ball and she may grunt or hold her breath. This can go on for hours before the first pig comes out. You will see it emerge and should only take seconds for it to plop out on the floor. The sow just cannot get to her babies in time to get them breathing and warm so thatís your job. Pick it up, wipe itís face off and stick your finger in itís mouth to clean it out. Then remove the birth sac, dry the body and rub it to encourage it to breath. If itís not, turn it nose down with butt up and jerk it gently to force the fluid in itís lungs to come out. If itís still not breathing but itís heart is beating, hold itís snout in your hand and blow in itís nostrils (and no you donít have to touch it with your mouth). Most babies will start breathing and wiggling as soon as you get their face cleaned up but some will be a little slower. I continue working until there is no heart beat. It is normal to lose one in a litter but most will be healthy and only need a little help.

The placenta (called afterbirth in the animal world) is what connects the baby to the momís uterus and there will be several. I have never counted but I assume there is one placenta for each baby. At some point the afterbirth will disconnect from the uterus and the mom will pass it out the birth canal. It may be after a pig is born or she may pass several after several pigs have been born. If it is still connected with tissue, donít try to pull on it or it could break off inside causing problems later. Once it is loose, scoop it up and remove it from the furrowing house.

I have had problems knowing when the mom is finished with the birthing. She will rest in between pigs and then the contractions can start up again. I have seen them go hours between pigs so you must be patient but usually they come fairly close together. When she is finally finished and all the afterbirths have come out, she will stand up and look over her brood and be ready for a drink of water. Until that happens, stay with her.

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HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF THE NEW PIGLETS?
Once itís cleaned up and breathing, clip the umbilical cord about an inch from itís belly and dab a little iodine on it to keep it from getting bacteria. This is not always necessary but we have had infections on those we do not use iodine.  Place the pig on the floor under the heat light until itĎs skin is dry and it feels warm. This should usually only take 5 minutes or so. You donít want the light so close that it will burn the pig. Place your hand where you will be laying the pigs and test it for a few minutes. If itís too hot to hold your hand, then itís too hot for the pigs. New born pigs like the temp to be around 85 to 90 degrees but of course mom doesnít want to be that hot so donĎt keep the entire house that hot.

After you have warmed the pig for a minute or two, put him back with his mom unless she is having another one at the time. place him on the floor by the teats and he should start trying to find one. This takes a bit but he will get it. Donít let him get up around her face or she may bite him. That doesnít mean she is a bad mom. SheĎs just hurting and may not want a baby in her face at the moment. For that matter, you donít want to be in her face either. Stay on the business end when your birthing. After she is finished, her attitude will get back to normal but any animal is unpredictable when they are hurting. Once your piglets have eaten, they will be ready to crawl up under the light and sleep.

You will read that you need to doc the tails and clip the needle teeth. We never do and have never seen a need. That is only for pigs in confinement. If you raise them on the pasture the way you should, they will not bite each otherís tails and youíll not have problems with them fighting. Playing yes, but not fighting. Unlike other breeds, Large Blacks will have their eyes open and be able to run 10 minutes after they are born.

After the litter is fed and asleep, give mom a drink and let them all get the rest they have earned. Now you can go back to the house and crawl in bed too! By the next day you can open the door and let your brood go. She will come back to the house but be sure it's low enough for the piglets to walk in. She may not get her appetite back for a day or two but soon sheíll be eating again and they will start eating with her a week later. This is no time to skimp on food.  A litter of pigs require an enormous amount of milk so you must feed mom all she will eat so she can feed this growing litter.  We wean them from the mom at about 5 weeks and then cut mom back on her feed. By then they are strong and able to eat on their own. Put mom back with the herd and she should go in heat again within 10 days and the process starts all over.

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HOW DO I GET A BREEDING PAIR?
We sell only the very best from a litter as breeders.  Our main purpose for raising the Large Blacks is for pork.  Since we are also committed to saving this breed, we do sell a limited number of weaned pigs each year.  Our prices start at $350 for a weanling of either sex.  A weaned pig will weigh on average 20 pounds and they grow amazingly fast.  This is a picture of 5 week old piglets ready to go to new homes.   We currently have three breeding boars and several sows so we can provide you with unrelated pigs (or distantly related since all Large Blacks in this country came from the same source).  The problem may be timing since the different litters may not reach weaning age at the same time resulting in your pair being of different ages.    

 

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