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I saw that too! Too bad the media and police don’t even know what to do with this”ferocious” creature. If they knew they could have expounded on the great pork and characteristics of this wonderful breed. They didn’t do much homework. She looked pretty docile to me. Nice looking sow too! I would claim her.
It is interesting, a sow goes along nursing pigs, seems to be in adequate condition, then one day you look at her and wonder why she is getting so thin. Contrary to some people’s practices, I have found that a sow nursing pigs needs all the feed she will eat, up to 12 to 15 pounds per day. Research shows that a sow will produce up to 2 gallons of milk per day at 7-8% butterfat. It takes a lot out of a sow to do this, so she needs lots to eat. The number of pigs she is nursing also affect her condition. To meet her needs she should be fed a well balanced 16% ground feed ration, corn or barley as the main grain for energy, a protein source, and a premix for added vitamins and minerals. Your local feed supplier should be able to balance a ration for energy, protein, and premix. Unfortunately most have little experience and knowledge for pasture based operations. But, the nutrition requirements are pretty much the same however sows are raised and housed. I found my Large Black sows to be very heavy milkers, so nutrition is very important. Pasture or forage is not enough nutrition, but it is nice if available for fiber for the sow.
I have also found it may be better to wean the pigs from these heavy milking sows by 5 weeks of age, especially if the pigs are eating dry feed. Otherwise, if the sow gets too thin it affects her long term health and productivity, in addition to not breeding back and resulting litter size. You do not want a sow too fat when she farrows, but if she is too thin, she is fighting a losing battle trying to maintain body condition while nursing pigs.
There could also be some other factors involved, such as an infection in the sow (rare), the need to deworm (best done before farrowing then again when weaned), hot weather, water, etc. On a side note, we also need to select for pigs and sows that have big appetites, so the sows eat the feed needed to support their pigs. The sows that wean off the bigger, more uniform pigs for me, eat more feed. If you have more questions please let me know.
Harvey at Carlena Farms.
I will email you with the protocol we use. My background is a vocational agriculture instructor with 25 years of raising pigs in all types of environments. I started in FFA in high school raising purebred Chester Whites, of which I have some of them now, in addition to my Large blacks and Tamworths. I even managed a 350 sow hog confinement back in my younger years. Amazing, thought that was the way, back then. Today I am trying to fine the happy medium of economical feasibility, labor efficiency, and pig well-being in a pasture based operation. I too learn everyday, and I thoroughly enjoy helping others. And, I am on a mission to raise the best Large Blacks in America.
First, disposition is definitely something we should consider in selecting breeding stock, boars or gilts. I see some difference in my two different sow lines. As like other traits, it is affected by genetics. I wish we could find better ways for individuals who are serious about making Large Blacks even better, to compare results, observations, and thoughts. Maybe one day we can have a Pig Summit?
Second, from my limited experience with organic certification, most of the commonly used vaccines meet their standards. Which makes sense, preventative medicine. In our effort to reduce uses of antibiotics vaccines become more important. No matter how we raise our pigs we need to put the well-being and health of the pig in the forefront. It sounds like you are doing a great job! Pork quality is affected bu many things, genetics, feed, environment, health to name a few. Our job as producers is to attempt to do the best in all these areas.
The second chance, a tough question. I normally give a first litter gilt a second chance after evaluating how much could be due to management, etc. It is a good sign her sister did well. We do need to select for farrowing even, healthy litters of 8 pigs plus, so if it is the same the next time, cull her.
I vaccinate my sows with a vaccine for reproductive health before each breeding/rebreeding. I feel that should be routine in any breeding program. Many disagree with using any injectables, but to me, a vaccination program for all ages, makes economical sense and protects the well-being of the pigs. AND, if we are going to sell feeder pigs and breeding stock we want to provide healthy, thrifty pigs. It is great to hope for the best, but preventative medicine can improve results in most areas of swine health. I also think one needs to provide optimum nutrition, vitamins and trace minerals for sows, for that matter all pigs. Yes, they can forage, but I still want to know they are getting basic proper nutrition.
I laud your attempt to bottle feed the little pig. It is tough to have a high survival rate doing so. For those that try it is almost imperative that the piglet get some of mother’s colostrum milk in the first few hours after birth. From my experience, it is amazing how much milk a baby pig can drink in a short period of time. But, it is hard to replace momma sow.
From my experience, Large Blacks would become lethargic standing in a farrowing crate. I do know a few that do use crates. They seem to need room to move, even a large pen seems confining to them. If you see how they behave in a pasture farrowing scenario it comes to light how they will do a much better job if able to have space. As I have to contend with winter weather, I do farrow in large pens, in a remodeled barn, set up to emulate an A house with an exercise and feed area. I find they also need some fiber in their diet while nursing pigs, more so than conventional breeds.
If you email me at email@example.com I can send you info on a pen scenario that offers room to move and yet being able to somewhat “confine” them the day they farrow to alleviate laying on baby pigs. It is an Australian design that I know some people have found to be a happy compromise.
Lastly, I have raised pigs in most every environment possible, including a confinement operation, and for me I am striving to balance economics and labor efficiencies with a goal of allowing a pig to exhibit their innate traits, such as straw for nesting at farrowing, freedom to move, and need to relieve their boredom.
I am open to do a Natural Pig workshop anywhere in the U.S. Anyone with suggestions just needs to contact me. It appears the need is there. The response we have gotten from our previous workshops has been very favorable, telling me more people need the opportunity to attend. Best case scenario is to hold one where we can go on a “pasture walk” on someone’s farm and look at live Large Blacks. The Large Black has so much to offer, very versatile, but as you have alluded to, we need to select for even more superior animals. That demands education and a breeding plan.
That is a tough one! I agree whole heatedly we need an intense selection program, rather than just multiplying Large Blacks for the money. Unfortunately some of the things we need to be selecting for are not all visual such as conformation, structure, proper feet and legs. Such things as growth rate, mothering ability, number of pigs weaned are all economic traits that also enter in to the puzzle. I am finding some interesting differences within the given breeding lines. Then, there are a myriad of different ways individuals are feeding and raising the pigs. As a LBHA board member I am going to initiate a conversation addressing your needs and concerns. As an avid breeder of Large Blacks my desire is to see the LBHA hold a pig workshop in a given location to talk, look, and share addressing these issues. If there are those out there that would be interested in such please let me know, Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org Good thoughts, Aaron!
There are no real early signs to tell that a gilt is bred. And since it is hard to see any swelling of the vulva when a Large Black gilt is in heat, (in other breeds the swelling can be quite pronounced) one must watch for breeding behavior patterns. If you saw breeding activity, mark down the date and watch closely 18 to 21 days later to see if the gilt recycles. Of course if there is no sign of breeding activity the gilt was probably bred 21 days earlier. You can then mark that date to determine approximate farrowing date. As time goes on the gilt should start to show more fullness of belly, maybe add a bit of fat cover to the body. Sows and gilts both tend to “bloom” and be more content when they are pregnant. I have found the Large Black boars to be very adept at getting gilts and sows bred. Good luck with your endeavor!
Unfortunately there has not been much research done on trace minerals for pigs that I a aware of, nor many companies that specialize in hog minerals or can answer questions about their trace minerals. Many times they do just recommend what they sell, not knowing for sure. In dairy country where I live, there are numerous choices, but some may contain ingredients that I’m not sure I would give my pigs. Some ruminant trace mineral packages do have things in them pigs shouldn’t have.
That said, there is a product called Redmond Conditioner (Organic approved) that can be used for pigs, as well as other species. Not sure who all sells it, but at risk of endorsing a company, I do know that The Fertrell Company in PA. does handle it. You can look at it at http://www.fertrell.com/redmondconditioner.htm. Also the people at Fertrell are good about answering nutritional questions.
The other issue here, do you incorporate in any feed you feed, or give free choice? If free choice, they may eat a bunch for a short period of time before satisfying their needs. Plus, you need to have a “mineral box” that they do not waste it, and that does not catch all the rain. One may have to be a bit innovative for your conditions.
If you go to the following link, and search through the plans, they have plans to built a wooden feeder, plus some other good plans. A customer of mine built one, and it works very well. http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben/buildingplans
I do a yearly 2 day Natural Pig workshop here in Wisconsin, covering all facets of more natural hog production. I do have a few pieces of literature that may help, I would send you if you email me at email@example.com
I believe if you were to offer trace minerals free choice would be a better option. I had an LB producer tell me that when his sows started rooting he would give them trace minerals free choice, and it soon took care of the problem. They may eat alot of them at first, but once their needs are met, they won’t eat as much. The wisdom of the pig is quite amazing. Sometimes we forget in our enthusiasm to feed minimal amounts of grain that pigs, especially breeding stock need added vitamins and minerals. A well managed pasture with proper rotation and fertility goes a long way, but that is the optimum scenario. Pigs “may eat anything” but that does not mean they are getting adequate and balanced nutrition. These are true heritage hogs, but there is much to learn from “conventional hog production” as far as nutritional needs. I have raised pigs all ways possible over 25 years and I am still learning, especially with pasture pigs that are heritage hogs. Harvey
As I read the posts I can understand some of the dilemmas one faces having raised hogs conventionally, conventional breeds. I too have three breeds, Large Blacks, Tamworths,, and Chester Whites. My background is an ag educator and 25 years experience raising hogs based on growth performance, so of course I like to see pigs grow fast. But, the Large Blacks are a different breed in many ways and I appreciate their many fine attributes – personality traits, foraging, grazing, meat quality, to name a few. I have had to modify my feeding and expectations when raising them, which is okay.
But, even though they need to be raised differently, and the breed should retain its’ identity, I do think we have to develop a breeding program that addresses structural correctness, conformation, and performance. Do I want to see them fed and raised as is conventional, definitely not! But we do need to select for better animals which takes immense amounts of observation, consideration and some trial and error.
Large Blacks tend to have bigger feet (hooves) than some breeds,which is a good thing. We do need to select for proper structure of the hooves, set of the ankles, and strength of the legs. The bone structure of Large Blacks is much finer than most, which is okay if designed right. One thing that helps the design and strength of the rear legs is to have more ham.
Our breeding program is striving to find the happy medium, no extremes, and superior pasture mommas. Quite frankly, I look for correlations with premier grazing cattle for some answers to producing superior pasture pork. Granted, one is a ruminant, the other a monogastric, but there are many basic that are the same. I find my best doing pigs in all these areas are thicker, deeper bodied and big middles (big volume pigs can eat and utilize feed better), with more muscle in the hams. The other “research and observation” that needs to be done is where is the economic line for slower growth, but less feed fed per day? Even though we feed less feed per day, with ample nutrition coming from pasture, every day a pig is on the farm it has eat so much feed just to maintain himself, it all adds up.
Do I have all the answers? Nope, but these are my observations to this point, and I am on a mission to raise the best Large Blacks available. We all need a well thought out breeding program in an effort to make Large Blacks the best.
All good points Liz. When I lend out a boar he does not come back to the farm. When the party using him is done with him they may buy him, or he goes to a different farm to be isolated, then sold. I do have a couple of breeders I work with that have only bought breeding stock from me, so if I choose, after isolation, will bring a boar back to my farm. Sas, depending on the size of your gilts, I do have a couple very nice Noble Sam boars weighing about 150 pounds that I would sell, but I need to know ASAP as I have others interested. Also have a yearling Majestic boar that would be available mid January. I would get him to Powell, Wyoming if you are interested. As Liz mentioned, if you buy a boar you have him for the next breeding. Whether you get a pig from me or not, please email me or call 920-579-1544, since we will be in somewhat close proximity we need to stay in touch