Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pig sizes & tips on buying piglets

I got a request to post pictures of different sized pigs to help a fellow figure out what a 50lb pig looked like vs an early weaned, and so on. At the bottom of this post you'll find a list of things to consider when buying piglets. Size first:

This is big momma in a farrowing pen with her three piglets. In this picture it's hard to tell relative sizes, but big momma is 7' long and about 600lbs.

I was trying to figure out something I could use for scale and decided that a coke can was good for that. This little pig is 2 coke cans long, weighs about 8lbs, and is 1 week old. This is the same piglet shown in the big momma picture, above, so you can see how huge big momma is relative to her piglet.

these two little guys were hanging out in one of the calf domes, sleeping. They're 6 weeks old, about 15lbs. Lets follow these guys around a little. First lets put the coke can near them. They're pretty active.

They were moving pretty fast, but you can see the scale. A little longer than 2 coke cans, but a lot taller and a lot thicker than the week-old. This is about the size of an early-wean piglet.

That same piglet walks by some bigger pigs.

Ok. There's a 60lb pig there in the foreground, and a 40lb pig in the background.

Here's a better shot, with the pigs all lined up. See the difference between the 30-40lbs and the 50-60lbs? there's probably 4 weeks age difference between the two. Winter farrowed piglets grow slower than summer, for me, anyway.

Here's the orphan piglet, about 1/3rd of adult size. She's at 70lbs.

and to complete the circle, here she is with a coke can in the frame for relative size.

first, when you arrive, observe. Piglets are either active, curious, nosing around, noticing you and bright-eyed and cute, or they're asleep. Lethargic, listless, droopy -- all reasons to avoid that piglet. if the whole litter looks that way consider finding another litter. Don't buy a problem. Sometimes this is hard to judge because all of them are listless; you'll get a feel for it after a while. When piglets wake up look for them to streeeeetch out. That's the sign of a piglet in good condition.

Second, Bring your bathroom scale. very few small pig farmers have a scale. So any weight that they tell you is their guess. Some people are better than others at guessing. To remove all doubt, bring a bathroom scale. Weigh yourself, weigh yourself holding the piglet, subtract, and you've got the piglets weight. If you're paying extra for a 60lb piglet, it should be 60lbs. In doing this I've found that some sellers are insulted, some amused, but all agree it's an accurate measure of the weight of the pig, and I make sure I'm buying what is advertised. Hold the pig firmly by both back legs, head down, step on the scale.

third, look at the piglets ass. Runny poo isn't fatal, but it's not ideal, and if you have a choice, pick the piglets that don't have obvious signs of loose stool. Look at the back of the hams and under the tail. For an example of good looking piglets, look a the pics above. No sign of runny stool. If you get one with runny stool, a half-cup of yogurt will typically take care of it. Don't overdo the yogurt. for a little pig, a half cup is a lot.

fourth, if you're going to breed, flip the piglet over and count the nipples. You want as many as you can get, 14-16 is good. 12 is poor for most breeds you'll run across. Berkshire, hampshire and yorkshire, the three breeds I run, can have litters of 16 or more piglets, and you want to have a sow that is prepared.

fifth: If you are going for meat and the seller represents that they've been castrated, look for the scrotum to be fully healed before you pick them up. Being on mom after castration means pigs do better. Buy that.

sixth: Piglet color doesn't matter at all. All pigs are pink when scraped. Don't sweat pigs that aren't pink.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this! - and for posting the link to my pea post. That's how I found you. Have no plans to go into pig raising but loved those very informative pictures and text. I AM a pig eater, after all, and likely buyer-in on some large chunk of a local one, so this is going to come in handy. Best to you and your pigs, Leslie

I don't want to be anonymous, just couldn't get the program to accept my comment any other way -program wouldn't accept my URL, even though you've already posted it!

Bill said...

I have a new Pellet grill and want to cook a whole hog. The opening is 36” wide.
What size pig can I cook, head on and head off size please.