Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lets talk piglet selection: Your boar

 I get asked about boar piglets maybe 10 times a year.  And the issue that most folks have is that they want a boar to be gentle and nice, and to know them well.   Many people who are starting with pigs aren't equipped or capable of loading and transporting a full-sized boar, and so for all of these reasons, I suggest that they start with a boar weaner pig and raise it themselves.  Grow your own boar. 
 If you want to do that, you'll have to choose a pig at about this age.  Many farmers castrate the male pigs very young, and while I understand their reasoning, I feel that a an older weaner will show you more of what you need to know about its potential than one that is only a week or two old.  So talk to your farmer about holding off castration, or find someone that castrates later so that you can assess the pig at a little older age. 
 The first thing to note about any pig that you're looking at is its overall state.  Is the skin clear, and free of lesions, wounds or scabs?   Is there any sign of any injury or lameness, and is the animal alert and bright-eyed? 
 Standing still is one look, but you want to see the animal moving, too.  Does it move easily and quickly?  Do both eyes work?  does it veer towards one side or the other?  Is the head kept level? 

You'll also want to check the feet of the piglet.  This little guy will grow to be 800lbs, and it'll happen pretty quickly -- less than a year from today.  So if there's any issues with his feet, they won't really have a good chance to get better.  Any foot defect -- cracked hoof, abscess, anything -- is a reason not to take this boy. 
Look at the rear of the piglet, too.  Here it looks like he's got a case of runny stools.   For this particular pig it's because he's transitioning from mothers milk to solid food, but for most weaners you want to see a solid poo.  If it's not solid they're not fully weaned, and you may have to supplement their food to get them to make the weight you want.  A half-pint of yogurt will often clear up runny stool.  Live culture yogurt. 

You want a good, wide stance for front and rear legs.  Indicates good muscle development.  You want symmetry -- the more symmetric the animal the better.  Compare right and left front shoulder, and right and left hams.  
  And finally, look at the father for total size and conformation clues as well.  In my case I prefer a boar with very big front shoulders and medium sized hams. 

What I've said here is not the only way to assess an animal, but it's what I've found to be a good set of attributes to help make the decision.  For me there's a second decision point, at about 8 months old, just before it starts to breed.  I'll sometimes cull at that point, mostly based on temperament.  I'm very conscious that these animals get huge, and I will not tolerate a mean animal in the herd. 

1 comment:

Tinia said...

Thanks for the insight.

Creamers - HT