Napoleon’s Finishers


Recently we moved the finisher pigs down to a temporary corral over a garden by the driveway in preparation for market day. With them went several young boars. Some lucky boars will get to become breeders. Others will be part of my “Boar Taint Experiment” discussed last fall in “To Cut or Not”.

By the way, in case you are wondering, those pigs are about 200 to 230 lbs. That gives you a bit of a visual idea of what a market weight pig looks like. If you taped them they would be around 44″ in girth and 46″ in length or so. That yields about 140 lbs hanging weight (gutted, no skin, head or feet) which will typically result in about 130 lbs or so cut and wrapped ready for the freezer.

The garden corral is simply fenced with one section of poultry netting which we got from Kencove. A section is about 165′ long giving a space of about 1,600 square feet which works well for a short period for the fourteen pigs that are in there. The horizontal strands are hot by connecting them to our main fence energizer. Upon seeing the pigs behind that flimsy fence some people’s first reaction is “That can’t possibly keep them in!” It does though once the pigs are trained to electric fences. That is an important thing to realize about electric fences. You can not just turn new animals into an area fenced with electricity. First they need to be trained to it by having a secure physical barrier fence with electricity inside it. This gives them a chance to bump up against the electric without being able to get through and thus learn that they just don’t want to mess with electric fences. Failure to train them to electric can result in them simply rushing right through the flimsy electric fence without the pulsing electric shock getting a chance to stop them.

The pig’s house is a simple affair of six pallets stood on edge and then a simple roof of dimensional lumber and some plywood. I used the tractor to dig out the snow on the inside and then pile snow up around the shed for a wind break. The hollow that the garden is set into is already very protected from the wind. Adding a round bale of hay gave them a cozy home with plenty of fresh air. I mention the air because the worse thing you can do for the animals is to close them in with inadequate ventilation. The cold, especially the dry cold of winter, is not a big issue for them if they have plenty of bedding and shelter from the wind. But if they are closed in there is a build up of bad gasses like ammonia that will irritate their lungs. This can give them pneumonia and other problems.

Having the boars and finisher pigs in the garden corral for a couple of weeks has given me an opportunity to work Napoleon with Kita. They can both jump out of there, the fence is only 42″ tall, but they stay in because I told them to “Guard Pigs”. Then when I want them to enter or leave I simply give the command “Over!” and hand sign and over they go – the flying dogs of Vermont.

It is great having an older dog to show a young dog the ropes. Kita helps train him by spending time alone with Napoleon and the pigs for half a day and night at a time. She demonstrates the behaviors for him to emulate. During the times that I actively work with him a big part of it is simply doing things with Kita who shows him what to do and then repeating the exercise with Napoleon. I train for both simple guardian duty to keep away predators and also for herding. He is not up to herding yet, although we’ve done little bits. When fully trained the dogs will even round up escaped animals and put them back by themselves. For now he is guarding with Kita or his mother Kia for increasing lengths of time. He has even spent some time on “free roam” around the animals, off leash and unattended keeping an eye on things. He can now be trusted to “stick around”, to “guard”, “stay over”, “stay in” and be with the animals unattended. This is a major step and advancement of ability for a dog.


Here is Napoleon working with a totally different age group of piglets. These are some of our winter pigs that were born a little over a month ago. They just ate some cottage cheese and yogurt so Napoleon is cleaning them off back inside their pallet shed shelter. This is the same space that Big Pig and Saddle Pig farrowed their litters. Now all the piglets are in that area while they grow and wait to be picked up. At this point we just have fifteen left of the sixty from the winter litters and they’ll be going to new homes this week.

38째F/14째F, 1/4″ Rain, Overcast

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Napoleon’s Finishers

  1. Leslie says:

    Exceptional post, Walter -lots of great information in there, and the pics do a good job of illustrating your points.

    I can’t believe 45 of 60 piglets are gone already! Life sure moves fast at Sugar Mountain Farms.

  2. P.V. says:

    You have the most amazing animalas walter. They are sooo beautyful and you are so good with them. And god to them to. I love coming to your place and visiting on your blog.. It is a great break from the craziness of life. I know somewhere there is a piece of heaven on earth.

  3. An the last 15 are already sold as well as the next 50 or so yet to be born. Spring is coming! :)

  4. Michael says:

    Hi Walter,
    Could you provide the results of your boar experiment? It would be nice to not have to cut the boars.

    Thanks allot,

    • The short answer is our intact male pigs, with our genetics, with our feed, with our management, with our humane slaughter do not have boar taint. All of these can be factors. Research and the anecdotal evidence I have collected shows that boar taint is exceedingly rare. One researcher said that the red Duroc is the worst offender and that light colored pigs virtually never have taint. We have not been cutting boars for years now and sell to thousands of customers on a weekly basis year round so we have a fairly large sample set that shows it not to be a problem with our pigs. I would suggest raising up a boar to six months and taste testing him. Then if you’re incline, start raising them older than that and taste test those. This does take a bit of time.

      For the very long and detailed answer read these articles< on taint.

  5. Jeff Hamons says:

    Hello Walter,

    I have been reading through several posts about boar taint. We have decided not to cut this group of piglets. However, wanted to get some advice on management. Many people say you need to raise the males and females separate. Have you found this to be essential?

    Also, our LARGE BLACKS take 9 – 10 months to grow out on pasture if that effects your thoughts or ideas. We feed primarily only pasture and whey. We get about 500 a week and feed it to our 2 sows, boar and finishers.

    • Realize that without doing testing you won’t know how they’ll perform. We went through a very long period of gradually growing out the boars to older and older ages to test for boar taint. We have not found it necessary to separate the males from the females – I tested that. At this point we have slaughtered intact sexually active boars up to eight years of age with no evidence of taint in our genetics using our management and feed. Based on the research I’ve read, conversations and thinking about taint chemistry pasturing is something that appears to help prevent taint. Stack the odds in your favor.

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