Hope, Growers & High Snows
The snows are finally melting a little. They are now back down to the level shown in this photo. For a while they were about a foot and a half higher. Realize that the ground outside the door is about a14″ lower than the stoop during the summer. That means the pigs are standing about 38″ up off the ground in the photo.
Many of our fences are simply gone or mere stubs sticking out of the ground to show where the lines should be. During the winter the animals, both wild and domestic livestock, establish trails and yards that they frequent so the fences are less necessary right now. The ‘fence’ in the background is up on top of a 36″ high wall – we used pallets and such to raise the wall as winter progressed.
Getting out the door can be a challenge when the snows are halfway up the exterior walls of the house. Fortunately on the old farm house we had a long porch with an interior opening door that let us get out to shovel the other doorways after snows like this. For the tiny cottage, where we now reside the door opens inward to deal with this issue.
I am curious about breeding the boar taint away. In my litter of piglets, which are not Duroc, I noticed that one of the boar piglets smelled different. He was very musty-smelling, and had a nervous disposition, always pacing and chomping his teeth. Even at 10 weeks old. He was the only piglet out of 8 that did this.
Durocs are know in particular for having a higher likelihood of boar taint. With some work you may be able to breed away the taint. Not all pigs have taint, in fact, studies show that few pigs have it by butchering age. It also helps to feed them a high carbon diet, such as pasture and hay. My guess is that the carbon in their diet is binding the nitrogen reducing the skatole levels. I’ve read that this effect can be achieved in as little as two weeks.
As to how to breed taint out, selecting against aggression may help. We breed strongly for temperament. I can’t risk injury to myself, wife, children, LGDs, sows, etc. In the process that may have bred away from the taint as it simultaneously created more gentle animals. What we did over the years was test older and older boars, selecting the lines of pigs to breed from the relatives of those that tasted the sweetest. This produces a higher quality meat and breeds out the taint.
Most boars do not have taint at market age. If you can smell it on him though then I would suspect him. I would be very interested in when you taste test him if you don’t castrate him first. The good news is you’re capable of smelling the taint, the musty smell you noticed on that one boar. Not everyone can smell it. Since you can you have a better chance of breeding it away.
Of interest, this same temperament issue can show up in females and it is possible for females to have taint, although rarer. We have seen this – a very muscle bound female who looked like a weight lifter on steroids and tasted as tough. A hormonal imbalance may have been the cause. She also had a bad temper, as did all of her line which we completely culled.
If you have tainted boar meat realize that the smell is almost entirely in the fat. The traditional use for it was to mix the lean with the fat from barrows, sows, gilts or beef to make hot spiced sausage. The spice hides the taint and most of the taint is in the fat. Of course, if you have a friend who can’t taste or smell the taint then they may be over joyed at the option. Only about 75% of people notice it.
Taint and aggression are only two criteria to consider in selecting for breeding. I would suggest working up a list of what are the characteristics you want in your herd. Pigs that do well in your climate are another criteria to think about. e.g., if you are in the south you need pigs that deal well with the heat and if you’re in the north you need pigs that handle the cold.
Speaking of boars, er, bores, please go read this article about NAIS and make a comment on the federal registry.
Outdoors: 34°F/12°F Sunny
Farm House: 31°F/31°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/59°F No fire Friday or Saturday