Band of Brothers


Boars Snoozing in Morning Light

From left to right that is Spot, Speckles and BigUn in the shade of some brush at the far end of the south field. Speckles is the smallest of the boars, and several years younger. He’s probably only 500 lbs, about 1/2 to 1/3rd the size of the other boars since he’s so much younger.

People often ask if boars are dangerous. Certainly, they would be if they stepped on you or rubbed you up against a post. Also don’t get them angry and I wouldn’t suggest approaching a strange boar, just like with any strange animal. They do have razor sharp tusks as well. However these three boys are very gentle – that’s how they survived to this size. Any that show temperament problems have gone to market at far smaller sizes.

People are also surprised that multiple boars in the same herds get along. These boars grew up together so they have worked out their pecking order long, long ago. Essentially, Spot is the biggest, by a little bit, and the dominant. BigUn, almost the same size, doesn’t appear to want the job of dominant male. He’s a very laid back fellow. Speckles, a son of Archimedes who’s in the north herd, has always known Spot to be the boss and wisely wouldn’t even think of challenging such a bigger male.

The time that fight can occur is if the dominance order is changing such as when an old boar is retiring or if we were to introduce a new boar of significant size – best not done. Twice we’ve had a boar battle when one of the boars moved himself from herd to herd but this is very rare. Generally they stay with their own ladies in their own territories.

I mentioned that Archimedes is in the north herd, he’s the sire of BigUn, Spot and Speckles. Shifting Archimedes into a herd where he has a couple of far smaller boars with him allows him to continue for a few more years where he’ll have less competition. At six years old he’s starting to look like an old man and is no longer top boar – Spot ousted him about a year ago.

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Archimedes sons* BigUn and Spot have significantly outgrown him, perhaps being 40% larger than him. This is interesting since Archimedes was raised on grain before he came to us and his sons were raised on pasture/whey. What makes this interesting is that grain is supposed to promote maximum growth, much more than pasture, according to the books. So why are his sons so big? It will be interesting to see how Speckles turns out – he was bigger and faster growing than any of his litter mates. This is too small a sample set to say if it is feed or genetics but they all do produce some fine pigs.

*It tuns out that BigUn and Spot are not sons of Archimedes but rather sons of Longfellow, the first boar we had. Later after writing this I found photographs of Spot and his brothers BigUn & LittleUn (Basa) with dates that demonstrated they were sons of Longfellow. Longfellow looks much like Archimedes and weighed in at a little over 1,000 lbs at slaughter which is about the same as Archimedes. The timing of the boars was close enough that it caused this confusion. They grew up knowing Archimedes as the lead boar. I think that Archimedes may have been a son of Longfellow too but is from a different sow and much older. We borrowed Longfellow from another farmer, Archie, and later got Archimedes from Archie. Speckles is a son of Big’Un. So the above comparison about pasture and grain still holds as they’re brothers but we know nothing of Archimedes’s mother.

Outdoors: 60째F/48째F Rain
Tiny Cottage: 71째F/60째F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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8 Responses to Band of Brothers

  1. sheila says:

    I'm wondering if the slower growth from the pasture and whey vs the grain fed diet allows the boars to grow over a longer period of time and thus be bigger. Or maybe the calcium from the whey lets them grow a bigger bone structure. Bigger bones means they can put more weight on them as they age. My real guess is I don't know what I'm talking about, but having fun speculating anyway.

  2. Mary Ricksen says:

    Maybe they are bigger from the mother's side. What is the history of her other litters.
    They are getting something special in your fields. Magic grow formula?

  3. Mellifera says:

    I'm with Sheila…. there's "growth" and then there's "growth." As I understand it, grain makes animals that have already reached their adult height/length gain weight and fill their frame out really quickly. Younger animals that are still growing building frame need a lot more protein & calcium and who-knows-what-else. So usually younger animals are fed grain mixes with more protein and other things added in than just calories.

    Puberty affects this changeover from skeletal to flesh growth (hence steers can get taller than bulls out of the same parents). So, genetics are involved too. That being said I also have no idea, but it's interesting that that's happening.

  4. Wow Walter, you have such intelligent readers with well thought out growth theories and obvious genetic ed backgrounds. But after working my two 12 night shifts at the hospital those three fellows just remind me of big comfy warm pillows I could snuggle up next to and zzzzzzzzzzzz.

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi Walter,

    I should know this by now, having read your blog for a couple of years, but thought I'd ask anyway…
    With boars and sows together all the time, you just let nature take its course and get piglets year-round naturally, right? You're not timing things so that the piglets are born at specific times of year, are you?

    We're getting our first ram in October and I've been counting dates on the calendar trying to figure out when I want the lambs to arrive. Do you keep a ram on premises for your sheep?

    Cheers,
    Sarah
    Terrapin Gardens

  6. Good possibilities. I'll need more of a data set to figure this out… We'll just label it eating in the name of science. :)

  7. Sarah,

    Yes, we keep the boars in with the breeding heard year round with the goal of producing piglets every month of the year. Our specialty is that we deliver fresh weekly year round. Years ago I asked stores and restaurants what they needed, besides being Naturally Grown, pastured and all those other good things. Fresh weekly deliveries was the big issue. We then spent several years learning to farrow in the winter, raise piglets in the winter, etc. Winter and summer are as different as can be. The summer season is the easy one by far.

    Pigs come into heat about every 21 days. With sheep it is a bit different. Most breeds only come into estrus in the fall. Ours mate in October generally. We run our rams with our ewes and they do their job with a minimum of hassle on my part.

    Have fun with your new critters!

    Cheers,

    -Walter

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