Old Boar


Archimedes Age 6

Boars in most herds only keep their position for about eighteen months to two years. Archimedes is over six years old making him an old man in the pig world. Pigs age far faster than humans. They come into the start of puberty around six months. Gilts (young females who’ve not had a litter yet) reach their full breeding age at about six to eight months when they’ll take (conceive) for the first time. Boars (males) reach their full production of sperm around ten months. The extremely rare pig, with a lot of intensive care, lives to 10 or maybe 15 years of age. That’s the equivelant of the human age record holders at about 120 years. By six years of age a pig is looking, and feeling, old. For every calendar year a pig ages the equivelant of about 10 to 12 human years. Archimedes is an old boar at the human equivelant of about 72 years old.

He’s still doing well, still healthy, but definitely feeling his age. He groans when he gets up. He does things with slow grace. He no longer is able to compete with the young boars in their prime. This spring we moved him from the south field where he was with Spot and Big’Un, two of our other big boars. He had lost his position of top boar with Spot taking over and Archimedes was not doing well. He is now in the north field with a harem of ladies and has recovered his condition. He has no competition in the north. There are a few small, compared with him, grower boars but they don’t challenge him. One look at his 1,000 lb mass and five inch tusks convinces them to not even consider opposing him. For a while he’ll be able to be top boar again in his own herd.

One might wonder why bother keeping such a big old boar. For starters he has an excellent temperament. Big points in his favor. This is on top of his fine conformation. He also throws big litters of excellent piglets who grow fast and has been proven for five years. We know his genetics are excellent. Then there is diversity – Archimedes is one of the pigs that are the most distantly related in our herd to some of our sows. Keeping him breeding back and forth across the herds and selecting the best of each generation prevents any negative effects with a closed herd. Someday I’ll need to bring in a new boar for new genetics and with that I’ll have to deal with reproving the genetics, possible boar taint and quarantine. Keeping Archimedes puts that day off into the future that much further. By keeping a closed herd we keep at bay disease that could be introduced by new comers.

There are some issues with big boars. Temperament is the obvious one that people think of but the reality is that by the time they are this big we’ve weeded out anyone with bad manners. Although, I would not suggest just walking into their field – they are big animals. They do have very big tusks, which are razor sharp. Don’t get hit. They can step on your toes doing impressive damage, like a horse or steer, bending in steel toes. Most of all, they eat a lot. That also means a lot comes out the other end. Fortunately they spread that on the pastures themselves. Feeding those large animals is expensive if you’re using a commercial pig feed. On pasture and hay the cost is comparatively nominal and the bigger animals are better grazers. Thus big boars like Archimedes, Spot and Big’Un have longer productive lives on a farm like ours.

Contrary to the myths I had heard when we started keeping pigs, boars do not grow forever. I suspect this mistaken idea comes from pigs that are fed high calorie corn diets. Those pigs do get fat and just keep getting fatter until the obesity kills them or their owner gets tired of the feed bill. From a working farm point of view they get too fat to do their job. With obesity their fertility can drop as well. Overweight boars can have another problem – they may break the backs of smaller sows, especially with slippery footing during mating.

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Boars on pasture grow big too but they don’t get fat. There just isn’t enough excess calories in their diet. Spot is around 1,400 lbs but he appears to have stopped growing and Archimedes at about 1,000 lbs stopped growing years ago.

In case you’re looking for a size reference for the photo, the fencing behind Archimedes is six inch squares which gives an approximation of his length and height. He’s considerably smaller than Spot and Big’Un but he’s no slacker. I’m now so used to Spot’s huge length and girth it makes Archimedes seem small in comparison. But as a recent visitor said, “That’s one big pig!”

By the way, Archimedes is the big boar featured on our Pork Cut Chart and our Sugar Mountain Farm T-shirt which is available from CafePress.

Outdoors: 51째F/42째F Mostly Cloudy, Opened Plateau Pumpkin Patch to Pigs
Tiny Cottage: 65째F/59째F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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13 Responses to Old Boar

  1. Diane N. says:

    I counted 7 feet of length based on the fence having 6" squares. Wow!

  2. Ester says:

    I would suggest another reason why your boars stay trim and healthy not getting fat…….they are on pasture and get exercise. If they were in pens or stalls like at the factory farms or conventional confinement places then they wouldnt get exercise so they would be getting fatter just like couch potatoe people. Walking all over your pastures all over your mountain is good exercise for them. your pigs certainly have a good life!

  3. Anonymous says:

    No mammal grows endlessly.

    The 6" squares really put him in perspective!

  4. Michelle says:

    That was very interesting, thank you for posting it. I didn't realize that pigs aged that much per year as compared to humans.

    Yes, he is one big pig! Do you find that your larger boars end up throwing piglets that in turn are larger when they mature as compared to a smaller boars piglets?

  5. Michelle,

    I don't have a good way to compare to answer your question since one of the criteria we use when picking a boar to be a breeder is that he is a fast grower. That is just one of the many criteria but since only about 0.5% of the boar piglets will get kept for breeding it means that all the breeders are fast growers and larger.

    I would suspect that if you selected the other way, choosing smaller pigs, you could breed them down in size over time. That is a goal in the pet pig circles.

    In sows we keep more like 5% of the gilts to test breed so I do have more data on them. The very biggest fastest growing sows tend to throw piglets that in tern end up being bigger than those that came from smaller slower sows.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  6. Dana says:

    Oh my GOD! I just clicked through to your post on spot and he is huge! A monster hog!! That is an amazing pic of him standing next you grazing in the field. I mena he is grazing not you. Just amazing. I didn't know pigs got that big. I bet you could ride him like a horse!

  7. Cara says:

    I recently told a friend that we wanted to keep a few pigs when we moved to our (in-process) house, and she warned me that I should be careful because PIGS EAT CHILDREN if they can catch them. I just nodded politely and moved on. I am not asking you if pigs eat children (!!!) as I realize they don't. However, it did make me wonder if pigs ever catch any "prey"? They are omnivores, no? Do they eat grubs or carrion naturally? Just curious. I think Archimedes made me think of this question – he looks as fearsome as I think a pig can look, although I certainly believe you that he is gentle.

  8. Cara,

    I would not leave children with pigs. Pigs are omnivores. Don't fall down unconscious around the pigs. I would not expect them to pounce on you like a pack of hyenas but but if you lay there for a while unmoving they'll come over and nuzzle you. If you do not move they may take an experimental bite (they explore their environment to a great degree by taste and smell). If you don't object things follow from there… Waste not want not.

    Also don't feed them from your hands. Instead drop food on the ground in front of them. Best not to have them associate your hands, or little fingers, with food.

    We have a policy of not feeding from the hand and small children are not allowed on the ground out among the pigs or the sheep for that matter. Sheep will trample or butt. Even chickens can peck eyes and as Holly can attest, the geese bite. She had a nice black and blue once from the gander.

    Live safely without paranoia. Respect without fear.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  9. Aidan Hamilton says:

    Considering the substantial weight of your larger boars, do you ever have issues with them mounting your sows? I’ve had people caution me against overly large boars because of the risk of injuring the sows. Is that not as much of a risk as people make it out to be or is it perhaps partly true in regards to gilts and younger sows?

    • It is important that they have good footing. Dirt. Packed snow. On bad fooding a very big boar could slip and break the back of a much smaller sow. Examples of bad footing are wooden floors and concrete used in confinement operations or ice.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        While footing is clearly critical, wouldn’t the boars and sows simply being in better physical condition make a great deal of difference too, Walter?

        I’d think a leaner boar, even if it’s the same weight, won’t have to support as much weight on the sow because it has more clearance between it and the ground than a fat boar. I would also think that a less fat sow raised on pasture, even if its a bit lighter, will be better balanced and probably stronger.

  10. Laura says:

    Hi Walter,

    I have a 4, going on 5 year old boar that has a docile temperament and sires nice litters, so we plan to keep him on the farm and allow him to live into old age. But we are wanting to bring in a young boar to add genetic diversity to our herd and are wondering if you have any advice on introducing a 3 month old boar to our mature boar as we are hoping they could be pasture roommates. Thanks!

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