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