Big Pigs & Pet Pigs


Once Upon a Cute Piglet

These weaner piglets in the garden are at that maximum cuteness stage. Everyone wants them for pet pigs. But before you consider getting a pet pig realize that in less than six months they will out weigh you. In a few years they may well weigh half a ton.
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Referring to one of our boars on Seeing Spots Jeb asked:
Hey man that is one huge pig. I did not think they got that big. Is he some kind of world record holder?

Most pigs only get to 250 lbs as that is slaughter weight. They achieve that in about six months. After that their growth rate slows down so it isn’t economical to feed them larger on commercial hog feeds. Pigs on a commercial corn/soy based diet also change from putting on mostly muscle to putting on more fat at that size so the gain in meat, the conversion of feed to muscle, drops.

But don’t think for a minute that they’ll stay small and make good pets – farm pigs eat a lot, grow big and produce accompanying large amounts of manure. In the olden days people raised pigs bigger because they weren’t buying feed. A larger pig over winters better and is more able to forage for its own food, defend against predators, etc.

Breeder pigs, sows and boars like Spot, are a lot bigger than the finisher pigs destined for market after just six months. On most pig farms the breeders are in the 300 to 500 lb range and kept for about two years. They generally get ‘retired’ after that as it becomes too expensive to feed them – bigger animals eat more feed.

Since we feed pasture as our primary food our pigs are economical to much larger sizes so we keep them longer and they grow bigger as a result. Big animals are better grazers. They tend to stop growing around six years of age or so, typically maxing out up around 600 to 800 lbs for the sows. The boars generally top out from 1,000 to 1,500 lbs. At over 1,700 lbs Spot was on the big side. He was our longest boar for sure at about 12′ long – the end result of years of breeding for extreme length which means more bacon and pork chops.

Our current lead boar is Speckles, son of Big’Un who was a half brother of Spot- both down from Longfellow. The other day I was standing next to Speckles and realized he was starting to get pretty huge. He dwarfs all the sows, even those much older than him. He dwarfs our other two big boars, the new Berkshire Spitz and Guy Noir who is out of Blackie. They in turn makes two and a half year Hamlet, our Tamworth boar, look tiny. The latter is a breed difference with Hamlet probably only weighing 400 lbs. Speckle’s father Big’Un was about three quarters of a ton – think small car or short legged bull.

Big boars like Speckles, Spot (>1,700 lbs), Big’Un (1,477 lbs), Archimedes (1,157 lbs), Basa (~900 lbs), Longson (~800 lbs) and Longfellow (1,064 lbs) are why we built our butcher shop carcass chiller ceiling 15′ high and why the abattoir will be 20′ tall. The spaces will be just barely tall enough to hang pigs this size. Someday we plan to do cattle so we’ll need the height for them too.

For horses, elephants, giraffes, mastadon’s and mammoth one would need an even taller facility. Hope wants to raise Wooly Mammoths and corner the paleo diet market. She’s of the opinion that perhaps we can save extinct mammals by raising them for market… The fact that she doesn’t have any to save is not a problem in her opinion. Ambitious she is. Just a small herd she says. A small herd of very big animals.

As to records: I doubt that Spot, our largest boar at over 1,700 lbs and 12′ hanging length, was a record holder. Doing a quick Google search found this and on Wiki I found this with several claims of very large pigs. The Wiki link lists a pig that was bigger than any of our boars. That list of pigs does suggest that both Spot and Big’un were certainly contenders for the title of “Big Pigs”. Fortunately our boars are in a lot better physical condition than Ton Pig and others who are listed there. I’ve seen photos of some very big pigs but they were also very obese – too much corn in their diet. Our boars are naturally leaner since they lived out on pasture and get very little high calorie grain in their life plus they’re constantly walking up and down the mountain. Now Speckles, our current lead boar, will have his chance at the title, who knows – maybe he’ll be a record holder. He’s looking more and more like his father Big’Un.

So, don’t get a farm pig for a pet unless you’re prepared to deal with an animal that in just a few short months will out weigh you and in a few years may outweigh your automobile and likely be able to flip it.

You also might like:
Pet Pigs
Cute Pet Pigs
Goof Ball Grin
Big’Un Tusks
Speckle’s Rooster
Boar Tusk Comparison
Archimedes
Spot
Big’Un
Speckles
Guy Noir
Longson

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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21 Responses to Big Pigs & Pet Pigs

  1. Glenn Warren says:

    It’s been a while since I checked your blog, but yesterday I brought myself up to date with your activities. Great progress all around.

    I hadn’t yet noticed any comment on the Federal governments efforts to restrict the use of child labor on family farms. Is this an issue which you are concerned about?

    Best wishes,
    Glenn

    • Aye, I’ve been watching this. The Goobers should not be sticking their noses under the tent like that.

      • hollyb says:

        And the proper response to someone poking their nose under your skirt is to smack ’em. Fortunately, it seems that they have backed off on this initiative.

        I hear so much from others about kids who are disrespectful and don’t lift a finger. People kind of look at me disbelieving when I tell them how wonderful our kids are. Considerate, hard working and creative. If they see that something needs to be done, they do it. No one needs to ask. They care and they know that what they do makes a difference to the family. It is not the only good way to bring up kids, but it certainly can be one of the wonderful ways.
        -Holly

  2. DennisP says:

    Walt – Them’s some BIG honkin’ animals! I just read portions of your posting to my wife and she went “Oh, my god!” Then she asked “How does he handle those animals?” I kind of think that’s a good question. How do you get them to go where you want them to go? And make them behave? I just envision puny ol’ you vs Spot or Big’Un and wonder how do you win them battles?

    • By the time they are that big they are well trained and only the gentle ones get to that size. Anyone who is ill tempered would have been long eaten. For moving them there’s simply leading with a treat, walking them along, herding with hands or sorting boards as well as the dogs who love to help, or just do the job for that matter. Don’t bother to push half a ton of pig. They hardly notice.

  3. Gina Simard says:

    Hi, Went to school with you along time ago, and Scott told me to look up your site. Said you really smart with farming and taking care of animals. Actually said the best. So, I am really into causes so here I am leaving you and wife and families, a message. Do you take visiter’s, I would love to come visit your farm, and shop. I am Psy major, getting my Phd in Autism Spectrum Disorder’s but my brain waves are every where.

  4. Hey Walt! Huge follower of your blog and an even big admirer of your family, your farm and you way of life. We live in the top of our barn, with no walls and not much space and people always look at us like we’re crazy. We’re not, we just don’t need much. Clutter drives me nuts!

    That’s not why I’m writing though. I’m writing about our boar (which is why I chose this post to comment on). We have one Tamworth boar and two Tamworth girls. They were born December of 2011. Right now the boar is separated from the girls, free-ranging with our sheep, goats and two piggies that will only be around until May 17th. As he gets bigger I know we need to separate him.

    I hate the idea of him being by himself but I’ve also been told that the girls will be much happier if they’re not living with him full-time…is this the case? They have lived together up until a week ago as he is “learning to surf” as we like to call it. We don’t want our girls to get pregnant too early.

    If this is the case, we were thinking that he would live in one of our forests (we have a heavily treed property) and then we would bring the girls to meet him? Would this work? Will we have to separate our girls from the sheep as they get bigger too and we start lambing, etc?

    Let me know if you need more information or clarification, I’m really looking forward to your wisdom and guidance. Thank you!

    • We leave our boars with our sows and that works out fine. One difference may be we have a lot of sows (~40) and only three boars. This means the boars have plenty of ladies to spread their attention around to. What I observe is the boars are not very interested in a sow unless she is in heat in which case she is also very interested in him.

      As to the question of ‘too early’ our experience is they normally don’t get pregnant, even with boars around, until they are eight months old. This puts their first farrowing at one year. Occasionally we get a Lolita who becomes pregnant as early as six months but that is rare. No problem either. In fact, Mouse, who was our oldest sow ever and produced many fine litters, was a Lolita.

      I would suggest trying to arrange pregnancies so they farrow in the golden months. Here that is May through October. Maybe April through November in a warm year.

      If you do keep him separate, run him two fence lines away. It will be easier. If he can be upwind and out of visual range that is even better. Good fences make good neighbors.

      Keep him away from the ewes during lambing time as a fresh born lamb smells to tempting to resist eat. Once they’re up and running around they’re fine with the pigs.

  5. Wow! Thank you so much for writing me back such a thoughtful and wonderful response….hmmmm…so maybe we should just run our pigs together? I would love that as I HATE the idea of him being by himself. Again, thank you!

  6. Stacy Keenan says:

    We have a pet pig, Boris. Boris is around the 250 lb. range now (I haven’t taped him lately, but probably a good guess). He’s awesome! He’s doing great, he was a former pig scramble contestant that we took in last August. He is quite spoiled (I fluff his bed of straw for him and he gets his favorite treats of Kat Krunchies and apples daily) and he’s as tame as can be. When we clean stalls, he just hangs out around the barn and yard with us. He’s quite the personality! He’ll even lay down for a good belly rub. :)

    I had first found your blog back in August, which scared me a little when I saw how large some of your pigs are. But I’m not as worried now, as Boris has maintained such a great personality (although I do put up with a lot of bacon jokes from friends, having a pet pig). I keep reading and learning more about pigs through your blog. I thoroughly enjoy your posts as well as admire what you are doing with your animals.

    • *grin* Hey, if it’s working that’s great! If one is going to have a farm pig then it is key to do it with foreknowledge and eyes open. I know the joy of having a few pigs around… :)

      Do you know how old Boris is? Based on his weight I would guess around six months since that is about the finisher weight for our market pigs. Keep his diet low calorie and he won’t put on fat – that is something I see happen with older grain fed pigs at other places. Since ours are on pasture they have a low calorie diet and never get fat. With good care and diet Boris could live a decade or maybe more. He may develop some beautiful tusks and be quite hansom.

      • Stacy Keenan says:

        Howdy!
        I guess I never saw your reply, two years ago… well, Boris is still with us and doing well. He now has tusks and is the size of a small Volkswagen (I’m 5’6″ and he’s up to my waist). Still a good boy and we do watch his weight carefully. We aren’t lucky enough to have pasture, but he does get hay through the winter and likes it. :) And his fruit snacks, like apples and watermelon. No scraps or garbage!

        I’m sorry to know that Spot and Big ‘Un have since passed, but look forward to seeing how the next generation of boars size up! Spot was impressive, to say the least!

        • Good to hear on Boris. The current largest boar here is Spitz of the North who is our Berkshire boar and tapes out to be about 1,300 lbs. His son Spitzon of the South is only about 900 lbs but gaining fast. Spitz’s sub-boar is Sox who was the leader of his cohort as Spitzon was of his. We also have one named Whitey from the Yorkshire genetics and three other up and coming boars vying for position in the breeder ranks. We’ll see who comes out on top. They’re all strong contenders.

  7. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter,

    While Spot wasn’t the biggest pig ever, it’s very possible that he was the biggest pig alive, before his death. If Speckles is close to Spot’s size, it might be worth seeing if you can manage to weigh him.

    It certainly wouldn’t hurt Sugar Mountain Farm to have the world’s largest living pig, AND have that pig be pasture raised, in good physical condition. Think of the publicity you could get for the farm.

    You might also be able to start selling fast-growing long boars to other farmers for very nice premiums, even ones you wouldn’t keep for your own breeding programs.

    • While Spot and Big’Un are now gone Spitz is still growing and closely followed by his even faster growing son Spitzon. Sox also is showing great potential at 11 months and head of his class. Size is one of about 36 factors we select for. We do sell breeder boars and sows.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        I know you sell breeders, Walter. I also know that if you can get the media showing pictures of your pigs, a lot of people who will never see this webpage will see the news or the magazines.

        That was my reasoning. Free advertising. If you’ve got a 1500lb+ boar that’s gotten there with plenty of time left to breed for a couple years, that’s going to get attention. And when people compare muscular pigs like yours to the blubbery land-whales that held prior records, it’s going to catch some eyes.

        I’d think you can do this without a lot of worry about disease as well, if you can get a vet to come in with a mobile scale and an observer, and keep them in scrubs. Or get a utility trailer with a axle-scale for a rough weight. If you get a rough weight that’s close to the record for a living pig, someone else might spring for high end mobile equipment as part of a news story.

        • Land whales! I love that image. Yes. We do have a vet who visits, very carefully, occasionally when we ship out breeders to other parts of the country. But she doesn’t go near our breeders who are staying on farm – just the outgoing pigs. Biosecurity. I’m not sure if we want that much publicity. We can barely supply locally. We’re growing very slowly and carefully so as not to out strip ourselves. Worldwide publicity would be a bit much.

          • Farmerbob1 says:

            Fair enough!

            A different way to approach it where you could definitely keep biosecurity under control. When the time comes to slaughter one of the really big boars, you might consider a hanging scale mounted in the freezer room. The carcass of a verified 1500 lb boar that isn’t a obese land whale won’t be a wonderful public consumption advertisement, but could still drive a lot of interest in your farm’s genetics.

            Sorry if it seems like I’m trying to push you into this, but if you have lean boars routinely getting well over 1000 lbs, and sometimes topping 1500 lbs, that’s valuable. I won’t poke you again about it :)

          • That is the plan. One of the pieces of equipment we will have in the Abattoir is called a Rail Scale. This measures the hanging weight of the carcass. Eventually I would like to have a field scale for live weight for tracking some of our research projects but that has some logistics issues as we have multiple herd areas. I’m working on figuring out where I would best like to setup a central weigh-in. This is not a high priority though as the scale is expensive and there are other projects on our To-Do list.

  8. Leah says:

    Do you have to do anything management wise when breeding with such big animals? We’ve got some pigs on our family farm that have grown huge, and common knowledge says they will hurt smaller sows, is that true? I really don’t want to get rid of them, they are great old guys!

    • Good footing is important. Out on pasture they are fine. I’ve never seen big boars hurt even gilts under these conditions. On the other hand, on slippery concrete, wood or ice you’re asking for trouble.

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