R.I.P. Speckles


The sort of guy that wouldn’t hurt a rooster…

So there I was driving down the road with 1,054 lbs of pork hanging from my fork. Had anyone passed I’m sure they would have been surprised. Fortunately it’s a quiet road with only about one car an hour and I missed that. It would have been a tight fit passing the tractor.
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Today Speckles, our lead boar died. My best guess is a heart attack, heat stroke or both. Running around foolishly chasing people on a hot summer day can do that too you. I’m the coroner and doctor around here. About mid-morning he came in from the field breathing very hard and foaming at the mouth. He had been a-courting. One of the big sows was in heat. I hope he succeeded in servicing her. That will be his last litter and I would like to get one more set of piglets from him. He was an excellent boar, superb genetics. Shoulders almost two feet wide and 41″ high at the shoulder.


Speckles the Day Before in South Field Sapling Grove

When he came in from the field he laid down in the mud wallow by the lower whey trough to cool off, changing position several times over the next two hours. I kept checking on him but he never seemed to catch his breath. We were about to give him a butt watering to rehydrate him as I was getting concerned. Then he died just before we could start.

Speckles son of Big’Un and Angela. Born 2008, Died 2012 of a massive coronary. Survived by his sister Happy, forty wives and approximately 300 children, grand children, great grand children who remain in the family business here on Sugar Mountain Farm as well as many others went to area farms and, er, better places. Memorial service held at 4:43 pm with family, friends and co-workers attending by the compost pile. In lieu of flowers please plant clover.

Outdoors: 76°F/54°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 71°F/67°F

Daily Spark: As someone asked me the other day, “Do you call them pigs or hogs?” I hollered out “Piiiiiiig, pig pig pig” and hundreds of hogs came running. Some were big. Some were little. I call them pigs. What they are is another matter.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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27 Responses to R.I.P. Speckles

  1. nance says:

    Speckles. so, so sorry. May he rest in peace. Oh my. He will be missed. Condolences . . .

  2. Stuart R. Cook says:

    I believe a wake is in order.

  3. Daniel says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss, it’s always a sad day when good genetics leave the farm.

  4. Leon says:

    Sorry about your loss but I have to ask – is there a reason you didn’t try to save some proteins for dogs or chickens? I mean it sounds like you were fairly certain about the cause of death …

    • We did cut off quite a bit for the dogs but most of it went into the compost because we have no way to store that much meat in the summer. In the winter we can save an entire carcass over the two weeks or so it will take the dogs to eat it. In the summer not so nice after it gets ripe although the dogs think it is just right…

      • Leon says:

        Thanks, the world makes sense again :)

        We have an old 100 gal pot, in which we can easily cook a bunch of stuff outside over a campfire and that makes meat last a couple of days longer (and of course, if you add water and boil it again and again you can stretch it to a week or longer).

  5. Sal says:

    Only 4 years old?

    • Four years old is about middle aged for a breeder. I had not expected him to die this young. He was fine the day before when he greeted me out in the south field. We have two upcoming boars from the south herd. I had been planning to slaughter Speckles after this breeding rotation but I had hoped he would father another few hundred piglets before that.

      • George says:

        Is it possible that his decendants might also have the tendency to die young?

        • Possible, but four years old is not exactly young. Speckles became a breeder at ten months old and has had over three years of strong breeding so I’m not worried about it. The typical boar is only kept for a couple of years. A pig’s average lifespan of a pig is just six months – then they go to market. 99.5% of males and 95% of females are finishers for meat at about six months of age. Long lifespan is not an important criteria. Neither is breeding for chess partners.

  6. Mark says:

    At over a thousand pounds that must but a serious financial hit for your farm in addition to the lost breeder animal.

    • Yes. Very ouchy to the tune of thousands of dollars of lost income for the meat in addition to the loss of his hundreds of potential descendants that would have carried his genetics from this fall’s breeding.

  7. Jeff says:

    When you compost a big fella like that, are the bones fully composted too or do you bury them after the flesh has composted away?

  8. Kevin and I will toast Speckles’ fine life and progeny, and wish you many more tall, sturdy, fertile boars.

  9. Someone wrote asking:

    I am confused. The link you posted [above] seems to contradict what you said, that bones and teeth compost away. The link clearly shows Big’un teeth, tusks and bones after you were done composting him.

    It depends on how far we take the composting and the conditions. In the case of the heads we have a special head pile where we setup the conditions and timing such that insects and worms clean the skulls so we can then extract the tusks or even save entire skulls which we then let bleach in the sun.

    With smaller pigs who I don’t try to save the skulls and tusks the teeth and bones all melt away in the compost pile. It is very acidic and hot inside the pile so the bones and teeth dissolve. We used to dig the heads out of the compost pile after a month or two but switched to having a pile dedicated to them to avoid accidentally losing skulls and tusks.

    Speckles’s head was put into the head pile so that it will be cleaned in next year his large tusks will be able to be recovered or perhaps someone will want to buy the entire skull and jaw with all four tusks. It is massive and the tusks are large, not as big as Big’Un’s spectacular nearly full circle tusks but very impressive.

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks Walt,

      Stands to reason that bones decompose as well as flesh otherwise we would be walking on mountains of skeletons of all the animals that have ever lived!

      I am sure you know that dead pigs are often used as models for human cadavers when studying the decay process. If you can compost a pig so that even the bones are gone then surely you can compost a human too. When I go I don’t want to pumped full of toxic chemicals and either tie up a 5×8 foot burial plot in perpetuity or pollute the air with more fossil fuel exhaust just to cremate me.
      Would nt it be better if we could just have our remains covered with sawdust , straw or whatever and after 5 years or so have the nitrogen , phosphorous , potassium and trace minerals that used us on a garden or field ?

      Makes a hell of alot sense to me but as another more famous pig farmer than me has said:”Everything I want to do is illegal”

      • Not only are they used as models for human decay but also for surgery. Sometimes medical supply companies, surgeons and medical students buy pig parts so that they can practice doing their work.

        I agree with you on the on the end of life. We’re all a part of the natural world, part of the web of life. Only a Kingdomist would make a suggestion that we go vegan or vegetarian. Little do they realize but the pigs, the chickens, the plants and the shrooms are perfectly willing to eat them too. The reality is we eat and we all shall be eaten in our time, unless one goes for extra crispy (cremation) or pickled (embalming) which are terrible wastes of nutrients and energy. When my time comes I, like you, want to be composted and spread on my apple trees, strawberries and rhubarb.

        Fortunately it takes a lot less than five years. After just a few months all that is left is a grey stain. Flip the compost pile once and soon that is gone too. In a mere year you’ll never know the body was there. I’ll ignore the suggestion about composting humans since, of course, I would never do such a thing… Fortunately I have no enemies, anymore. :) (Holly always told me never to tell her where the bodies were buried.)

        • Irma East says:

          There was an article in Mother Earth News a while back about “green buriels” I don’t remember the exact title but in the authors town you can just bury a person on your “back 40” there were some specific rules and I think you had to have the sheriff come out and mark the area with some gps locator so that if the bones were found they would know that it wasn’t a murder victim. (so they don’t waste resources investigating a natural death?)

          they also use pig skin to practice doing tattoo’s. My son bought a tattoo gun that came with pig skin to practice on.

  10. Patricia R says:

    Agree with Walter and Jeff, except if I die of some ugliness that would be better cleansed by cremation. I don’t think embalming is mandated by law; some religions don’t embalm, but the remains must be buried quickly.

  11. Jay H says:

    I am always following and learning alot from your blog Walter so thank you for all the information and pictures. R.I.P Speckles! So who would be the lead boar now?

    • In the north herd it is Spitz. In the south herd there are two boars that I’m eyeing. They may become co-boars. Often I run pairs together. If they are raised together and get along very well this works. So far they don’t have names. At least not names they’ve told me.

  12. Walter, we have a small black soldier fly system that we use to compost chickens that die before their time. Do you have BSF that far north? BSF also love our regular “rot box” compost pile that doesn’t get turned. I assume you turn your compost pile with a tractor?

    • I have heard of breeding Black Soldier Flies (Hermetia illucens) for chicken feed. I don’t think we have them here, perhaps due to our cooler temperatures. Our chickens do enjoy feasting on the insects they find in the fields, on dung patties and on the compost piles. Because of the chickens, I see very few flies.

      When I turn a compost pile it is with the tractor, since our compost piles are very large, however I run static compost piles which I might only turn once in their life time before they get spread.

  13. Judy says:

    We have three piglets that are three months old. They only weight 10 pounds each. The daddy is a 600 pound Hamshire boar and the mother is a yorkshire, hamshire mixed. He was her daddy. He broke out of the pen and caused this. Thank you. Will these babies grow? What do we do with them if they don’t. They are cute as they can be.

    • Sell them for $1,000 each as miniatures? That is shockingly small. Something is wrong. Check them for worms and deworm as needed. Make sure they’re getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need. I’ve never heard of farm pigs staying that small. What are they eating?

  14. Jarred says:

    Healthy carbs (or good carbs) embody entire grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

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