A Pig in Hand is worth Two in the Bush.
A frequent question from people getting into pigs, or raising any livestock, is:
There is no best breed. “Best” is highly opinionated. Different breeds were developed using the genetics available to be the best in their local environment. Different goals, different raw materials, different results. There are many breeds which are excellent. There are some which grow faster or slower than others. There are some that will perform better in the show ring or the confinement crate or the pasture. There are some which have more or less marbling. Others that have more or less back fat on the same diet. There are some who look a particular way such as having floppy ears vs upright ears or red vs black vs spotted vs white, etc. What is best is what you’re looking for in the pig. There is no best breed but rather which breed do you want to look at because the biggest difference between breeds is primarily how they look.
The oldest heritage breed with the most widespread resulting genes is perhaps the Yorkshire also known as the Large White. This makes them perhaps the most successful breed, the one that has become the most widespread. They are the classic white pig often called a pink pig. Fast growing, big, meaty, not too fat, not too lean, good mothers, excellent on pasture. They have become the foundation genetics of many other breeds and crosses both on pasture, in the show ring and in commercial confinement operations. But, they’re leaner than Berkshire or Large Black resulting in less marbling. So for someone looking for a lot of fat they’re not as good a choice and they certainly don’t have the floppy eared or spotted coat that some people favor.
More important is the line within each breed. Pigs within a breed are selected to perform for show, confinement or pasture resulting in similar looking animals that perform quite differently. Be they Yorkshire, Berkshire or what ever, from a different line within the same breed they are vastly different animals who will perform best in the environment they’ve been selected for.
Perhaps, if one is to push the issue, the best pig is simply the pig in hand when it comes time for makin’ bacon. And the very best pig is an illusion over the horizon that we constantly aim for as each week we cull the lesser pigs leaving the better pigs to go on to become breeders, producing the next generation of bacon seeds from which we’ll winnow.
To know which horizon you’re aiming for you need to ask yourself, what are the characteristics you want in your pig? Then start selecting for that over the generations. What all is said and done, breed the best of the best (that you have) and eat the rest. This basic principle will improve your herd genetics over time.
Outdoors: 24°F/37°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 57°F/61°F
Daily Spark: Grow slowly. Make small mistakes.