Eliminating Boar Taint & High Snows

Hope, Growers & High Snows

The snows are finally melting a little. They are now back down to the level shown in this photo. For a while they were about a foot and a half higher. Realize that the ground outside the door is about a14″ lower than the stoop during the summer. That means the pigs are standing about 38″ up off the ground in the photo.

Many of our fences are simply gone or mere stubs sticking out of the ground to show where the lines should be. During the winter the animals, both wild and domestic livestock, establish trails and yards that they frequent so the fences are less necessary right now. The ‘fence’ in the background is up on top of a 36″ high wall – we used pallets and such to raise the wall as winter progressed.

Getting out the door can be a challenge when the snows are halfway up the exterior walls of the house. Fortunately on the old farm house we had a long porch with an interior opening door that let us get out to shovel the other doorways after snows like this. For the tiny cottage, where we now reside the door opens inward to deal with this issue.

JW wrote:
I am curious about breeding the boar taint away. In my litter of piglets, which are not Duroc, I noticed that one of the boar piglets smelled different. He was very musty-smelling, and had a nervous disposition, always pacing and chomping his teeth. Even at 10 weeks old. He was the only piglet out of 8 that did this.

Durocs are know in particular for having a higher likelihood of boar taint. With some work you may be able to breed away the taint. Not all pigs have taint, in fact, studies show that few pigs have it by butchering age. It also helps to feed them a high carbon diet, such as pasture and hay. My guess is that the carbon in their diet is binding the nitrogen reducing the skatole levels. I’ve read that this effect can be achieved in as little as two weeks.

As to how to breed taint out, selecting against aggression may help. We breed strongly for temperament. I can’t risk injury to myself, wife, children, LGDs, sows, etc. In the process that may have bred away from the taint as it simultaneously created more gentle animals. What we did over the years was test older and older boars, selecting the lines of pigs to breed from the relatives of those that tasted the sweetest. This produces a higher quality meat and breeds out the taint.

Most boars do not have taint at market age. If you can smell it on him though then I would suspect him. I would be very interested in when you taste test him if you don’t castrate him first. The good news is you’re capable of smelling the taint, the musty smell you noticed on that one boar. Not everyone can smell it. Since you can you have a better chance of breeding it away.

Of interest, this same temperament issue can show up in females and it is possible for females to have taint, although rarer. We have seen this – a very muscle bound female who looked like a weight lifter on steroids and tasted as tough. A hormonal imbalance may have been the cause. She also had a bad temper, as did all of her line which we completely culled.

If you have tainted boar meat realize that the smell is almost entirely in the fat. The traditional use for it was to mix the lean with the fat from barrows, sows, gilts or beef to make hot spiced sausage. The spice hides the taint and most of the taint is in the fat. Of course, if you have a friend who can’t taste or smell the taint then they may be over joyed at the option. Only about 75% of people notice it.

Taint and aggression are only two criteria to consider in selecting for breeding. I would suggest working up a list of what are the characteristics you want in your herd. Pigs that do well in your climate are another criteria to think about. e.g., if you are in the south you need pigs that deal well with the heat and if you’re in the north you need pigs that handle the cold.

Speaking of boars, er, bores, please go read this article about NAIS and make a comment on the federal registry.

Outdoors: 34°F/12°F Sunny
Farm House: 31°F/31°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/59°F No fire Friday or Saturday

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Eliminating Boar Taint & High Snows

  1. Peter comly says:

    We just butchered a 8 month old boar between Christmas and New Years and made the whole thing into sausage. He is the one that ended up breeding the four gilts I have about ready to go. Anyway, he was tainty. The meat flavor is good, but we cannot stand cooking it inside. It makes the house stink for days. He was a Yorkshire.

  2. Peter, so his genetics are something you want to move away from to get rid of the taint. Out of his sons, taste some of them at progressive ages. Smell their breath when they’re around females. If any smell sweet instead of male then you might have the non-taint genetics. Otherwise you want to bring in other genetics if you want to get rid of the taint.

  3. WJ,have been lurking for awhile but will tell you i literally gasped when i read about the tractor incident…not a good thing. about nais…i already emailed my senators in wv opposing it, but have a question. where is the vote now? still before the senate? when do they vote on it? my grandfather and generations back were vermont dairy farmers from warren and randolph center. i know they would not be happy with nais. did you ever hear of floyd fuller? orange country former farm bureau pres. back in the 70’s. awesome equine dentist. if you are interested in vermont farm history, he is on my blog. there is a link to hear his stories from vermont cultural center. cool stuff. really miss him!

  4. Mark @ Brooks Mountain farm says:

    We have just slaughtered our 2nd boar, a one year old Gloucestershire Old Spot. He was ~300#’s and was kept adjacent to a sow. We slaughtered the first Old Spot at 9 months old and ~225#’s, and have eaten quite a bit of him with no taint detected by us or our dinner guests.

    Throughout our pigs lives, we monitored their breath and general smell to see if we could detect any precursor to taint. We never once found any off-putting odors.

    We raise our animals as naturally as possible, allowing them to roam the pastures and woods with the cows, goats and chickens and we supplement their forage in the winter with alfalfa hay and regular grass hay. We also give our next-in-line-for-slaughter pig all our excess milk and milk byproducts, about 2 gallons a day.

    Both carcasses impressed our butcher, who had never before cut up a pastured pig, much less an intact male. On this last one, he was simply stunned at the amount of fat on the animal, considering it never eaten commercial grain or feed.

    In my opinion, boar taint simply ain’t!

    ~Mark at Brooks Mountain farm in WV

  5. peter says:

    ive slaughtered a 32 month old berk X tam boar who lived in pen with his sow and he was fine. No taint at all. LOts of meat too. he was alouttle over 600# . His hide and urine stunk horribly lol but the meat was excellent

  6. Interesting about the Durocs. I have never noticed a scent with my GOS boar. Maybe because he’s mostly ineffective, therefore replaced with a Duroc boar. I noticed the scent difference right away. I was hoping to make soap from the GOS boar, but if the fat’s where it’s at, I don’t want to spend the time and expensive ingredients on stinky soap :)

    You guys are tough… battling that snow every day would be hard on my spirit. Hope all is going well at the slaughterhouse..

  7. Eric Hagen says:

    Hi Walter,

    I was wondering about boar taint with some of your boars I’m getting in the spring. There isn’t a very good source of dairy in my area and so I’m going to be adding lysine into their diet in the form of commercial grain and legume feeds. Have you ever heard of any of your customers raising your boars on a commercial feed and experiencing taint? I’m a little nervous because I can’t do the strictly pasture/whey diet that you use. I’m going to have to settle for a pasture/grain diet and I know feeding grain raises the chances of taint.

    • Yes, we’ve had many customers who buy our boar weaner piglets and raise them on a combination of pasture and commercial corn/soy based pelleted feed. They have not had problems with taint. I do not know the percent effect of the grain but I strongly suspect based on experience and research I’ve read that the high fiber diet of pasture, the rotation of pasture and the genetics are far stronger effects. By being on pasture+grain you’re getting that fiber in the diet which is important. I think that the problems with the corn/soy diet come from that being the only thing the pigs eat and it being low fiber. Also read the article on taint and follow links and read comments there.

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