Speckles’ Rooster

Rooster on Speckles

The lump that the rooster is standing on is Speckles, son of Big’Un son of sire Longfellow and dame Big Pig. Speckles’ dame is Jolie who was not as large as Big Pig but she was respectable. Speckles is quickly approaching his father’s weight. Big’Un was huge. Big Pig was big. Longfellow was big. It’s in the genes.

Speckles father Big’Un was about three quarters of a ton – think small car or short legged beef. Big’Un was not as long or heavy as Spot, our current on-farm record holder at 12′ in length and 1,700 lbs. Spot is why I built our butcher shop chiller ceiling 20′ high. It would just barely be tall enough to hang a pig his size. This also suffices for cattle. For horses or elephants one would need an even taller facility. Hope wants to raise Wooly Mammoths. Now there’s a unique product.

Speckles was the largest and fastest growing pig in his litter and his cohort. Out of 200 piglets he was the one male I kept back for breeding. His sister Happy was the largest of the females in that group. Although much younger she’s almost as big as the oldest sows. They’re both adults now and Speckles is looks twice her size. This demonstrates the typical difference between males and females in pigs. The boars grow faster, bigger and are better at converting food to meat according to an Australian study. That study also said that barrows, castrated male pigs, grow slower and fatter than boars, more akin to the gilts.

The other day Speckles was laying in the hay with his face sticking out. That’s a big face. Then he stood up to greet me. It was like a mountain rising up out of the earth. That’s a lot of pig!

Myth Busting:
I’ve heard people say that pigs never stop growing. This isn’t true. Provided that they’re on a good diet and getting exercise they will top out at a healthy weight around four to six years of age. This weight will vary depending on breed. We have primarily Yorkshire genetics which are some of the largest in the pig breeds. Yorkshire is also one of the oldest breeds being the foundation of many other heritage and commercial breeds. Large Black, Berkshire and Tamworth are in there too as well as a pinch of Glouster Old Spot.

Big’Un topped out at about 1,477 lbs at six and a half years of age. Spot topped out around 1,700 lbs at a bit over six years. I don’t think either grew much in the last year. Longfellow at six years was 1,064 lbs. Longson at 18 months was 800 lbs. Basa was about 900 lbs at 30 months of age. Archimedes at eight years was about 1,157 lbs. I estimate Speckles at well over 1,000 lbs right now. I suspect that he will be up around Big’Un’s weight when he stops growing. Guy Noir, the other big boar on our farm right now, I haven’t checked recently – maybe 600 lbs. He’s a lot smaller than Speckles and is very respectful.

Sows top out around 700 to 800 lbs. Mouse, our oldest sow to date, was 787 lbs. Her mouther Little Pig was about that size too. Mouse’s aunt Big Pig was probably a hundred pounds more than that. The sows look huge but then you turn around and find yourself staring a big boar in the face and you realize just how small the sows are. Nice boy…!

Sure, a fat pig in a stall eating grain can get a lot heavier and keep gaining fat weight until its heart fails but that is not healthy. I’m talking fit, heavily muscled animals who live out on pasture where they get plenty of exercise and a calorie limited diet. These are normal animals. Back fat on the boars is typically about 1/2″ in depth. Big sows about 1″ to 1.5″. Finisher pigs, which are much smaller at about 250 lbs have about 0.75″ to 1″ of back fat.

Size is one of the criteria we breed for since larger pigs do better on pasture with their larger teeth, stronger jaws and longer digestive tracts. Speckles’ fast growth rate is another valuable consideration. These are what made him part of the the tiny percent that stay on the farm to test as breeders.

This is completely contrary to a grain fed situation where you shovel dollars into the pig’s mouths. For that type of feeding program the breeders generally only get kept one or two years of service because they do grow too large to justify the cost of feeding them when a smaller cheaper pig could do the job. The result is confinement farms tend to rotate sows out after two parities (farrowings) and boars after eighteen months. The problem with this fast rotation is you lose experience by retiring these workers so young when they’ve learned their trade, developed their skill set and proven themselves.

Funny Quirk:
Pigs determine the size of other animals by how they tip their neck muscles. If they have to reach up to you they think you’re bigger than them. Speckles is convinced I’m 6,000 lbs. I loom. He fails to realize that unlike him there is nothing behind my facade. He’s basing his estimates on the assumption of walking on four legs and having a long barrel shaped body to backup that tall and wide front I present. My shoulders are wider than his but I’m not very thick front to back. Yet I grunt and loom and he moves. This miss-estimating of size on the pig’s part a good bit of why sorting boards work so well.

You might also find these articles interesting:
Seeing Spots
Spot out
Big’Un Tusks
Father & Son
Goof Ball Grin
Band of Brothers
Big Pig
Little Pig
Old Boar
Archimedes Farewell
Boar Meat Redux
Bring me the Head of Blackbeard

and just for fun…
Eight Foot Pig

Outdoors: 42°F/20°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/63°F

Daily Spark: Don’t let your dogma get in the way or it will be run over by reality.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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13 Responses to Speckles’ Rooster

  1. Susan Lea says:

    Now a pig that big is something to crow about! Such an interesting post! Your pigs have me in awe. Our little Dexter cows top out at about 750 lbs! :D So glad your pigs think you’re bigger!

    • When we first got pigs I was intimidated by the idea that they would get to be big, say 600 to 800 lbs. But we got them when they were small and they grew very gradually to their adult size so I had years to get used to them. I remember holding Spot, Big’Un, Speckles and the others when he was only a couple of pounds and fit inside my cupped hands. This gradual increase over a long period let me get over my worry about their size.

      My back up plan had been that if they ever got bigger than I wanted to handle I would simply eat them. If someone wants to only deal with pigs up to 300 lbs this is a viable plan that gets one or two litters out of each sow. Everyone gets to work within their comfort zone. I’ll bet that after dealing with them for a few years people, like me, will find their comfort zone expanding.

  2. Donna OShaughnessy says:

    Excellent points as always. We are entering year number 4 with our pastured hogs. Still amateurs but not completely green anymore. Our main boar Mad Max a Red Wattle, is HUGE compared to the rest of the herd but only about 650 pounds. We look forward to seeing how much he’ll grow. He has great manners, sire good strong litters and makes our visitors ohhhh and ahhhhh. He acts like a puppy and loves having his ears scratched but we never forget his power and we never turn our backs on him:)

  3. Cheryl Z says:

    I’m having a difficult time wrapping my brain around a 12′ long pig. I’m currently sitting at the end of my 10′ long dining room table and can NOT envision a pig that long – let alone 2′ longer! I have American Guinea Hogs, which top out at 400# and maybe 5′ long? We only have 1.6 acres of land, so the small pigs are good here. It would be quite a site to see your herd of pigs!

    Cheryl Z

  4. Dannie says:

    I find it fasinating that your chickens can mingle with your pigs. When I was a kid visiting my uncles pig farm where he kept them in pens we were told never to go in the pig pen because they would eat us. He had some free roaming chickens too and Iremember seeing a pig grab and eat one that walked into the pen. None of his pigs were as big as yours. Probably for the reason you give as he was raising them on grain. He said the boars got too fat to perform after a couple of years. Maybe that is the grain feeding and lack of exercise.

    So if you start raising mammouth meat will you ship?! That would be cool. Eat like a cave man! :>

    • If and when we start raising and slaughtering Wooly Mammoths I do suspect we’ll work out shipping for distant customers who don’t have a local Mammoth farm near them. First we have to finish sequencing the DNA.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hope has the right idea! She’s clearly taking in what Mom and Dad are teaching. What a great way to grow up. And no wonder Mr. Rooster is happy – he has his very own Guard Boar :). Jennifer in western NC

  6. Those are some large animals! You would have won the big boar contest every year at the Wisconsin State Fair. Interestingly, those boars were always quite fat. It’s amazing that you can get so much weight with so little fat.

    • I think it has to do with the pigs climbing up and down the mountain all the time. I purposefully place their water, whey and sleeping area hundreds of feet apart so they walk thousands of feet. We once figured out that they’ll willingly walk two miles with much moseying around on top of that linear distance.

      We humans on the farm get a lot of distance in too. I once wore a GPS for the day and clocked 17 miles. It was a pretty typical day. Since we’re on the side of a mountain much of that is climbing up and down which gives the pigs more exercise than their penned relatives likely get in a lifetime.

      Exercise in turn builds muscle. One chef was telling me that this is why the pork from our pigs is so rich in color instead of being “the other white meat”. He suggested that by getting more exercise the pigs’ muscles were getting more blood supply.

      Interesting, when we slaughtered Archimedes last year, an eight year old boar, his meat tasted like beef. I love old sows. The meat is very flavorful, much better than typical finisher meat. The commercial market for the older pigs is limited since most people think they want young animals but many chefs know the difference and specifically ask for the older animals, bidding on the meat months in advance to get it for making prosciutto and other charcuterie.

  7. Amy says:

    Walter – we currently raise our pigs out on rotated pasture in the pacific Northwest. We have a local friend who mixes feed for us – its barley, wheat and peas with a mineral mix. We were allowing the pigs to self feed but I was told the boars and sows would get to0 big so we switched to hand feeding them. We give each of the breeding animals 7 lbs a day of this mix, plus grass hay and raw milk when we have it. We will have 5 Jersey cows in milk this Spring so we hope to cut back on the grain and mainly feed milk and hay. I didnt want to switch them drastically right now as 3 sows and 1 gilt are expecting. What are your thoughts about the amount of a grain mix to feed, especially sows who are expecting?



  8. Diane N. says:

    What lovely chickens, too!

  9. David lloyd sutton says:

    Consider that if the DNA sequencing is completed (and I read that it has been) and you begin raising wooly mammoths, a tribe very suited to your climate, you could eschew the use of a tractor! No more worries about mechanical problems, or terrain considerations, just pet a trunk, offer a melon, and voila! Mountain transport! Hope is only slightly ahead of her time as an agriculturist.

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