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!
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.
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:
Father & Son
Goof Ball Grin
Band of Brothers
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.