Five Boars and a Sow

Spitz our Berkshire Boar

Someone had asked for pictures of our various boars. These are some of the current gentlemen who service our ladies.

Spitz, our Berkshire boar, is not quite as tall as he looks in this photo because the bottom couple of inches of the fence are buried in snow that he is standing on. However, you can see a sow under and past him – they’re all a lot smaller than him.


Spitzon is the son of Spitz out of one of our Mainline sows. He’s now approaching a year in age but the size of boars who are eight months his elder. He has long been the biggest and fastest growing boar in his cohort. This December he got to breed and we’ll soon see what his offspring and Spitz grand offspring are like.

Tamworth Boar

Here is our Tamworth boar. He doesn’t seem worried that I never a gave him a name. “Doesn’t matter what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.” seems too long to say. Perhaps in Pig it is shorter.

Black Beard

This is Black Beard who is out of Blackie and Speckles. He’s a fine looking and quite large Large Black and Large White cross. Large White is also known as Yorkshire which is one of the oldest breeds of pigs, fast growing, good mothers, big and excellent on pasture.


This is the younger of the two Blackie line boars. They originated from our first Large Black pig line BlackieLine crossed to our Mainline and getting the benefits of both. Eventually these will merge in completely with the Mainline but that may take another five years or so to happen.

Sow Peanut Butter Facing and Profile

As an interesting comparison this is Peanut Butter, a typical sow. Compare her face with those of the boars. She is much more feminine and graceful in her curves versus their more masculine lines.

Outdoors: 34°F/14°F Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: There’s a joke that some people need to pee on the electric fence to figure things out. Interestingly, I’ve never seen a boar pee on the electric fence. Sows, yes, but never a boar. On the other hand, I’ve seen a male dog do it but never a bitch. I’ve never seen any of them every repeat it. Ask yourself: Do you need to pee on electric fences or is it good enough to watch someone else do it?

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Five Boars and a Sow

  1. Yev says:

    Those are some hamsom pigs!

  2. mike clark says:

    real good looking boars topic,how many years you get out of a sow on average?

    • Average is around four with a variance of one to eight years. Basically, we test about 5% of the gilts and only some of those get kept – that’s the biggest cull in their first year which are litters P1 and P2. If they get past that then they have a good chance of being here four to six years. A few sows have been here for as long as eight years. These are not pets. They’re working girls. Ladies of the fields.

      • Patrick says:

        What kind of “test” do they get?

        • Multiple choice plus two essay questions. Seriously though, testing means seeing how they gestate, farrow, mother, lactate, reheat at weaning, how large and heavy a litter they wean, how they keep their condition through milking and winter, temperament, what their piglets look like and how they grow, etc. The question at that point is are they good breeders and do they produce good future pigs. It’s graded on a curve.

  3. mike clark says:

    Walter,i know your busy,but could you tell why you picked these boars pictured and what traits you hope each brings to the herd.helps to see the pictures you have,then put it together to help with boar choice.i have a lot of interest in the process.mike

    • That would be a good and long post in and of itself. I’ll put that on my to-do list. In a nutshell very quickly, Spitz is a pure bred Berkshire for the marbling. The Tamworth boar has 18 teats and tits on a boar matter because it increases the likely teat count for his daughters which means more milk which means bigger weaning weights. Spitzon is out of Spitz and grew 50% faster than every pig in his cohort (those around him by a month) and was quickly bigger than any pig several months from him. The BlackJr boar is testing as he was the best of the last of the first generation out of Blackie – that is her last litter. BlackBeard is the best of Blackie’s previous litter – like Spitzon and Speckles he is a very fast grower. What isn’t shown here is any boars from our second Large Black line. All boars are picked also for characteristics such as conformation, winter-ability, pasture-ability, growth rate on pasture teat count, temperament, etc. Sometime I’ll finish the article about selection and genetics that relates to all this. I just need a few spare years… :)

  4. mike clark says:

    excellent answer and fast.i still one finger type.i also looked at teats when I picked a young boar this summer,and his mother was there.i don’t want time to wisk away,but the breeding process is slow.thanks walter for answer,i am sure I will have more,got four sows bred for may.mike

  5. Jaci says:

    What are your housing like for your boars?

    • They have open sheds available just like the rest of the herds but mostly prefer sleeping out under the stars on nests of deep pack wood chips and hay. See the articles about housing. Almost all the time they also have sows with them and they may be in herd groups that include finishers, roasters, growers and piglets depending on which herd they’re in and the season. For example, BlackBeard is in the mixed age herd up on the south field plateau winter paddock by the south field shed with all ages of pigs except newborn piglets while Spitz is with fourteen sows in the lower garden winter paddock.

  6. Eury says:

    Ive really learned a lot from your site and posts. Ive done 3 breeds of pigs and am considering taking the next step and getting a breeding sow or 2. I did durocs, chester whites, and york/hamp crosses and they were on pasture and in large outside pens. As far as I can tell the taste is very similar between the breeds since I feed them out the same. Im considering Berks and tamworths, but Im not sure if they will be that much better in taste if im feeding the same. My land is steep so im not sure Ill be able to do pasture rotation, but they are outside. Have you done any taste tests between breeds? I know you have refined your program for specific traits and pasture, but I was wondering if you could point me to any of your discussions on taste differences of breeds. Thanks so much! Eury

    • Breed determines ability to handle environments, pasture-ability, mothering, growth rate, fat to lean ratios, muscling profile and other conformation issues like this.

      Feed determines flavor. Flavor is stored primarily in the fat.

      Breed and age determine the fat and marbling. This is where breed affects flavor. Berkshires are known for marbling. Duroc is known for fast growth and lack of marbling (leanness). Yorkshire are known for fast growth, large size, good mothering and pasture-ability – a foundation of our herd. Landrace are known for how well they’ve done in the confinement industry and I don’t know of much use of them out on pasture. Tamworths are known for pasturing and leanness. There are ever so many breeds to explore. And ever so many opinions on the breeds. Everyone has favorites. Part of that comes from people having different goals. Part of that comes from the breeds not really being monolithic but rather consisting of lines which have diverged such that some are best for show, some for confinement and some for pasture within the same breed. Berkshire are an example of a breed that has two divergent lines so widely apart they appear to be different breeds. Yorkshire and Duroc is more similar across the lines. For more about breeds check out the OKState site. Keep in mind they are about conventional confinement raising…

      Is your land steeper than ours? We have quite steep mountainside pastures. Ours is much too steep to consider machine work for cropping and the like. Our fields are also too stony and stumpy as well as having too thin a soil depth. For us pasturing is what works. Even with far steeper mountain sides I would do what we do. It works. Rotational grazing is merely a method, a management style. It can be done on any pasture no matter how flat or steep. Check out the various posts about rotational grazing and you’ll be able to setup a system to optimize the use of your pastures. Over time that will improve the soil and forages so they can produce more and more of the livestock’s feed.

  7. Eury says:

    Thanks so much for your detailed response. Our land goes from about 0% to about 30% and is forested in redwoods (100 acres 60% forested). It was rented out for several years and Ive just now started reseeding and trying to improve the soil and pastures after 20+ yrs of poor management. We have some flat areas that are wetlands and very sensitive to erosion. If I could intensively manage it I would have the pigs on the wetlands to clean out the rushes that the cattle and horses dont want to eat . I also need to improve the infrastructure to be able to move livestock. Ive read a lot about rotational grazing (mostly about cattle) and its something I want to work towards, but im just not sure I will be able to let the pastures have the rest they would need after pigs. Especially here, in northern CA, with the drought conditions we dont get a lot of pasture growth. Around here people are resting pasture a year after pigs. I think the only way is to try it and see how it goes. Failure just means more pork in my freezer! Thanks again for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

    • That sounds very similar to our land – probably stony and sparse soils to boot as they tend to be in the mountains. We fence with the contours of the land as much as possible as that helps to improve water and soil retention eventually causing natural terraces to form.

      I would keep the pigs out of the true wetlands and just leave those as wild areas. We have about 70 acres of marsh in the middle of our valley, home to the beaver families and others who maintain it nicely.

      Regarding “resting after pigs” for rotational grazing, it is just the same as with cattle or sheep. Nothing special with pigs. Rotate quickly. Many small paddocks are better than fewer large paddocks. See Rootless in Vermont for some thoughts on factors that influence rooting behavior. Some rooting is beneficial. If you see too much, rotate.

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