Makin’ Babies

Berkshire Boar Spitz Mating with Large Black Sow Little Lots

Caught them in the act! This is Spitz, our Berkshire boar doing his duty with a quite willing lady, one of our Large Black sows. She is named Little Lots. Little as in the second generation of that line but more like 600 pounds of pig so not little that way.

Little Lots is in what is called standing heat. Sow pigs cycle about every 21 days and tend to do this in cohorts following the lead of a boss sow. When they hit peak heat they will stand still if you press on their hips. This allows the boar to easily mount them.

Gestation is typically 114 days to farrowing, that is giving birth of the new litter of piglets. That is not exact as just like with humans it can be plus or minus. I’ve seen as early as two weeks before and as late as two weeks after that. Our Blackieline sows have a tendency to short gestate. We just had a litter at 103 days which is 11 days early.

We do natural breeding year round, that is the sows and boars pick the times other than the sorting of sows between boar herds that I do to control our genetics. Artificial Insemination (AI) is something I looked into long ago but the cost wasn’t economical for us, especially with all the shipping and our wanting to have litters spaced around the year rather than clustered all at once.

Generally sows come into heat about seven to ten days after weaning although we have some in the Blackieline who have jumped four foot fences if necessary in order to get to the boars soon after they farrowed and successfully rebred while lactating. They are eager and take the initiative with the boar shall we say. Nursing is not an effective method of birth control. Most sows produce about 2.3 litters a year but these sows produce three litters a year pushing our average up a bit.

We have sixty sows so this justifies having several boars. As a rule of thumb I figure that to justify a boar it takes six sows if by seed (commercial feed) and three if by land (pasture). Since we’re pasture based and don’t feed commercial hog feed this lets us cover the cost of a larger number of boars. That in turn lets us maintain multiple genetic lines such as our Mainline, Blackieline, Berkshire, Tamworth and second Large Black line.

Did you know that a gilt is a female who has not yet farrowed (given birth) while a sow is a female who has given birth. Boars are the males unless they were castrated in which case they’re barrows (castrated young) or stags (castrated old). For more fun terminology of pigs check out the FAQ page.

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About Walter Jeffries

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4 Responses to Makin’ Babies

  1. Someone commented elsewhere that I wasn’t showing Spitz’s prodigious private parts.

    They are pretty wild aren’t they! Corkscrewed, very long and skinny. Well, seeing Spitz mate was amazing enough. I know he does it because we get piglets from sows who are with him but I’ve only seen him mate three times in two years. He’s very private about it.

  2. Marc W. says:

    Hey Walter, so if you have 60 or sows, then with the 3 to 1 ratio on pasture you maybe have 20 or so boars. What I would like to know, because obviously you don’t have 20 different herds, how do you break the boars up? How do you keep from crossing that imaginary inbreeding line? I know that you said a little inbreeding is fine, but how do u work it so there’s not too much? I guess I’m asking about your genetic lines and how you interbreed your different lines? Haha I know there is a lot of questions and I’m sorry about that, but I have a few more if you please. So with having multiple boars to a herd, do you find they fight over sows or is there enough to go around so to speak? I can’t imagine the boars are like other animals, say lions or wolves, where the dominant male breeds all the ladies in their pack. So essentially I would like to know how you manage your boars, your genetic lines, and if you ever have problems putting them together. Yea, sorry for the long question, I’m sure you could write multiple posts for such questions. I’ve been wondering this so I figured I’d ask….thanks for the hard work you put in to teach so many others.

    • We have more boars – some run in pairs. The boars define the herds and we move sows between the boar groups. Inbreeding is when you do it accidentally, without purpose, without selection. Linebreeding is with the purpose of refining the genetics. If you are breeding the the best and culling the rest then you have linebreeding and the herd genetics will improve with time.

      Within a boar group there is a dominant boar. He gets the sows when he wants. The sub-boars will also mate but are more likely to be off peak.

      With wolves it is very different. A pack of wolves may contain many males and many females but only the alpha pair mates. That is their definition. Everyone else is support with the goal of getting the pups to thrive. The whole pack hunts for the alpha female and her pups, bringing back food to them. The alphas actively suppress mating in the rest of the pack and their lieutenants reinforce this. This is probably because wolves live in harsh climates often and at the top of the food chain. They can’t afford to over hunt their territory and spoil their environment. The betterment of the group is put ahead of the individual. Most wolves will never mate but by being strong pack members the offspring of their siblings or parents are more likely to survive and maybe someday they’ll rise to the top position.

      Pigs, horses, cows, sheep, etc on the other hand do not provide for the females or the young. They do not really have a social conscious. They are herd animals and it is not in their nature to care for others. Herd behavior is generally more of a looking out for oneself by blending into the group with the hope of not being picked off by predators. Think of this more like a school of fish. There are exceptions like musk ox perhaps. A very different climate that pushes them to act more like pack animals than herd animals.

      To manage the boar lines, they can be kept together up to around 500 to 700 lbs or so – it varies. It is important to watch for when they become too big to be together. Once they’re apart, you never want to reintroduce them. Boars who have been separated as adults will generally fight to the death. Thus our boar herds are in widely spaced fields, each with their own territory separated by double fences and a no-man’s land.

  3. Marc W. says:

    Thanks for the response Walter!

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