Microlots Considering Nest Location
Each week we sort pigs, shifting them around between herd groups, boar territories, paddocks and selecting those who will go to market. Part of that is moving the late gestation ladies out of the main herds and into the closer fields where they can be near to us in the center of the farm. This gives them more protection from predators, keeping them under the watchful eyes of the dogs.
Microlots is the daughter of Littlelots who was of Biglots and she is the mother of Nanolots. Bit of a naming theme there. Lots and lots. They are in our second line of Large Black pigs. Eventually they will merge with our other line but for now they’re a distinct line of genetics traced down through the sows. They are not pure bred Large Blacks at this point although they do look it.
Our other Large Black line runs parallel to our Mainline cross with some exchange of genetics – eventually I plan to merge the lines. This has improved growth rates and lifted the ears to an upright smaller shape, something that does better with our cold winter climate.
Large Black pigs are known for being particularly calm. They also have good marbling, better than the lean “bacon” breeds like Tamworth. The Berkshire, like our boar Spitz, are known for even higher marbling. He is the boar that bred Microlots for her upcoming litter.
With all breeds marbling becomes develops as the animals get larger. It tends to start in around 200 lbs live weight (~150 lbs hanging weight) but improves considerably at 250 lbs live weight (~180 lbs hanging weight) which is the typical slaughter age. Taking the pigs up to 300 lbs results in much better marbling but that means very large cuts which are bigger than most people are used to having on the plate – beyond what is typically for retail store and restaurant sales. We have some customers, mostly chefs doing charcuterie, who request the pigs to be raised to the larger weights especially for them. We cull about one or two sows a month and they typically get reserved long ahead for this market.
On the down side, Large Black pigs have slower growth rates than our Yorkshire and Mainline genetics but they’re faster than Tamworths which are also very lean. Our Mainline and Blackline crosses are bringing all of the good characteristics together such as temperament, marbling, better growth rate, pasture ability, mothering and wintering. We’ve been crossing and selecting hard on these lines for over a decade to produce a pig that does well in our climate on pasture for our markets. That work has paid off. My long term goal is a to merge the lines selecting for the best. It’s a process.
In the photo above Microlots appears to be thinking about that spot as a possible nest. She is in the lower south field paddock one which we just opened up to the sows. Currently those are long thin paddocks but I’m considering subdividing them into more paddocks that will be smaller and more square this year with new fencing so as to make for better utilization of the forages. With the very long thin shape to the paddocks the near end gets grazed before the far end so the rotation ends up a little uneven. A project for after we open the butcher shop.
Outdoors: 64°F/54°F 2″ Rain
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/62°F
Daily Spark: Remember to keep changing your DNA. It’s your new password.