Younger readers will not understand the title, so a bit of explanation is in order. Back in the day when there was an expectant father fumbling for something to do to help when the doctor came to the house to deliver the baby…Yes, a home delivery was common…Dad would be told to boil water. It wasn’t necessary but it kept “bumbling dad” out of the way. At least that’s what happened in older movies.
Young’uns, by “older movies” I’m not talking Tom Cruise and “Top Gun” older…I’m talking Jimmy Stewart and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” older.
Well, three days ago (Saturday, July 2) at roughly 6:15AM it was time to boil some water!
We started this pig adventure here at Moutain Crest Farm (the farm name for where JuicyMaters.com originates and where the JuicyMaters family lives) back in April of last year (2015) when we bought three two month old piglets…Daisy, Porkchop, and Hamlet. Daisy is a purebred registered Large Black Hog and Porkchop and Hamlet were Large Black Hog/Berkshire hybrids.
As you can probably guess by their names, Daisy was destined to be bred to produce more Large Black Hogs using a borrowed or rented LBH boar. The offspring would be to both go in the freezer and sell as either Large Black Hog breeding stock or, for the ones that just wouldn’t come up to breed standards, as feeders for other folks freezers (If you live in north Georgia that was a hint!). Porkchop and Hamlet were destined for our freezer.
Remember the old saying “Man plans, God laughs”? Boy did He laugh.
I’ll tell you about the first year’s adventure in a later post, but long story short is that only Hamlet went in the freezer. We decided to get a boar and breed both Daisy and Porkchop, producing both registered Large Black Hogs and LBH/Berkshire hybrids.
We got Roscoe (what we call him. His REAL name is High Cove Super 8-3 6333) and Hammy, an LBH feeder to take Porkchop’s spot in the freezer, on March 4 this year and he went right to work. A hog’s gestation period is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days (or more technically 114 days) and Porkchop gave us 9 squirmy, healthy piglets starting at about 6AM Saturday, July 2…and Daisy looks to be about a week to 10 days behind. So, like the post title says:
Quick! Boil water! The babies are coming!
An explanation of why we are raising both hybrid and registered Large Black Hog pigs…
We first were going to raise just Large Black Hogs. Besides their great characteristics for homesteader/small farmer situations they are a heritage breed that is in danger of dying out. According to the Livestock Conservancy Large Black Hogs are on their endangered list, having just recently moved off the critical list. That alone is not nearly enough for us to choose this breed, but this, on top of other considerations, make this an awesome choice here at JuicyMaters.com and Mountain Crest Farm.
And then there are the characteristics! These pigs…these big pigs (full grown boars run 800 pounds and sows are about 600 pounds)…have fantastic dispositions for starters. They are a very gentle, docile pig…important if you are a novice pig farmer like we were last year. When you see 400 pounds of very pregnant mom headed your way at a high rate of speed, it is good to know she is coming first to see if you have a treat for her and second so she can flop down at your feet looking for you to rub her belly.
Here is just how gentle and friendly Large Black Hogs are. When I went out to the farrowing hut Saturday morning about 6:15 Porkchop had started having her babies, with two already there. I went in the house to tell Cindy that if she wanted to see babies being born she better hurry up and come on.
I got back to the pen about 6:30 and number 3 had made an appearance. I got an orange Homer bucket, went in the pen and turned the bucket upside down for a seat and sat down. Porkchop had no issues with me being in the farrowing hut.
The pen is about 10×16 feet with the farrowing hut taking up about 89×10 feet of that, and I was in the farrowing hut with mom and the new babies. No problem. Between (and during. Porkchop is a multi-tasker) births the babies already here were rummaging around trying to figure out what this new world was about, and trying to find a nipple. Twice I helped a piglet find his way, picking him up and delivering him to the proper area. The piglets squealed a bit, and mom noticed, but didn’t get upset. I was in the farrowing hut with Mom and her new babies until about noon and never felt worried about Mom’s reaction.
Boars are just as nice…and like belly rubs too. We haven’t even removed Roscoe’s tusks. He is just that friendly.
Beyond temperment Large Black Hogs are great for small land owners in most every other way as well. Being black they don’t get sunburned (yes, white, or light colored pigs do get sunburned). LBHs are great foragers, doing well in the woods like here at Mountain Crest Farm and on a grass pasture. They are a very hardy pig, needing little shelter from the weather except in the harshest winter climates. Our first three pigs went from April 28, 2015 to now without any shelter except the shelter of the woods that nature provided and have done just fine (except Hamlet, of course. She is in a really cold environment…our freezer). They are a prolific breed, producing 10+ piglets routinely each litter. This new litter of 9 would make most pig farmers happy but its actually just a little bit small for the breed.
Don’t get me wrong. We are thrilled with this litter. We take whatever of God’s bounty He thinks we should have and gives us. He knows what we need far better than we do.
All the way around, Large Black Hogs are a great breed for the homesteader/small landowner/small farmer.
Y’all: “But Bob…you tell us all this about Large Black Hogs, but use Porkchop, a hybrid, as an example. What gives?”
Well, I’m telling you about the breed while using my hybrid sow as an example because everything I’ve talked about so far, while regarding Porkchop is also true of Large Black Hogs.
Y’all: “Then, if they are the same, why raise both?”
I didn’t say they are the same…I said they are the same so far, regarding the items I have told you about. There are differences…Let me tell you about them.
First, Large Blacks are not “the other white meat”. Pork production on today’s factory farms is all about super lean, zero fat pork, and pigs that put on weight (meat) fast. The commercial pork industry has bred the fat out of pigs, and in so doing they have bred the flavor out as well. If you ever have a taste of any of several heritage, old-fashioned pig breeds you will never be satisfied eating commercial pork again. Frankly, commercial pig barn raised pork tastes like…excuse my French here…tastes like crap.
Pigs are classified as either lard pigs or bacon pigs. As you can tell by the name, lard pigs tend to put on more fat while bacon pigs are pretty lean. Large Blacks are really neither. Their build falls right in the middle. Yes, you could say they are a slightly fatty pig. Slightly. And the fat distribution is unique in that pork cuts from a Large Black aren’t so muck wrapped in fat, with it all on the outside of the meat, as they are micro-marbled, with fat…and flavor…distributed throughout the meat.
Large Black Hog/Berkshire hybrids, like I raise along with the Large Blacks, share this characteristic. Flavorful meat with just a bit of fat throughout the meat. It may be just a hint leaner than pure Large Blacks, but not much.
Second, there is hybrid vigor to consider when producing meat. Have you ever noticed that the halfbreed mutt dogs you’ve known seem healthier, grow faster, and are, physically, all around better dogs than either of the purebred parents? That is hybrid vigor. For some reason I don’t understand…I’m a redneck pig farmer, not a geneticist…hybrids do better physically than purebreds, in pigs as well as dogs. For that reason I choose to breed hybrid Large Black/Berkshires…more meat faster.
The third reason I breed both is something I touched on earlier…conservancy. Large Blacks almost disappeared. The commercial push for “the other white meat” almost bred Large Blacks out of existance. Even today, recovered to Endangered status from Critical, there are fewer than 300 small farmers just like me helping to continue and grow this fine breed of pig. I want to do what I can to help preserve this awesome breed of pigs.
Yes. There is a hook…Buy pigs!…MY pigs!
Call and reserve a pig TODAY!
If you want to raise an awesome pig, either for the freezer or to make more pigs, let me know. These new hybrid piglets will be looking for a new home about the first of September and a litter of registered Large Blacks should be ready to go a week or 10 days later. Call Bob at 706-502-0858.