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URGENT - pig size and taste

 
Alison Thomas
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We've decided to take the plunge and get a couple of pigs and they are due to arrive on Friday - 2 boys.

Ideally we'd like to keep them until Nov so that they can have all the apples and acorns (plus cooler temps for storing the meat) but will they be 'too big' by then - currently at 4 months.  Someone said to me that you can get boar-taint if they get too big - this must be the IMHO 'porky pork' taste that I don't like.  It seems a shame if we end up with a product that we don't like.
 
                    
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I don't have any personal experience with it (yet) but I have also been told of this undesireable "boar-taint" in several breeds (usually the fast growing production types), due to their sex hormones.  And yeah, it's a puberty/age thing.   

I've read that unless the acorns are sweet the tannins can also make pork and particularly the lard have a bitter flavor.  But european oaks are probably sweeter in general than the US's.  The old method (read it in the fox fire books) was to get them fat on acorns and finish them on grain for another six weeks so they'd have sweet tasting fat. 
 
                          
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Are you going to geld them? That should help, I would think.
 
Alison Thomas
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Geld them?  Does that mean mate them?  ops:
 
                          
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Castrate them, so they don't have that hormonal puberty thing to worry about.
 
Irene Kightley
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The boar taint differs between different races of pigs - some are worse than others. http://www.aasv.org/shap/issues/v5n4/v5n4p151.html

It seems your pigs will be well over the age of puberty by the time winter comes so there's a risk that the meat will be tainted. (You can also take them to an abattoir at any time of the year of course.) If you can keep them well away from females that will help but you may find you'll get lady wild boar visitors. 

Gelding them isn't just about taint, it's much easier to handle barrows who are more docile. Entire males might fight with each other and they can be aggressive with very little warning. You might find too that you go down to feed them one day when you've got your period and they suddenly find you very attractive !
 
Alison Thomas
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Apparently the castrating bit needs to be done before 3 weeks of age and these are now 4 months.  It could be done but it would be a general anaesthetic and lots of cash, so no we wouldn't be doing that.

We could have girls but I wondered if we'd have an issue with wild boars.
 
                          
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You might have an issue with "wild" boars as it is, it sounds like! It sounds like you've already bought them, otherwise I'd have suggested asking if you can get some already castrated. I don't have any experience with pigs to speak of, though. Hope it goes well!
 
Irene Kightley
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You might depending on the boar population where you live but if your fencing is OK then you don't have to worry too much.

We get a lot of potential suitors walking round the perimeter.



 
                    
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Awesome picture, Irene!  Poor frustrated wild boar....
 
Alison Thomas
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No Kerrick, fortunately we hadn't already bought them.  Irene, what you said about handling and 'stuff' made me certain that we wanted barrows, or sows, but the breeder doesn't do castrating (apparently it's illegal in England so he says, but what that has to do with France I don't know) and only has sows of an even older age available. So I've put him on hold.  he has some bog standard commercial whites that were born last week but I think an old style breed would suit our situation better.

So the hunt goes on.  At least the pig pen and house is all ready 

Thank you all.  I was able to go back to him with confidence.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I don't know about over there, but here we normally buy pigs that are about eight weeks old, just weaned.  At four months, I would think you'd already be pretty close to butcher size!  (Should be, anyway, depending on the breed.)  AND the boar piglets should definitely be castrated, or else get sows!  You DO NOT want intact males unless you plan to breed! 

One reason for buying younger, smaller piglets is because they'll be easier to handle during the first week or so while they get accustomed to your place.  If pigs get loose before they've learned where 'home' is, you will almost certainly NEVER get them back!  Bigger pigs (like those four month old ones) could very easily get out of your fencing, much more easily than baby piglets would, at any rate.  No matter what new animals you are bringing home, it's always best to confine them closely for a week or two until they know they live there, so they don't bolt into the woods at the first opportunity.

Kathleen
 
Irene Kightley
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Absolutely Kathleen - those are my thoughts too !

Hen, I'm so glad you could say "No" - I've been worried about you !

You want a couple of little weaners you can lift and handle easily and you're right about buying a more rustic breed that puts weight on slowly, doesn't suffer too much from sunburn and can fend for itself outdoors. There are some great French breeds like the Gascon (Like our sow in the photo above) that are very easy going and gentle.

It's true that in the UK some forms of castration are illegal and of course it is cruel to cut little piglets without anaesthetic (I prefer the elastic band method) but to me it's even more cruel to keep pigs inside in metal crates for most of their lives. In France it's not illegal and if you're going to keep a male for as long as six months then listen to Kathleen and never keep entire males until you're ready to breed or use AI.

You can normally get a good choice of weaners from this site :

http://www.leboncoin.fr/li?q=porcelets&ca=2_s&th=1&c=28&w=3&st=s&ps=&pe=&zz=

Just type in your department number for a breeder near you. You can also ask in your local Agri-coop, loads of people in France keep a few pigs.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.



 
 
                    
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Irene- so that's one of your Gascon sows in the picture?  I just assumed it was one of those suitors you were talking about.....  
 
Irene Kightley
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Ah, no, you're right Marina - wrong photo !

This the one I was going to post with Peggy our (since gone) Gascon sow with a rather optimistic little wild boar who managed to get under the fence when she was in season.



Thankfully there was no ladder handy ! 

This is a better photo of her.

 
Alison Thomas
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Oh that made me laugh 

I had always thought of wild boars as being ENORMOUS but they're actually quite titchy aren't they.  Peggy is very lovely.

We're off to see some 8 week olds tomorrow and he has two sows left so fingers crossed.

Next it's the goats.  More on that probably in another thread.
 
Irene Kightley
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The little ones are ! 
 
Alison Thomas
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OK we're sorted and happy    We've got 2 sows, 10 weeks old, and not Tamworths but Lops - a better size for us I think for our first foray into pig keeping.

Many thanks, Irene, for suggesting leboncoin - I'd not thought of there. 
 
                          
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Good for you! Here's hoping it all works out well; I'll be thinking of you and your piggies.
 
Irene Kightley
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Me too !

Have a lot of fun with them.

Irene x
 
                    
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Gorgeous sow, Irene.  Oh we're so excited for our little piggies to live here!  Only a few more weeks.....

First times can be scary hen, but we'll manage just fine!  Especially with all the lovely advice from all the more experienced folks on this page. 
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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