I've been looking at different heritage breeds of pigs trying to decide which direction to go in. After a lot of research, I am leaning towards the large blacks for several reasons. Temperament in general is great, good inter muscular marbling, good fertility and mothering ability. However in talking to a breeder with 9 years experience, I found out the purebreds take a year and a half to reach market weight(let's say 285 lbs) without letting them put on too much fat. That greatly increases the cost to raise the purebreds. Has anybody else on this forum had experience with large blacks? I would like to start with large blacks as the maternal breed. Is there another breed that crosses well with a large black sow that keeps the good carcass traits, temperament etc. but reduces the time to maturity? What about Hereford hogs as the paternal breed?
Hi Ron; I have no direct info about raising the large black breed. Also I had to look to see that there really is a Hereford breed of pig , I thought you meant Hampshire. I too have heard some heritage breeds grow slower (Tamworth most recently) However a year and a half for market weight ? That sounds unusually long. Possibly they meant to breeding size ? Your calling #285 as market weight , I assume your referring to hanging weight ? I can tell you that a #285 hanging piggy is one large pig ! Last season I had a girl who had to stay almost 2 months longer than her sisters. She weighted in at #277 hanging weight. That was a crossed pig, Berkshire/Duroc and Hampshire. She came to me on may 11th as a 6-7 week old weaner and met the mobile butcher on December 7th . Her sisters met the butcher on October 18th ,They weighed in at #155 hanging weight. That was a little light and #277 is a little heavy. In my experience a #220 piggy is just about the perfect eating weight.
My suggestion to you would be to start by raising a few weaners of the breed your interested in. Stepping up to being a full on breeder is a very large step, its also rather expensive with any breed much less a heritage breed.
Start small raise some weaners to butcher weight and see what you think of the breed you try. You can always get breeding stock if you decide you like the breed , have a market for selling them, have the pasture to feed them...
Raising weaners to butcher size is fun. Having #600 boars and sows all winter long is a full time job.
If I'm not mistaken, "market weight" for slaughter hogs was more in the 220-240 lb. range (live weight), at least historically.
Largely, I think, it's going to depend on what you feed them. Last year we raised a group of Large Black/Hampshire crosses. Feeding them a relatively low protein, soy-free, whole grain diet, plus garden culls and forage, they made it to about 200-220 lbs. right at one year. In the past we've raised Mulefoots in a similar way, and they pretty consistently took 14 months to get to 225 lbs. But if we (or you) fed a higher protein ration, they surely ought to get there faster. Amount of feed makes a difference too, of course. On full feed, hogs will grow more quickly than if they're hand fed a more limited amount.
The upside with a long grow-out period is that it makes for absolutely delicious pork. When everyone else is slaughtering at 5 or 6 or 8 months, there's a noticeable difference in a porker slaughtered earlier.
As for economic concerns, keep in mind that the Large Black is known as a pretty fair grazer. With plentiful forage and a low-protein (and thus low-cost) grain supplement, the longer growout period may be offset so that it's equally profitable.
Large Blacks are one of the pasture hogs, they prefer to eat grasses, weeds, and some shrubs, that is one of the reasons they take so long to get to a good butcher weight.
Wes is correct in that "market weight" is the slaughter weight (live) for hogs is usually in the 220-240 range, the reason for that is ease of handling the carcass for scraping and cleaning.
Once they are gutted, they go to a table for processing, and you don't want to be fighting a huge carcass believe me.
Most of the Heritage breeds will taste great when fed a mostly grass diet, the meat will be leaner, more of a red color than any pork you see either in a butcher shop or at the meat counter of the grocery.
A hog that is in the 240 range will be nearly 6 feet long and about 3-4 feet wide at the shoulders.
Thanks for the input. On the market weight I quoted, that was the weight at which this particular breeder felt the carcass quality was marketable. Actually they let some of their large blacks go to 300 lbs before slaughter. I got the idea the large blacks are so slow growing that the slaughter weight had to be 285 or better before you could get good carcass quality. The other thing I learned is if you push to much high energy feed at them to get them to grow quicker, they just put on a lot of fat.