Raising Hogs on the Homestead

This guide to purchasing and raising hogs tells you how to choose good breeding stock, know heritable traits, growth ability and hog characteristics.

| July/August 1977

Purchasing and raising hogs takes talent and an eye for choosing good breeding stock for the homestead.

Raising Hogs: How to Select Good Breeding Stock

Back in the days when the rangy, mongrel razorback was all the hog a farmer had to work with, folks didn't worry too much about things like backfat thickness, muscling, or finishing. A pig was a pig was a pig, and that was all anyone needed to know.

Well, times — and pigs — have changed. Today's pork producer must be able to evaluate his or her live animals with more than just a keen eye for good pig flesh . . . nowadays, the selection of profitable breeding stock demands good judgment tempered by an appreciation of consumer demands and a well-rounded knowledge of hog husbandry. I can't give you all that here . . . but I can suggest a few practical tips and hints designed to keep you from making major mistakes in the selection of breeding stock.

A logical place to begin our discussion of how to select good stock is with stress, and the harmful role it can play in a pig's reproductive life. Obviously, good physical conformation is desirable in an animal . . . but a hog that can't breed ( or breeds only with difficulty) because of stress-related problems is a liability to the homesteader no matter how perfect the animal's features are. Let's take a look, then, at the three most important stress factors affecting hogs: Porcine Stress Syndrome, environmental stress, and breeding stress.

Porcine Stress Syndrome (PSS) is a disease that can result in the sudden death of a pig under certain handling and environmental conditions. The symptoms include red blotches on the skin, rigid legs, hard, bulging muscles, nervousness, and/or trembling. Research shows that PSS is at least in part a genetic problem . . . so if the animal you're considering buying displays any or all of the above symptoms, remember that the tendency to develop the disease will not end with a single generation of pigs.

Environmental stress is another factor to consider when selecting breeding stock. Nowadays, hogs raised in confinement have the remarkable ability to go from birth to market weight in less than 150 days. The constant confinement that's often used to achieve this rate of growth, however, tends to create stress in an animal . . . stress that's likely to show up in the form of complications ( mastitis or agalactia, for instance) at farrowing time. Thus, you should make every attempt to find out — before you buy — whether the animal you've selected has spent its entire life in a confined situation. If it has, you may want to continue to shop around for another pig.

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