Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heritage Pigs - Part 1

We will be adding some weaner pigs to the acreage this spring.... I am determined even though I am having a really difficult time finding any. Who would have thought that this would be such a difficult endeavour. I have everyone I know looking out for piglets for me (I figure it's not what you know, but who you know). I have been in contact with a lady through the Alberta Chicken Etc forum from Tatlayoko Lake - she may have a couple of piglet for me, though I won't know for sure until later in April. Should it pan out, I'll be driving down to Williams Lake to pick them up... but that is just fine by me. I will consider myself lucky to be able to get some pigs!

I have been doing a bit of investigating about heritage breeds of pigs. One day I would love to add some to our little acreage for breeding purposes (though I'm not sure that Husband is in the same mind). I'm amazed that the two breeds (Gloucestershire Old Spot and Tamworth) I'm interested in, are either not available in Canada, or are in such small numbers that they are very closely related.

Gloucestershire Old Spot - I found a farm on Vancouver Island who had brought two in from the US, but has been unable to find a sire, or import semen. She has in turn cross bred them to Berkshire and Duroc pigs and the resulting pigs do retain their spots.

The GOS is a very early English breed and is sometimes known as the 'orchard pig' as they traditionally grazed on orchards and ate the fallen apples. Old Spots tend to be very calm, good-natured animals, another trait that makes them desirable to homesteaders and small farmers.

Tamworth - The Tamworth is listed on the Rare Breeds Canada website as on the critical list with less than 100 registered animals. I have found some breeders around, but again, most cross breed as there is a shortage of genetic diversity with the the pigs have too many common ancestors. In Canada, many farms had a few Tamworths until the 1960’s. Regulations against keeping pigs in barns with dairy cattle, new systems of grading pork and the introduction of confinement rearing systems contributed to the decline of the Tamworth in the last 40 years.

Tamworths are the oldest breeds and is the most direct decendant of the European wild boar. The Tamworth is a very hardy animal. Its background as the forest pig means that it is ideally suited to outdoor production, even in rough woodland. A rugged and thrifty animal particularly suited for grazing, salvaging crops or following behind grazing cattle.