Has the time come to add pig breeds to your list of homestead goals? With the proper homestead fencing and pig shelter, the quick grow out time for most pig breeds makes them an ideal protein to raise on a small farm. If you are ready to take on the project of raising pigs, learn which of the pig breeds is right for your family.
But first, get everything ready ahead of time, because pigs can move quickly! You will want to have that secure fencing ready to go before bringing the weanlings or feeder pigs home. No matter which of the pig breeds you choose, infrastructure basically remains the same. Pigs require a clean shelter, plenty of fresh water, free range pasture or grain and a place to cool off. The cooling off place can be a kiddie pool filled with water or a shallow mud hole they dig themselves. Pigs love to wallow but they really prefer a clean environment afterward.
Raising Pigs for Meat
10 Pig Breeds to Consider
American Yorkshire Pig (AKA English Large White) – A breed that originated in England. The American Yorkshire is a good meat producer. Also considered a bacon breed, Yorkshires produce a high percentage of lean meat on the carcass and low amount of backfat. The American Yorkshire was improved over the years by introducing lines of Yorkshire from Canada and Lines of English Large White from England. The breed is also known for farrowing large litters.
Berkshire Pig – Berkshire pigs are one of the oldest heritage breeds of hogs. Originally from the Berk area in England, the Berkshires are a popular choice for meat production and possess an easy going personality. They have a 600-pound average market weight is easily obtained with foraging. Berkshire pigs are hardy and considered easy keepers. Because the piglets are bold and curious, Quinn from Reformation Acres does not recommend the breed. Her experience with raising Berkshires was a test of endurance as they did not gain as rapidly as expected and had to over winter. Each homesteader will experience different types of personalities, and growth depending on the breeding program they were obtained from, the pasture and pig food that is fed to the animals and weather conditions.
Tamworth Pig – A smaller size than some others mentioned here. Often referred to as one of the bacon producing breeds due to the lean carcass and ability to forage well. The Tamworth pig is considered as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy listings. The Tamworth pig originated in England. The color is a range of red and anything light to dark is acceptable. Spots are not desirable in the Tamworth.
Chester White Pig – Chester Whites are popular with pig farmers for a couple important reasons. They make great mothers and they live long lives. The color should be all white with only small spots of color permissible. The ears on Chester White are not erect but are not completely floppy like the Large Black either. They are known for good mothering ability and hardiness. Chester Whites are stocky built and have a highly muscled carcass. This is considered a heritage breed that was developed in Chester County Pennsylvania.
Large Black Pig – The Large Black pig breed is known for hardiness and adaptability. The Large Black is a lean pig that does well foraging. The Large Black pig has made a comeback with people interested in raising pastured pork. At one time in England, the Large Black was the most popular breed. The popularity of the breed was due to the delicious meat and bacon it produced from mostly foraging. When choosing a Large Black pig you might fall in love with the way the floppy ears fall down over the eyes.
Duroc Pig – Originating in America, the Duroc is known to be part of many of the crosses in commercial pork production hogs. Durocs are a pretty reddish brown color and fairly agreeable in temperament. Originally one of the larger breeds of market hogs but now rating in the medium size range. Most of our pigs are Duroc or Duroc Cross and we have found them to be mostly pleasant as Sows, with good mothering tendencies. The piglets wean easily and forage at an early age. The meat is tender, with a great flavor from the vegetable, hay and foraging diet. Many of our pigs have Yorkshire cross in them, adding to the good disposition and foraging ability.
Hampshire Pig – The Hampshire pig breed is one of the earliest recorded breeds in America, bred in Kentucky. Originally imported from Scotland and England as the Old English Breed. The name was changed to Hampshire along the way. They are black with a white strip of belting around the shoulders and body which can reach down the front legs. A smaller leaner pig, the Hampshire has a large loin and lower back fat amount than other breeds.
Hereford Pig – Hereford pigs are another heritage breed of hog. Often the choice of 4H participants because they are a gentle, lean, good looking pig. They are also easy to find in the USA, making it an obvious choice for the homesteader. Katie Milhorn from Livin, Lovin, Farmin says this when asked to describe their Hereford pigs, “We raise heritage Herefords. Their meat is incredibly delicious! They run, play and act like pigs instead of sitting at the food trough all day. They’re ready to butcher right about at 6 months of age, with a hanging weight of about 180-200lb. You may get lower weights with heritage hogs but the meat is far superior to that of commercial swine.” Herefords as a breed are derived from Duroc, Chester White and Poland China breeds in the 1920’s. By 1934, 100 pigs were entered into the breed registry. the National Hereford Hog Registry. Mature weight for Boars is 800 pounds and Sows at 600 pounds.
Landrace Pig – The Landrace breed of pig originates from Denmark. They are very long in the body. Landrace pigs are all white and only small black skin marks are permissible to register the pig. The ears are sort of lopped and the head is surrounded by some meaty jowls. In addition to their large size and carcass weight, the breed is known for having large litters. Many breeders use Landrace sows to improve their pigs because of the great mothering ability, heavy milk production, and large piglet size. The Denmark background is rather interesting. Denmark was at one time the chief exporter of bacon. The Danish would not sell any Landrace pigs to breeders because they didn’t want to lose their status in the bacon industry. In the 1930’s they released some breeding stock to America for study purposes only with the understanding that these herds not be used to build up the bacon industry here. The imported pigs were to be used to build up new breeds only. After the study, the American government asked that the regulation on breeding pure Landrace be lifted. The request was granted. Breeding stock was imported from Sweden and Norway and the American Landrace breed was developed. Bacon for everyone!
Spotted Pig – The Spotted breed in America is derived from the Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig from England. They were first brought over in the 1900s . It wasn’t until a recent resurgence that the American Spotted pig became more popular. The royal family of England prefers this breed for its pork. The color must be white with at least one black spot to be registered. Spotted pigs mature weight is between 500 and 600 pounds. Easily adapted to pasture raising, the Spotted pig makes a good homestead choice. The litter size is normally large and the sows prove to be good mothers.
Which Pig Breed is Right for You?
Many pig breeds are hardy and economical livestock additions to your small farm or homestead. I enjoy the pig breeds we raise here on our farm. From the tiny piglets following the sow, to the curious and slightly mischievous weanlings who constantly point out the weakness in our fencing, I enjoy the time raising them. By the time we are ready to sell or harvest, a new batch of piglets is usually ready to arrive. This is the cycle of life on the farm.
What pig breeds are appealing to you?