Breeding Pigs: Picking Gilts

Oh boy am I NOT an expert on this.

I’m writing about this subject to document what I’m doing and what my goals are.

My goals for my meat herd:

Large, successful litters
Piglets with lots of vitality
Good conformation in piglets
Fast growers
Quality meat

There are several ways to aim for these goals. Some people use one breed and cull the animals that don’t meet their standards. Others will cross breeds to get the desired results.

I’m going to talk about the last way–using different breeds. You can mix and match sire and sows to get the quality of meat you want. You might pick a quick growing meat pig that is lean and cross with a slower growing but fattier pig. (fat equals flavor) This is the simplest method for developing a good tasting product. It doesn’t address a lot of issues though.

Another way is to give your pigs roles. The goal for the sows is to be prolific and successful moms. The role for the boar is to add meat qualities that you want. This is helpful because it gives you a place to start. You can look for a breed that tends to have great mom skills (Duroc is an example) and go from there. Pick a breed for boar that has what you want in meat quality (Berkshire is a great example). Look up Terminal boar breed if you want to know more about this method.

There are other factors that you want to aim for. You might want to pick pigs that do well on pasture (or cull). Choosing based on your climate is a good idea as well.

Let’s look at a pic of the piglets we bought. Two come from one source, Two from another.



You might want to click on the pic and take a look at these piglets (all gilts).  They were born two weeks apart, so the comparison isn’t perfect.  You’ll have to trust me that the piglets on the left aren’t going to gain 50+ lbs in the next two weeks.  I think you get the idea.  We have 100 lbs piglets on the right.  50 lbs piglets on the left.  This is genetics.

The pigs on the right have a sire and grandsire that were champion pigs, provided by artificial insemination.  The pigs on the left are crosses from a local breeder.

There’s nothing wrong with the piglets on the left.  I paid proportionate prices for the quality I got.  Obviously, I’m pleased with having pigs at over 100 lbs at 11 weeks.

There’s something I want from the small piglets though.  Teat count.  My bigger gilts have 12 teats.  The little ones have 16.  Teat count is a very big deal for being a successful mama.  (btw, the number of teats a pig has comes from both mom and dad, with mom being more influential.)

More teats means more food access for babies.  This is very desirable.

My plan for the big piglets is to cross them with a boar that has some Berkshire in him.  They already look great.  The berk will only improve their meat.

My plan for the little piglets is to eventually AI (artificially inseminate) them to get girls that have the 16 teats AND faster growth/size etc.