Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hans and His American Girlfriends

The photo above shows Hans working. He's got to strain to get on top of his Berkshire girlfriends, as they are a lot bigger.

He often courts them on the hillside. When the sows are in heat, they'll help him to do his job. E.g. they'll squat a bit in a hollow, or position themselves on a downslope so that he can get on top.

There are many reasons for producing the crosses:
  • by producing Mangalitsa-Berkshire hybrids, we've got market animals that will taste much better than our Berkshires. Although people already strongly prefer our Berkshire pork (due to the way it is produced), the hybrids should taste better yet.
  • the market hogs will be smaller, which means less complaints from our processor about the size of the hogs. Also, customers buying hogs won't have to be as dedicated and skilled as the people who buy our current Speckschweine - a 150# carcass is a lot easier to work with than a 300# carcass.
  • Mangalitsa-Berkshire females allow us to rapidly increase the number of Mangalitsa-like pigs produced, by breeding them to purebred boars. That's how producers in Spain and Hungary meet the demand for lard-type pork. If there isn't demand, we'll just slaughter the females.
  • Selling neutered hybrids allows Wooly Pigs to distribute pigs with Mangalitsa traits quickly. There's less risk in the hybrids too; they aren't as different from meat-type animals as purebred lard-type animals.
The resulting piglets are cute and show some Mangalitsa traits, like the propensity to root early and often. I think that piglet in the video is very cute when it flips that rock so vigorously:

I have different feelings about the different breeds of pigs. I'm generally a bit sad to send the Mangalitsa pigs to slaughter. Even though I don't spend much time with the market animals, they really seem to have different personalities. The Berkshires are a stark contrast - they just seem like eating-machine zombie pigs - they are aggressive about feed and skittish. If you enter their area, they'll crowd you - which the Mangalitsa don't do if they figure out you don't have feed.

Different breeds of pigs differ in their personality, just as dogs do - so it will be interesting to see how the hybrid pigs behave.

Also, given that we wanted to cross the pigs, one might ask why we picked Berkshires and not some breed known for better mothering traits, like Yorkshires. The reason is that we are focused on meat quality, not efficiency. The Berkshires are the best-tasting meat-type pigs available.

In Hungary and Spain, the typical breed they cross the lard-type pigs with is a Duroc. The goal is to get quicker, cheaper growth in the market animals without ruining meat quality. The Duroc seems to be the best for that.


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