Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pig Behavior

My wife and I visited the Herbfarm's pigs recently. Although some of them are very tame, a few of them bite. You can see that in this video - one pig was flopping over, when the biggest pig came over and bit me:

The pig that bit likes to get scratched, so I don't think he dislikes me entirely. Perhaps he was jealous, or just didn't like my hand in his pen (unless it was scratching him).

Watching the video, it seems clear that he tried to bite and rip me as hard as he could, which really makes me and my wife laugh when we watch it. I've got a bruise on my arm (5 days later) that shows the outlines of his teeth.

Pigs fighting:

We made some other videos. It is obvious that the Mangalitsa-Berkshire cross pigs have grown very fast. They aren't looking very small anymore.

Mangalitsa-Berkshire pigs eating:

Pigs stealing food from each other:


nika said...

So if one were to focus more on hand raising and acclimating these guys to a more social environment, will they be less aggressive?

I have been working on sourcing our primary breeding group and everytime I ask for a breed that is heavy on the fat people look at me like I just landed from Lardotopia, on the outer rim of the galaxy.

We have a small family holding (16 acres of mixed hardwood and conifer forest in south central MA, 3 hours from NYC, 1.15 hours from Boston, in the middle of no where but at a hug of transport).

Would it be at all possible to get some of your woolies to start our breeding herd? We will be raising them in the forested habitat and do not look to do a high density. Any/all commercial activity will be CSA.

What sort of magila, should you be open to sharing with us, would it entail to get some woolies here from there? We are not rich pig farmers! We are simple people looking to provide for our own needs, put our meat up without electricity, preserve rare breeds, raise our family around these amazing animals (have a dairy goat herd now see - http://www.humblegarden.com for details), etc.

Thanks ahead of time!

Fellow foodie and lardophile,

Anonymous said...

Heath lives hundreds of miles away from where his swine herd is kept and visits them irregularly and then is surprised that they treat him like a stranger.

Throwing a strange pig a carrot isn't going to do much if it's ( at least from the pigs point of view) a random event.

Heath owns pigs but doesn't raise them. He is similar to the fellow who purchases a Porsche and then believes he's a race car driver by sole virtue of having written the check.

Check out red wattle pigs for a lard pig that you can purchase breeding stock for that is proving increasingly popular with chefs coast to coast.

Walter Jeffries said...

Be careful of those genetics - Aggression and temperament are highly heritable. I would cull those pigs. On our pastured pig farm, those that show aggression go to the butcher and at the youngest age possible. Over the years we've eliminated aggressive lines of pigs from our herd keeping only the best of the best.

On a closely related side note, based on the research I've done, pigs with very high aggression don't taste as good. If you've got a lot of agression in a pig, you might need to consider sausage. Docile, happy pigs taste best, have more tender meat and better marbling. Developing good genetics is a long term project and temperament is a key factor that is often overlooked.


Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont

Heath said...

Nika - I don't know what you mean by a "social environment". Isn't being in a pen with a few other pigs social enough? I think that's how it would be in nature. Based on your comment about being poor, I doubt Wooly Pigs can retail breeding stock to you at a price you'd find reasonable. But I'm open to any reasonable offer - just email me.

Anonymous - Where'd you hear the Red Wattle is a lard-type breed? E.g. as they explain here:

"The breed was a lean meat type and the flavor excellent. The Red Wattle has never been very popular, years ago people wanted pigs for their lard, of which the Red Wattle had very little. The breed got some interest in the 1980’s for it’s reputation for a lean carcass."

Mr Jeffries: All those pigs are barrows. We aren't worried about any of them reproducing. If you know of any rigorous meat science experiments involving aggressive pigs and their meat quality, I'd be interested in knowing about them.

Walter Jeffries said...

Heath, it's not barrow vs boar vs gilts vs sows that is the issue. It is temperament. We've done research here that shows the aggressive pig lines didn't taste as good, both males and females. Selecting for docile, 'happy' pigs coincidentally selects for better marbling and taste. This likely has to do with stress hormones being released in larger amounts by the more aggressive pigs.

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