The successful pig farmer always uses good breeding animals. The
piglets that are produced must grow fast and produce quality carcasses with a
high percentage of meat and a small quantity of fat.
Therefore, when you buy breeding animals, make sure that the pigs
come from a farm known to have pigs of good quality and where the
management and standard of hygiene are excellent. When buying pigs for the first time,
it is advisable to take someone along who has the necessary knowledge
In the case of a small-scale farm, with 20 or less breeding sows,
the following selection and breeding programme can be used:
management and use
grow faster than average
have less backfat than the average of the breed
have eaten less feed than average to reach a specific weight.
- A good boar will reach 90 kg live weight
before it is 140 days old, have a P2-backfat measurement of 15 mm or
less, and require only 2,99 kg of feed or less to gain 1 kg in weight
to grow from 30 to 90 kg live weight.
- Buy boars at least four or five weeks
before they are used for the first time. This will allow you time to
keep them in quarantine and the boars to adapt to the new environment.
Training and use of
Young boars must be carefully supervised to
identify possible problems and to make sure that they will not injure
themselves when serving a sow for the first time.
- The boar must be at least 8 months old.
- The boar and the sow should preferably
be about the same size.
- The boar should work (serve the sow) in
his own pen or in a pen that is familiar to him.
- The floor of the pen must not be
slippery and all obstructions removed.
- A small sow and not a gilt should be
used to train the boar.
Procedures when using a boar:
- The boar should be in the pen a few
minutes before the sow is brought into it so that he can get used to
- Stand in the pen with a board ready to
prevent the sow to harass the boar or to prevent the boar to harass
the sow, if necessary.
- Do not hurry the boar, let him work at
his own time.
- Talk gently to the boar so that he gets
used to your presence.
- Do not force the boar to mount the sow,
but direct him gently to the rear (backside) of the sow.
- If the sow is well on heat she will not
move around the pen too much. Help the boar by letting the sow stand
with her head to the corner of the pen.
- By adjusting the female's tail, attempt
to let the boar insert himself.
- After service, allow the boar to conduct
"courtship" under supervision for a few minutes, but do not
allow him to remount.
- If a young boar does not serve the first
time, repeat the above procedures every two to three days if possible.
Much patience is needed which will eventually be rewarded by having
boars which are temperamentally good with sows and people and which
have no bad habits.
- Once a young boar starts to serve
(work), he should not be used more than twice a week until he is
one year old.
- Older and full-grown boars (mature) can
be used three times a week, but preferably not on consecutive days.
- On a farm with 20 breeding sows at least
two boars must be kept, namely a young boar to serve gilts that come
onto heat for the first time, and a full-grown one to serve older and
heavier sows. It is also advisable to have a spare boar available at
- Finally it is important to keep records.
The dates when the boar has served a sow as well as the number of the
sow that has been served must be recorded so that infertile boars and
boars that give small litters can be identified and eliminated.
Replacement of boars
- Boars must be replaced when they become
too large to serve most of the sows on the farm.
- Boars usually have a maximum working
life of between 18 and 24 months. This means they should be replaced
when they are 30 to 36 months old.
- It is very important to keep record of
the boars' use so that infertile ones can be detected and replaced as
soon as possible.
- A low sex drive (libido) can also be a
problem. Some boars are slow workers and are sometimes reluctant and
only now and then willing to work. Attention must be given to these
boars so that they can be replaced if necessary.
Gilt (sow) selection and
Only the best among the young growing
female animals on the farm must be selected and kept for breeding. Select
breeding gilts from sows that produce large litters with above average
growth rate, and carcasses with a low fat content.
The following characteristics should be
considered when selecting gilts:
- Strong, straight legs with large,
- Gilts should walk straight and well, and
stand up on their claws without falling over at the pastern joints
just above the foot.
- A well-formed vulva and six well-shaped,
prominent teats on each side of the belly. The teats should start well
forward and be spaced evenly to allow adequate suckling for the
- A well-developed ham, good length with
light shoulders and head.
Replacement of gilts
If replacement gilts are not available when
needed or if they do not comply with the requirements, the gilts should be
bought. It is advisable to buy them from the same farm where the boars
come from, because in this way the previous owner can advise you on the
breeding policy for a small pig farm.
before first service
- Gilts are usually selected for breeding
at five to six months of age. The pigs not selected can then be sold
as baconers at a live weight of about 85 to 90 kg. The selected gilts
are reared to weigh between 120 and 130 kg at seven and a half to
eight months of age when they are ready to be served by a boar for the
- Gilts have to be in a good condition to
produce large litters (eight to 10 or more healthy piglets) and should
not be too fat when they are ready for mating. Therefore, they should
be fed about 2 kg of meal per day from the time of selection until a
boar serves them at the age of eight months. This will also ensure
that not too much fat is lost during the suckling period and that they
are in a good condition after weaning their first litter.
- Care and management of pregnant and
lactating sows (sows with piglets) are discussed in the chapter on
Culling of sows
Culled sows must be removed from the farm
and sold as soon as possible. It does not pay to keep culled sows on the
farm to gain weight before they are sold. As soon as the sow's udder has
returned to normal after weaning it is wise to send her to the abattoir. A
replacement gilt can then be brought into the herd immediately.
Reasons for removing sows from the herd are
usually not known beforehand. Therefore, replacement gilts should always
be available so that the number of breeding sows on the farm always
remains the same.
Reasons why sows have to be removed from
the herd and slaughtered: