Pig breeding is a subject that fills people with excitement and has the OOOO and AHHH factor. I so often take phone calls from excited and enthusiastic people who claim to have “always wanted pigs” and want to own a breeding gilt or two, or may have been advised to have a sow in pig so they don’t have to wait. It is my opinion and of which I also advise the enthusiastic people that this is not the way. I have heard so many failing stories of people who would not or could not or did not want to wait, stories of litters dying, the sow dying during birth, ailments that they were unable to deal with because they were not proficient in identifying the problem early on or thought “oh it will go away if we leave it for awhile”. Then there are those that go to the markets and purchase a sow with piglets, or a sow in pig or some fattening pigs, I am not saying don’t go to these markets but take someone with you who knows what to look for and can advise you. As people new to pig keeping are so easily sold too and you could come back with an aggressive sow, a sow that was most probably sold because she no longer produces good litters or at worse is barron. You could purchase piglets from the market for fattening and find you get them home and they have ailments that are a cost you had not allowed for. So be on your guard and take someone experienced with you.
On receiving phone calls filled with enthusiasm many of you are, which I am pleased about, have come to me after attending Gillian Dixon's Pig Course, whereby you already have the structure and knowledge in place. But those of you who come to me with the same enthusiasm have not been on the course my advice will also be the same. I encourage you piggy people to come and see my set-up, see what I do and how I do it. Answer any questions you may have, show you the mothers, how they are kept outside and how I manage my girls. I also advise that if you have never kept pigs before to take two for fattening first this way you will have a feel (although not the full experience), and the dedication that is required for the first few months before they go to slaughter, acquiring suitable housing, feeding, regular contact and the insignificant situations, for example comparing the types of soil and coping with the eventualities that come from this and stimulation and so it goes on.
I do not agree with individuals that encourage those of you new to pig keeping purchasing a sow in pig. And the reasons are thus (which are all experiences I have had the regret of being told): On moving a sow or gilt in pig and depending on how far into her term she is has proven to be a very distressing time, resulting in the sow aborting; also moving a sow or gilt in pig to new surroundings with new people together with totally unfamiliar surroundings is also distressing resulting in the sow/gilt in pig to become aggressive towards the new owners (not exactly a good introduction and encouragement the first timer would wish to encounter rather a baptism of fire), the sow/gilt dies during farrowing (reasons could be ten-fold, for example, the sow was knowingly sold with the underlying ailment, or she could have been too old) or knowingly has small litters. Also, in retrospect, why should pig keepers sell sows in pig? Yes it is done and to the experienced pig keeper it is no problem at all, this is done to order for the experience pig keeper. But those new to pig keeping, you should be asking why is there a sow in pig for sale, perhaps if you are interested in going down this avenue take someone experienced with you who knows what they are looking for and is able to ask the right questions for you.
But the best advice is, grow with your herd so they know you and you know them they interact with your voice and your body language as you will with theirs watching them grow and knowing their quirky little ways and their grumpy moods and at the same time knowing your limitations.
So after all my waffling, your decision is to pig breed. The Oxford Sandy & Black is a wonderful, gracious, pleasing pig with an excellent temperament, is an all rounder, has excellent mothering skills and a good outdoor pig who does not suffer sun burn apart from the piglets on their little ears but nothing that factor 50 sun cream can not help with. The boars are equally sound and of good nature.
Please when looking to breed it is important if you can pop and see the owners of your potential weaners and all us piggy people are very accommodating and if one cannot help then we will surely put you in touch with someone who can. You may be too far from some of us just to pop in. But having said this it is worth travelling for good Oxford Sandy & Black pigs regardless of sex. It is also worth seeing a couple of us Oxford Sandy & Black pig breeders so you can get an idea of how one persons ideas differ from the other and how the combination of all the breeders you have seen can work for you.
If you are keeping pigs as a business you will also most certainly be involved in breeding. Some people choose to run “finishing units”, where they buy in stock that other people have bred and then raise it to slaughter age, but most people keep their own breeding animals and have a programme for litter production. Some of the issues to consider in relation to breeding are the following: