Merits of the Large White
PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:42 28 March 2014
Career smallholder Tim Tyne considers the merits of the Large White pig
Career smallholder Tim Tyne considers the merits of the Large White pigAlthough the pure Large White is a recognised as traditional native breed (classified as ‘minority’ by the RBST), the name is also generically applied to the many big, pale skinned commercial types of pig, most of which are derived from the Large White, often in combination with the Welsh and the Landrace.
The very first pigs I was responsible for, as a child on my parents’ smallholding, were a pair of commercial type ‘large white’ weaners that we’d bought from a local farm, with the intention of raising them for the freezer. Very successful it was too, and it’s just what I’d recommend to anyone wanting to make a start on producing their own pork. Later my parents did move on to keep pure rare breed sows, producing their own piglets for fattening, but after mixed results from the use of AI they bought a commercial / hybrid Large White boar to get the sows in-pig.
My next experience with Large Whites was in stark contrast to the way we kept pigs at home! After leaving school I worked for a while on an intensive pig unit, where several hundred sows were kept indoors all year round, tethered in small stalls. They were only released for mating and for giving birth, which took place in farrowing crates. The piglets were weaned at a ridiculously young age and rapidly fattened, and the sows were immediately returned to the boar. The whole set-up was more factory than farm, symptomatic of the industry’s response, at that time, to public demand for cheap food. Although it’s not the way I’d like to keep pigs, the opportunity to work with so many animals within the confines of such a small area taught me an awful lot in a very short space of time.
Now I keep pigs in my own right, and have largely followed in my parents’ footsteps by using a commercial type Large White boar on rare breed sows. Initially we took our sows to a neighbour’s boar, but later kept our own. Although we haven’t got one at the moment, the last grew to a huge size (almost 7' long, by 3' 6? high at the shoulder), and lived to a ripe old age. Even in his declining years he rarely failed to get sows in pig at the first attempt. We called him Georgie Porgie, which was something to do with (black) pudding and (pork) pie. He was a bit inclined to smash things up, but we forgave him his irritable temper on account of the quality of his offspring.
* Has had a huge influence on the British pig industry.
* Many specialist strains have been developed, some of which are bred specifically for outdoor systems.
* An exceptionally long bodied breed, with prick or semi-lop ears.
* Visit www.britishpigs.org.uk