Berkshire Pig Feeding and Management


a) porkers
Berkshire porkers' diets are restricted to a specific level to avoid over-fat pork being produced:

My theory, built up over years of discussing it with long-time Berkshire breeders, is to take advantage of the fast growth rate of the young pig up to 18 weeks or so, an age up to which they grow rather than lay down fat.  So I ad-lib up to a max of 3.5 lbs or 1.6 kg (ie as much as they can eat in 20 mins max up to 1.6 kg max daily) then keep them at 1.6kg to about 18-20 weeks then REDUCE to 3 lbs or 1.4 kg to finish. This works well with my porkers but other lines like the imported Lassetter and the Louise upgrade may vary.  Other rare breeds like Saddlebacks, Tamworths etc are completely different to Berkshires so their requirements will be different.

b) breeders

Pigs suitable for breeding and showing are selected at a very early age (usually at notching at 10 days old) and are separated from their siblings at about 10-12 weeks of age to be raised with other breeders on a more generous diet.These breeders I ad-lib up to about 2.3 kg, reducing as required if they get too fat (seen most easily as a double-chin, or  'jowly').

c) Sows

Prescriptively I feed well from weaning to service (5 days) then reduce to about 3 or 4 lbs a day until confirmed in pig usually after 3 weeks.  The boar gets the same, or more if he eats faster and he gest some of her share!

Then, it depends what I want to do with the sow.  If she is to be shown she may be ad-libbed to show date (usually maxed at say 6lbs night and morning as anything more will be wasted in my opinion) BUT she will be restricted if she gets fat enough (personal opinion).

If she is just a piglets producer she can be fed about 5 lbs a day until the last 2 or 3 weeks when perhaps about 8 lbs a day.

After farrowing I feed gently for a day or two, gradually increasing depending on the sows condition (she will be fatter perhaps, if she has been shown) and the number of piglets she has.  The aim is to reduce her condition to moderate-good by weaning, which is the best condition to go to the boar.  Therefore a fat sow with a small litter should be on say 5 lbs a day but a sow with a large litter would be on up to 12 lbs a day.  This is an art not a science?

Sucklers, still with their mom, I feed behind a raised electric fence, so they go under but the sow doesn't. Thereby they can eat their ration at a more leisurely pace without the sow having it.

d) boars.

Unfortunately they have to have exactly what their sows have.  So their intake fluctuates a lot, which I have never found to be a problem.  I tend to leave the sow with the boar until the next sow needs his services - then I would move the served sow to minimise sow contact as they invariably fight.

How I keep them
All are outside as I don't have any buildings for pigs (just a cattle and hay barn). This photo is in the top field looking out towards Dartmoor.

Feed is delivered in bulk bags and I have settled on a one-for-all ration at 18% protein with lysene which, according to feed experts 'Harpers' is what they call 'Finisher'.  So 3 week sucklers through to dry sows and boars all get this ration now.  I used to buy bagged feed as creep for the sucklers (20% protein plus lysene) and weaners (18% protein plus lysene) but can't see any benefit and it is much more expensive.  I keep 6  sows, breeding twice a year from each, which is exactly right for this traditional breed of pig as the weaners are not ready to wean before 8 - 9 weeks.

Arcs are made of plywood and bedded with straw from local wheat/barley farmers. Floors are not used, I get the sow to dig a ditch around her arc so that it never takes in water. (All fields have some incline).

Processing: The nearest abattoir is used, about 19 miles away.  I do have some private customers, and some pubs which take my sausages, PLUS PAIGNTON ZOO for their restaurant, all this work is done by butcher Richard Pollard (Pollards Quality Meats) at his Dartmouth butcher's shop.  

Some carcases go to Guy Sparkes of Blackheath in London SE3 7BT who comes to Devon to collect them in his refridgerated van every month or so.