Pigs are popular as a source of food and income due to their rapid growth rates, high feed-to-meat conversion ratios, low area requirements, high reproductive capacity, and calm temperament. This is why it is thought that humans already domesticated pigs 9 000 years ago.
Breeds available in Southern Africa:
The Kolbroek is a South African breed with a long history. The breed’s characteristics: resilience, docility, good foraging skills, and the ability to get by with very little, make it ideal for outdoor production. They will eat anything from discarded fruit in an orchard, to leftover vegetables from the kitchen, to crop remnants in the garden. In addition, they are less likely to suffer from sunburn thanks to their dark skin. The sows are gentle and productive as breeding stock. They have an average rate of reproduction, with litter sizes ranging from six to nine piglets. Due to the breed’s perceived slow growth rate and a cultural stigma, kolbroek meat is not popular in the mass market, but its popularity is growing in the traditional, slow food, and freerange food sectors. The Kolbroek pig is an adaptable breed.
When used in breeding programmes, crossing with breeds like the Duroc and Large White results in offspring with better growth rates, feed conversion, and carcass quality. The offspring can be sold at 90 to 100 days of age, making them ideal for sale on small farms and smallholdings, or to feedlots.
The Belgian village of Piètrain is the birthplace of this white-and-black spotted breed. This medium-sized breed is stockier and wider at the shoulders, with shorter legs than most pig breeds. When compared to other black or black-spotted breeds, the black hair on these pigs is not as darkly pigmented. At around eight months of age, the boars have developed sufficient muscle and are ready to be used for reproduction.
They are typically crossed with other breeds in an effort to increase meat production. While the sows may be productive, they tend to be poor mothers. The hams are enormous and muscular. They have an incredibly high lean-to-fat ratio. This breed is highly sought after for fresh meat processing due to its well-deserved reputation for exceptionally high-quality lean meat. The breed’s sows have a high reproductive rate, but they do not make the best mothers and do not produce much milk.
The Large Black is a breed of large, all-black pigs that descended from the Old English Hog, a pig breed that first appeared in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. The breed’s coat colour, resilience, good nature, and skill as a forager make them ideal for outdoor production. Additionally, they are less likely to suffer from sunburn than white breeds. The sows are friendly, productive, and excellent mothers who produce plenty of milk. The meat has gained a negative reputation over time due to the breed’s black colour, and baconers have shied away from it because the black pigment (high levels of melanin) makes the meat look like it contains round black seeds.
It is possible, however, that there are niche markets for large blacks and their crossings, particularly in the traditional, slow food, or freerange markets. Large Blacks are only slightly smaller than the Yorkshire pigs. They have elongated heads, square faces, and lopped ears. The bodies of Large Blacks are of good depth, moderately long, and backed with strength. The black pigmentation is dense, and the hair is fine and thick.
The breed is known for its resilience and thriftiness, and its light shoulders, good sides, and hams have earned it praise. While the breed’s mothering skills and litter size are above average, it does not appear to mature as quickly as some others. Many years have been spent crossing the Large Black with the Landrace to create a top-tier F1 (first generation offspring) mother.
These F1 Large Black and Landrace hybrids have performed exceptionally well in outdoor experiments. However, the Large Black is a large pig, and some colour showed up in the first cross. To get a white slaughter generation from F1 Large Black and Landrace hybrids, it is suggested that a Large White boar be used on the females. Two major obstacles to the breed’s future development are the lack of available stock and the inherent stigma attached to the breed’s black colouration.
The Hampshire is one of the ancient pig breeds of England. The Hampshire belongs to the belted breeds, so called because of the white skin and hair belt that runs from the shoulders down the front legs and feet of the breed.
Their massive size was both praised and criticised, but their prolificacy, hardy vitality, foraging ability, and exceptional carcass qualities won them widespread acclaim. This breed has a longer neck than other common commercial breeds. The first animals of this breed were brought to South Africa in the 1980’s so that local breeders would have access to a new genetic pool. While the breed is still widely used in the United States, its dark skin and the presence of a gene that reduces meat quality have caused it to fall out of favour in Europe, Canada, and even South Africa.
The sows have large litters, but they are not known for their parenting skills. The temperament of sows and boars is mild. Some Hampshire boars lack sexual aggression, and low libido is a common trait among the breed. Due to the presence of coloured hair follicles, it is recommended that the offspring of this terminal sire contain no more than 50% Hampshire genes.
Pig Farming in South Africa. (2022). Available at: https://southafrica.co.za/pig-breeding.html
Breeds of Livestock – Breeds of Swine, Department of Animal Science. (1996). Available at: https://breeds.okstate.edu/swine/index.html
Pig Breeders Society of South Africa. (2023). Available at: http://pigsa.co.za/