You’ll come across plenty of information out there regarding which pig breed you should get. Maybe too much information, since the more you look, the more confusing it gets!
Every breed organization touts the growth and quality of their genetics and most folks with a few litters of pigs for sale will say those pigs will grow well, but what pigs will actually grow the fastest for you when you get them home?
The fastest growing pigs are crossbred pigs. Crossbred pigs reach 220 pounds 6.5% faster on 2.3% less feed per pound of gain, when compared to purebred pigs.
Consider getting your piglets from a small, hands on farmer in your area. You’ll be able to get high quality pigs that are bred to preform well for your area.
Steer clear of the smaller breeds or the rare or unusual breeds of pigs, they will all take much longer to finish out than a high quality crossbred feeder pig.
Best Pigs For Breeding Stock will help you work through selecting your breeding herd if you want to go the route of breeding and raising your own feeder pigs.
A high quality, well bred crossbred pig will grow the fastest
A crossbred pig is the pig that will grow the fastest. Of course, this hinges of having high quality parent stock! Crossbreeding won’t fix poor genetics, but crossbreeding will bring out the best of both parents in the piglets.
The reason why crossbred pigs will grow more quickly than purebred is a phenomenon called hybrid vigor. Hybrid vigor is an increase in the good traits of each parent breed, resulting in a faster growing, more hardy piglet.
Most commercially raised pigs are crossbreds to take advantage of hybrid vigor
This is why most of the pigs raised on commercial pig farms are crossbred, usually a white line mom (like a Yorkshire or Landrace) and a meat breed dad (like a Duroc or Hampshire) are used to make “blue butt” piglets, the standard crossbred feeder pig.
These blue butt piglets, a mostly white pig with a smattering of grey spots high on the back and around the tail, are the most popularly raised piglets. They grow faster.
While it’s true that large confinement type pig farms also like crossbreeding, don’t let that keep you from getting crossbred feeder pigs.
Your pigs will be completely different than commercial pigs because of where you bought them (from a small, hands on farmer) and how you raise them.
Sincerely, high quality, well bred crossbred piglets are your best bet for fast growing pigs.
Purebred pigs will grow more slowly than crossbred pigs
Since purebred pigs do not get the jump in productivity that crossbreeding provides, purebred piglets will grow a bit more slowly than crossbred piglets.
Nothing wrong with this, you should just be aware of what you are buying and remember these are averages!
Remember, we are talking 6.5% here, so if reaching finishing weight took 100 days for the purebred piglets, it would take 93.5 days for the crossbreds. Not a ton of difference there.
Let me be clear, if I had the choice between a great looking set of purebred piglets and a so-so looking set of crossbreds, you can bet your bottom dollar, I’d pick the purebreds!
Great purebred genetics produce great pigs. Great crossbred genetics produce great pigs, that on average, will gain faster than their purebred peers. However, junky genetics in either produce junky, slow growing, poor gaining pigs.
Hybrid vigor from crossbreeding the parents will not increase carcass merit of the piglets
While this sounds confusing at first, it’s not, let me break it down for you.
Hybrid vigor from crossbreeding increases the growth rate and hardiness of your piglets, but it does not change their body shape from the median of the parent’s body shape.
Crossbred piglets will be halfway between their parents, in terms of body shape. This is important because body shape is part of determining carcass merit. Carcass merit is the likely meat producing ability of the pig.
Carcass traits, which is the body shape of the pig, are highly heritable. This makes sense, if you breed two long lean pigs together, chances are you’ll get long lean piglets! Breed two chunky pigs, you’ll get chunky piglets.
What happens when you breed a long lean sow (mom pig) to a chunky boar (dad pig)? The piglets will be somewhere in between, probably in the middle.
You are not getting a “bump up” in carcass merit (body shape) because of crossbreeding. You are getting a set of piglets that will be in the middle, chunkier than their mom but longer and leaner than their dad.
If hybrid vigor also increased carcass merit, the crossbred piglets would be just as chunky as their dad, but that’s not how it goes. They will be in the middle, somewhere between long lean and chunky.
So, compared to their mom, the piglets are packing on more meat, but compared to their dad, the piglets are longer and leaner.
So, what does this matter to you? Width and fat cover of your finished pig
If you want the most meat per pig to put in your freezer, you should stick with a stoutly made purebred piglet or a cross of two breeds that are both widely built.
Using a maternal line mom will make the blue butt type crossbred piglets hang a lower total weight at slaughter than a piglet with two meat type parents.
This is the trade you are making: fastest grower is the blue butt type with a lower hanging weight (less meat for your freezer) but the meaty piglet will yield more but take a bit longer to do it.
Get pigs that have a Duroc sire for fastest growth
According to Evaluating Breeds of Swine for Crossbreeding Programs, using a Duroc boar will produce the fastest growing piglets.
Note, this study is not evaluating purebred Duroc piglets, it is Duroc sired piglets that are crossbred, for instance using a white line sow and a Duroc boar to produce the blue butt type piglets.
Duroc sired pigs had an advantage for growth rate and Hampshire sired pigs were found to be superior for carcass meritEvaluating Breeds of Swine for Crossbreeding Programs, written by A. Clutter, D. Buchanan, W. Luce, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
What the above quote is telling us is that if you want the fastest growing piglets, go with crossbred piglets that have a Duroc sire. If you want piglets that are great for carcass, go with crossbred piglets that are Hampshire sired.
Fast growing pigs require good management
To keep your piglets growing their best, you need to do your part! Your piglets need to have plenty of feed, water and room to exercise in addition to a buddy and the ability to stay comfortable in adverse weather conditions.
To learn more about giving pigs what they need to grow their best, read my article Want Your Pigs To Grow Faster?
Evaluating Breeds of Swine for Crossbreeding Programs, The Pig Site.com I used the information: reaching 220 pounds 6.5% faster on 2.3% less feed per pound and the statement to regarding Duroc being the sire that produces the fastest growing crossbred feeder pigs.