The Orchard Pig
Why did we choose this pig for our small, sustainably-minded farm? We chose this breed for three primary reasons: hardiness, temperament, and mothering instinct. The Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) pig is a British, heritage breed of pig particularly suited for raising outdoors. They are large, white pigs with black spots and floppy ears that cover their eyes. In England, these pigs are raised by the Royal Family. However, here in the United States there are relatively few GOS pigs.
On our farm, we plan to keep pigs in the woods and on pasture, rotating them to fresh ground as needed. While we provide them with a shelter from the sun, rain, and wind, we need pigs who enjoy living outside and will thrive in a wooded environment. The pigs will be our partners in cleaning up the brush, small trees, and fallen logs in the forest. Our sows, Mercy and Butter, certainly love exploring the woods and rooting up the forest floor. They have even carved a napping space out of a pile of fallen trees!
Because we will be rotating the pigs to various spots on our property, a portable electrified net is used for fencing. It is essential for us to choose a pig that will respect the fence. We have definitely found that the GOS pigs do not like the electric zap of the fence and give it a wide berth. They refuse to come within a foot of the fence, which is exactly what we wanted! Our GOS pigs have friendly disposition and are easily motivated with food. This makes caring for them everyday simple and stress-free for us both.
Finally, the mothering instinct of the GOS pigs is strong. They can give birth (farrow) outside with appropriate shelter and can safely raise their piglets. Sows look out for piglets before lying down. In commercial pig operations, sows are held down with a device to prevent them from standing and walking around because they will crush their piglets. Commercial pigs have been specifically selected for quick growth, efficient feed conversion, and abundant, lean meat. As a result, the natural mothering instincts were lost. However, this good sense is still present in the GOS, and many other heritage breed pigs.
Of course, the GOS pigs are supposed to make superior bacon and have high-quality, marbled meat. We'll give updates throughout the year on our GOS sows and weaner pigs!