How to Pick out a Market Hog

Two Methods:Considering Important Features of a Market HogExamining the Pig’s Build

Picking out a market hog for the first time for 4-H or for another farming club can be a challenging process. However, there are some simple strategies that you can use to ensure that you purchase a healthy market hog that will make a good project. If you plan to compete with your pig, then you will just need to be a little more thorough.

Method 1
Considering Important Features of a Market Hog

  1. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 1
    Identify your goals for the market hog. If you are going to be raising a market hog for a 4-H project or just for fun, then you do not need to get too technical with your selection. You can simply look for a pig that is in good health and that has no obvious defects. However, if you want to compete at a state fair or you want to get the best possible price for your hog's meat, then you may want to put some extra care into selecting your market hog.
    • Learn as much as you can about what the judges will consider if you plan to compete with your hog. Before you select a hog, you may want to see if you can get information about what the judges will consider. These considerations are often complex and cover several categories, such as structure, health, and attitude of the hog.
    • Read your 4-H swine raising project guide. Your guide can help you to navigate the complex process of raising swine. As part of your project, you may be required to complete activities and give presentations on several aspects of raising swine.[1] Make sure that you check these guidelines to ensure that you are meeting your program's requirements.
  2. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 2
    Observe the pig for signs of good health. It is crucial to purchase a hog that is in good health. Otherwise, your hog may not mature properly and you may have to spend money on getting the hog well. Before you purchase any hog, make sure that you observe it for signs of good health. If a hog shows any signs of illness, or if you notice that more than 10% of the producer's other hogs show signs of illness, then avoid purchasing a hog from this producer.
    • Signs of illness may include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, discharge from the nose, scratching, and/or being underweight.[2][3]
    • Ask the producer to show you the hog’s records, such as vaccinations and dewormers that have been administered to the hog.[4] If the producer cannot or will not show you these records, then you may not want to buy from this producer.
  3. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 3
    Consider the pig’s sex. You will choose between a gilt and a barrow when you purchase a market hog. A gilt is a young female hog and a barrow is a young castrated male hog. Gilts may produce leaner meat than barrows, but barrows may gain weight faster than gilts.[5]
    • Consider your time frame and goals before you choose your hog’s sex. For example, if you have a shorter time frame, then your may want to choose a barrow since it will likely gain weight faster than a gilt.
  4. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 4
    Determine if the pig is purebred or crossbred. The offspring of two purebred pigs of the same breed is considered a purebred pig while the offspring of two pigs from different breeds is considered a crossbreed pig. Purebred pigs may have some superior traits, such as leaner body mass and good bone structure. However, crossbreed pigs are sometimes healthier than their purebred parents due to heterosis, which is when the combined genetics of two breeds produce a superior offspring.[6]
    • Common breeds of pig include the Yorkshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, Landrace, Poland China, and Spotted Swine.[7]
    • Choosing a healthy pig is your main priority, but you may also want to consider a pig’s genetics if you will be competing with your pig. Keep in mind that you will need to have a purebred pig's papers to register it as purebred for a competition. Ask to see these if you are considering a purebred pig.
    • Deciding between a crossbred pig and a purebred pig depends on your project goals. For example, if you plan to use a gilt (female pig) for breeding, then you might want to select a white breed pig, such as a Chester White, because white breed gilts have better mothering abilities than other breeds.[8]
  5. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 5
    Ask other 4-H members where they purchased their pigs. Another good strategy for purchasing a quality market hog is to buy one from a producer that other 4-H members have gone to. Ask older members of your 4-H club where they purchased their market hogs and how successful those hogs were.[9]
    • Make sure that you avoid any producers that other 4-H members warn you away from as well. For example, if a 4-H member advises you to avoid a pig producer who often has sick pigs, then avoid that producer.

Method 2
Examining the Pig’s Build

  1. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 6
    Look at the pig from behind. Checking a pig from behind can help you to determine if it has good strong legs. The legs should be straight and sturdy looking. You should also look for a 45 degree angle or V-shape between the pig’s legs. If the pig's legs are wider or narrower than this, then the pig may not make a good project.[10]
    • Avoid pigs that have wide set legs or that have a square appearance from behind. This indicates that the pig may have too much fat on its body and will not produce lean meat, which is what most pork consumers prefer.
  2. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 7
    Watch for structural defects. If you are competing with your pig, then it is important to make sure that your pig does not have any obvious defects. If the pig has any obvious defects, then do not purchase it. Common structural defects may include:[11]
    • a hernia on the pig’s scrotum or stomach, which will look like a small or large lump. If you notice anything protruding from the pig's belly or scrotum, then do not purchase this pig.
    • kyphosis, which will look like a hump on the pig's back. If a pig looks like it has a curved back or a hump on its back, then do not purchase it.
  3. Image titled Pick out a Market Hog Step 8
    Check the pig’s frame. By looking at a pig from the side, you can get an idea of what its body structure is like and how quickly it is growing. Look for a pig whose legs all seem to be positioned at the same angle and that walks with its head held up. This indicates that the pig has a good body structure and that it will make a good project.[12]
    • Avoid pigs that walk with their heads bent low or that have legs bending at different angles. All of the pig's legs should bend at the same angle and should be about the same length.
    • As you check the pig from the side, pay attention to the distance between the pig's body and the ground. The pig's legs should all be the same length and its weight should look like it is evenly distributed. If the pig's front legs are obviously shorter than the back legs, then avoid purchasing this pig.

Article Info

Categories: Pigs