Gloucestershire Old Spots
As I look out the window of my office, onto the pigs, a comfort comes over me and I am thankful that my husband and I decided to try our hands at a little pig farming. We had been discussing how we could use the land to build a more sustainable life for ourselves and what animals might help us to achieve that goal. I believe Shane was drawn to the idea of pigs because his grandfather was a pig farmer in Missouri when he was growing up; I (being an animal lover in general) thought it would be a great opportunity to work with an animal I had never been around. So our search began for the perfect breed.......
Now, I did not like the idea of the pasture being moonscaped by a bunch of little pig snouts but as we researched, we happened upon a small number of heritage breeds known for grazing and foraging in pastures. We read about the Large Blacks and the American Guinea Hogs, then stumbled across one of the most unique looking breeds, the GOS. Their appearance is like non-other, with these huge ears that flop forward hanging over their eyes and a turned up snout, along with their coloration, white with black spots. They seemed like they just may have the personality and character we had been looking for in a pig. To top it all off, they are docile and known to have great temperments.
She is from Tulip’s first litter. We knew we were going to keep one of her gilts and couldn’t be happier. She is so much like her mother, from looks to personality. She keeps us laughing and we look forward to watching her mature and become a mother. If she is anything like Tulip, she will be one of the best mom’s on the farm. Her first litter is due March 20, 2016!
GOSA Registration: US/2/LFG/0907/0401/14
GOSPBU Registration: PM/2/LFG/0401/0907/14
Color Group: Red
GOS/Mulefoot/Large Black Cross
GOSA Registration: US/2/LFG/0917/1201/15
GOSPBU Registration: PM/LFG/1201/0907/15
Color Group: Red
And so it all began.......
As you can see, we followed our instincts and found a breeder in Georgia that had one little gilt for sale. We named her “Tulip” but couldn’t just bring home one little pig. She needed a companion so we purchased a crossbreed as well, “Elka”. She is a GOS/Mulefoot/Large Black cross and all of her babies will be raised for meat production.
The most exciting part about this venture is that we are helping to preserve a wonderful breed that almost went extinct. When we purchased them, they were classified as critically endangered by the Livestock Conservancy but have recently been moved to the threatened list as of this year, 2015. This was the determining factor for raising this breed. There had to be a bigger reason than just meat production for us and this was it. The opportunity to give back and help conserve a species.
Bit by the Pig-Bug!
Just a couple of months later, we came across a breeding pair of registered Old Spots for sale in North Carolina. Rose was pregnant and due sometime in October 2013, so we thought it would be a great way to jump start our pig operation. Afterall, the girls would not be of breeding age until May 2014. We jumped at the opportunity and haven’t looked back since.
About the Breed
The GOS is a heritage breed that was developed in Gloucestershire, England in the 1800s. They are known for their foraging and grazing abilities, making them good for pasture raising. These qualities earned them the nicknames “cottage pig” and “orchard pig”. The Old Spots were used to clean the orchards of fallen fruits.
As mentioned above, they are a rare breed and even though the numbers of registered animals is rising, genetically they are still in danger. There are efforts underway to import semen from the UK to help diversify the bloodlines in the Unites States. We look forward to the results this will hopefully yield for the overall conservation of the breed.
What Does Heritage Mean?
Heritage is a term used to describe breeds that thrived in the time of our forefathers. Overtime, they developed traits that made them well-suited for local environments including pasture-based settings. As industrial agriculture developed, these breeds began to fade in the shadows of modern breeds that grew faster and produced leaner pork. Heritage breeds are known for good maternal instincts, the ability to forage, good even temperament and efficient feed conversion on pasture.
These animals were also raised for meat, bacon and lard. The GOS is known for the fat marbling in the meat that add so much flavor. The saying, “Pork, the other white meat” doesn’t apply here! It is a beautiful rich red color and a must try for any pork enthusiast.
Breed preservation is very important to us. We share a respect for living creatures and viewed this as an amazing opportunity to help an endangered animal. With this purpose in mind, the only way to save the breed is to eat it. I know, this sounds horrible to some of you, but it is true. Not all piglets will be of breeding quality, therefore the secondary purpose has to be for meat production
This offers us another great opportunity to raise premium pork that is succulent in taste with qualities not found in modern pork. The meat is beautifully marbled with fat that melts as it cooks, basting it in its own juices. The result is tender, delicious pork.
Let’s Meet The Pigs
Our first Old Spot
She is one of the farm favorites. Tulip has an amazing personality that passes right down to her babies. Her piglets are the most humorous on the farm, not to mention the loudest. They have a set of lungs that just won’t quit! She is so sweet and fun to be around. Tulip is also an amazing mother. So gentle and young at heart herself, her babies love to be with her. She likes to run in the pasture with them and simply exudes a fun nature.
Color Group: Red
“Honeysuckle” is from the very first litter born on the farm. She was born to Rose and Ralph. She was a precious piglet that made it known that she wanted to stay on the farm. We couldn't resist, so she stayed! It was the beginning of many piglets to be born here and we never wanted to forget how it all began. She has had 2 litters so far and we hope many more to come.........
GOSA Registration: US/2/FRY/1009/1301/13
GOSPBU Registration: PS/LGF/1301/1009/13
Color Group: Green
(In the House)
This handsome guy came from Kansas. He is turning out to be a very nice boar, great temperament and looks. He just began breeding on the farm. We are so excited about his offspring with Tulip and Flower. They should be quite the sight!
GOSA Registration: US/1/MHF/0406/2-3/15
Color Group: Blue
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