The Tamworth hog was bred to have lean and tender meat, in a slower growing pig, that could thrive on lower energy surplus and waste foods. They originally were selected for their ability to forage in the woods for their own food, and they have long and efficient snouts that are very effective in tilling the soil, even where you do not wish to have it tilled.
Tamworths have gained some ground in recent years among producers of pastured pork, in part for their self-sufficiency, and in part for their prolificacy. They are intelligent, and one of the more agreeable breeds. The sows are capable of weaning and caring for large litters of piglets that have very high survival rates.
These hogs also have a finer bone structure, which gives them a higher meat to bone ratio, and results in a larger amount of meat from the carcass.
- Type - bacon
- Size - medium to large
- Production Capacity - slower production of lean meat
- Special Features - red skin means they do not sunburn easily
- Best for Farms - a favorite pig for pastured pork operations and homesteads
- Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - lean and fine grained meat
- Other Products - not applicable
- Historic or Contemporary Significance - a heritage breed that fell out of favor due to industrial ag preferences, but which is regaining some ground because of the change of focus of small farms
- Housing and Space Requirement - they can be housed in smaller spaces due to their less aggressive natures, but do best with ample outdoor range.
- Regional Adaptations - adaptable to a range of conditions
- Feed Requirement - more thrifty than many pigs, they do best with plenty of fresh foods
- Other Considerations - Tamworths have gained ground but are still a more expensive breed.
A NOTE ABOUT PIGS:
Pigs are omnivores. They eat anything people do, and quite a few things people don't eat. They do best on a diet of leftovers. All the stuff that a farm or homestead produces, that isn't usable by other animals or at the table. All the stuff that normally goes in the garbage can or compost heap because you don't have anything better to do with it.
Pigs thrive on:
- Garden scraps - tops, roots, bug eaten lettuce, overblown squash or cukes, the comfrey or Jerusalem Artichokes that have taken over, the vines at the end of the season, the weeds (give them time to grow large enough to be worth tossing to the pigs), the potatoes with wireworms or the half-eaten sweet potatoes, or any infested plants WITH the bugs.
- Orchard windfalls and vineyard excess - they'll eat anything that hits the ground, wormy apples, split prunes, bird pecked cherries, soggy strawberries, excess blackberry vines, the cuttings from grape vines and fig trees, and just about anything else that comes from the orchard (rabbits love these things too). A single 5 gallon bucket of windfall apples from a small orchard every other day, fed to nine pigs, over the course of about 2 months, made a difference of about 25 lbs per pig compared to the year before with the same feeding schedule minus the apples.
- Kitchen scraps - anything leftover or trimmed off. Freezer burned food, including meats, old food storage that needs tossed, cereal or grain products that have been infested with weevils, etc. And of course, that dish you made that just didn't turn out tasting like anything that the family wanted to finish, but which you put in the fridge anyway because you did not want to waste it...
- Butchering Scraps - yeah, pigs eat meat, and no, it does not make them more violent to do so. It only affects them negatively if you let them kill the animals themselves (they will if they get the chance), so go ahead and give them any butcher scraps, feathers, fur, and all.
- Dairy excess - whey, skim milk, sour milk, and anything that is on the edge where it is not fresh enough that you feel comfortable using it, but which is not outright moldy or spoiled.
- A number of other food sources, including rodents, snakes, and various forms of vermin, if they are on pasture, or given space to roam where those things are a problem, and pigs are the traditional stump extractor, they'll go after the tender roots and the bugs that live under the stump, and uproot the thing in the process (of course, they can do this with trees too, so some discretion is required on your part in deciding where to pen them). We do not recommend industrial waste. But whatever food sources you have a surplus of on the farm, and whatever needs consumed, the pig will happily convert.
Pigs generally forage well, and are prime opportunists, so they'll tend to spot and take advantage of any available food source. Those breeds that are less self-sufficient at hunting their own food will quickly sharpen up when given the opportunity to forage. Pigs can go feral very quickly if they are let run without care.
Pigs may be bred to produce lean meat with very little body fat, or they may be bred to produce more fatty meat and a lot of lard fat. Some pigs cross over - generally if you keep them lean they'll have little body fat for lard, but if you feed them up, they'll pad up nicely and give you a nice rendering of lard to get you through the year.
Lard has been very devalued by many people, but is especially helpful for homesteads since it is one form of healthy fat that you can produce for yourself. Given the choice, I'll go for the lard hog over the bacon hog, or a crossover if I cannot get a good lard hog. Lard is useful for cooking, and for making soaps and cosmetics. What is not of use in commercial pork production is of high value for the homestead or small farm, so depending on your needs, the breed of pig and their purpose may be very important.
Lard is the reason pig breeding has changed over the last 100 years, and the reason many older breeds are endangered. Historically pigs were valued for lard production as well as meat production. In more recent history, the trend has moved to leaner and leaner pork, and lard has been bred out of many breeds.
Most people who buy a weaner pig or two in the spring, to fatten for fall butchering, do not pay attention to the breed. They just find someone who is selling pigs, assume all pigs are the same, and drop their cash on the least expensive squealers. They'd be happier with the meat if they know the breed, and know the type of pig they are getting. This is especially important for people who WANT a lard hog, or who prefer a more tender and juicy meat.