Selecting a pig depends on its conformation. And friends, at times it's not easy to determine. It's certainly not always as easy as say looking at Rosie O'Donnell verses Angelina Jolie.
Since I've had a few people write and ask me advice about selecting a good pig, I decided to write what I know about selecting a pig.
As I said before, first thing is conformation. Conformation essentially means how well an animal is put together. An animal's conformation is the blending of the various body parts. It's all about how well they fit together visually and physically.
In pigs, each breed and line of pig has its own characteristics. However, a generalization can be reached regarding selecting breeding stock. And yes, this same criteria applies to both boar and gilt selection.
The ideal pig provides good cushioning and flexion to all of its joints. Pigs that demonstrate good cushioning and flexion will have an easier time getting up and down. They are less likely to suffer from leg injuries and complaints. This means that they are more likely to be retained in the herd for breeding.
The toes of a pig should be big, even, and well spaced to take the weight of the animal. You should reject an adult pig whose toes are different by 1cm or more. And don't forget that the condition of the toes is important also. The toes should have no visible cracks, swellings or injuries. This needs to include the underneath surface.
The front leg position and angle of the dew claws indicates the strength of the pasterns. Ideally the dew claws should only just contact the floor. Looking at a pig from the front, the toes should face forward for good conformation.
The hind leg position and angle of the dew claws indicates the strength of the pasterns just like the front. And yes, again ideally the dew claws should be just off the floor. Also like the front legs, the toes should face forward.
Avoid pigs with abnormalities, particularly heritable and congenital abnormalities. Avoid any pig with a visible defect. The last thing you want is to select a pig capable of passing those abnormalities and/or defects down from one generation to the next.
Remember that pigs are cute and very nice to raise.
But to help visualize what a pig should look like, take a look at Grand Champion pigs.
Get to know what judges are looking for both good and bad. Doing this will help hone your eye to distinguish good verses great conformation.
Remember that determining Champion conformation is not easy. It's not as easy as say looking at an obese person and comparing his or her appearance to a slim, toned, athletically built person.
It's not like say comparing Oprah to Sandra Bullock, or say comparing Rosie O'Donnell to Angelina Jolie, or say a Micheal Moore to a Brad Pitt.
If that were so, well then almost immediately you would be able to recognize that one is more like a pig than the other. Their conformation differences would be easy to judge. One would look like he or she has more of the conformation that you want in a big well fed pig, while the other doesn't resemble a pig at all.
But like I said before, it's not that easy. In contrast, judging pigs takes time and experience. After a while you will able to look at two pigs that have very similar conformation and see the small differences.
What this means is that even though a pig might look like a good pig, your experience will help you see that even a pig that looks good superficially can also have conformation that is just not right.