In the last few years Meishan boars (pronounced May Shan) have grown in popularity with producers across North America, and it isn't just for their dashing good looks. While Meishans aren't much to look at—they honestly look like a mix between a basset hound, a pug, and a pig—their breed characteristics are well-suited to open checks and boar stations with automatic heat detection.
Meishans are a medium-sized Chinese breed and one of the oldest domesticated Asian breeds. They were first brought to the US in the late 1980s by three laboratories, two of which bred them specifically for research on their early sexual maturity and large litter sizes. But the agreement that the USDA had with China stipulated that the Meishans were restricted to research or zoological use until all experiments were conducted. For over 20 years the three labs kept their herds in virtual isolation. Allowing each herd to naturally genetically drift has lead to three distinct, recognized bloodlines.
It has only been in the past few years that Meishans have been available to most producers. While producers aren't likely to breed full-Meishans for commercial meat, it is quite fatty, these pigs still have something important to offer to the world of pork production. Here are four reasons you shouldn't overlook this "ugly duckling" of the hog barn.
1. They mature quickly and have a high pheromone output.
Meishan boars are quick to sexually mature. Studies suggest they mature up to two months faster than other breeds. They also have a high pheromone output so open sows are immediately attracted, taking some of the guesswork out of open checks.
2. They are talkers.
What girl doesn't love a guy who can keep up a conversation? Swine vocalizations are an important part of overall communication within the barn. A vocal boar can provide more social interest in a swine pen, helping open sows to find him.
3. They are less aggressive towards people.
Meishans have great personalities and are easy to work with. They are smart and quickly learn to perform the tasks necessary from a teaser boar, yet they maintain a interested and relatively calm approach to their human caretakers.
4. They are downright sexually excitable.
Let's just say that what they lack in looks they make up for in effort. Meishan boars are perhaps best known for their voracious sexual appetites. They just don't give up easily or lose interest quickly. While they can be a bit more aggressive toward other pigs than some breeds, that aggressive interest in sows is exactly what makes them great at their job. They are especially suited to ESF pens with automatic heat detection. In these pens sows are well-protected from nearby boars, but still benefit from their more aggressive approach.
As you look ahead to replacing your teaser boars, consider going with Meishans or Meishan mixes. They are a fun breed to have around the farm and are always a favorite among barn workers. Check out this cute Meishan mix piglets at Pig Hill!