Raising the Meishan for Success
How do you achieve your growth with the Meishan? It's something I am asked weekly, if not daily. I found it odd, at first. But, then I realized that I feed them in a unique way and am achieving some of the largest hanging weights on Meishans in the country to date.
From that also came some of the fastest growth rates as well. 220 pound average hanging weights at 9 months average has been my norm. (Hanging weight is the carcass weight at processing or slaughter. ) Then, throw in a 262 pound hanging weight at 10 months...and wow! Maybe I AM doing something a little different!
Photo of half Meishan pig before cuts
Before I talk about the details, first. Let's understand how we arrived here. The Meishan has been on a journey of late to become a viable pork option in the US. That is largely in part to the formation of the American Meishan Breeders Association and it's efforts to accurately log and track genetics recently released from research facilities in the US. Now, we have a baseline or pool of information on the Meishan that any member can access. And, we also have a breeding pool that appears to be producing larger, faster growing Meishans than any previously released stock. So, for these reasons and for the success of my business model, I work only with Certified Pure Meishan stock.
With the new release of any new genetics, comes new challenges. What environment is best? What feed program? What fats/ proteins/ fiber achieves the highest growth rate? These are all things that I have been working through the past 2 years to determine what effect different feed plans would have on carcass yield. It's been a very fluid approach with consistent and relentless evaluations of my herd.
My first Meishan pigs arrived on my farm in May 2016. I put them straight out on pasture, something I could not do with the large breed hogs I raised previously.
I also began my initial feed plan the same as I fed the Berkshire/ Duroc crosses I had raised previously. No, that was not what was thought to work in speaking with others. But, it gave me a baseline with parameters and results I was familiar with....or somewhere to start. I fed a high fat, 16% protein feed with breads and treats galore. My first Meishan had a hanging weight of 164 pounds while the second, a better made pig, yielded a 200 pound hanging weight at about 8 months old. But, my processor told me the carcass was 'dripping in fat.' The pork chops were small. But the meat flavor was delicious! At least we had THAT! Time to keep working on a feed plan.......
Now I had a mark. An 8 month grow out made the Meishan a very viable option but the carcass/ meat yield had to improve to solidify their place in the meat market, IMO. From here, I bounced around a little. Feeding an All Stock 10, or basic sweet feed, alone. Trying different dry feeds, corn, carbs and veggie scraps.
Our first boston butt from a 164 HW pig
I did see varying results from those plans. I processed one of my largest pigs to date that way too. But the consistency and overall meat yield was still not where it could be. So I continued my journey towards my optimal feed plan. Next, I asked myself a very vague question. "If I want to increase muscle mass, how would I do that?" That's when it hit me. Protein builds muscle mass. - OK - now, wait a minute, maybe I need to rebuild my feed plan to focus on protein?
I called all my local feed stores and none of them had a different option on feed than the ones I had already tried. That was a dead end. Next, I asked fellow pig people from all types of meat pig backgrounds how they achieved their grow out weights and yield. That's when a new option arose. Something that changed my perspective on a feed plan. Something I had never heard of or tried. HUH? What was it? A high protein additive in their feed and no hay. 2+ times the protein I had been feeding, in fact. Seriously?! Really? YES! That's freakishly high protein - right? maybe. But, these farmers were running a successful pork operation and it was working for them. So, I found an option and took a risk.
That one change to my feed plan has been the 1 single thing that has consistently given me meat yield and growth in the Meishan. My stock now has broader backs, which means larger chops. My hams consistently average 17 pounds, or more. And, the fat amount is reduced while maintaining the high quality Meishan fat that is still butter like, tender and delicious. My Meishan feed plan, coupled with the new AMBA genetics has undoubtedly given me a viable yield and a road map to a successful pork business. I did it!! Woohoo!!!!
Today, my feed plan consists of feeding each pig about 6 pounds of feed a day and the protein booster. My preferred base currently is a basic sweet feed. Keeping the cost low on that base is a critical part of my business model. My stock is not getting free choice feed any longer. They are fed once a day. No veggie scraps. No added carbs. No hay. Now, I will say that I am researching a different base in an effort to constantly improve and cut cost. But, what that might be next, I can't say.
See my results for yourself! The picture below is from our last processing. The large chops are from a 239.5 hanging weight carcass recently processed. The smaller ones from a 190 pound hanging weight carcass that we knew was a little early to go. I am very pleased with my current results based on chop size and meat yield! I have come a long way with the Meishan!
And, the rest, as they say, is history! A high protein feed plan with less fat and low fiber made my pigs and business take off! From there, I have become a leader in the US consistently growing out AMBA Certified Pure Meishans averaging 220 pound hanging weights in an average of 9 months. My customers love the results and the depth of flavor the pastured Meishan brings to the table - literally!
The secret is out! Now - what will you do with it? I hope you will help grow more AMBA Pure Meishans to help meet demand!!
How do you feed your pigs? Have you ever tried a similar plan? Or something that was out of any norm you had ever heard before? How did it worK?