Important Berkshire buying tips
- The Berkshire is a relatively hairy breed; the hair should be black, long, fine and plentiful according to the breed standard. The darkness of the hair is also said to help protect the pig from the effects of direct sunlight, but shade is still a vital requirement.
- The back should be straight and level along its entire length. Avoid animals showing a noticeable dip towards the rear. Sows require a good depth of body if they are to be good breeders.
- Ears should be fairly large, pricked and carried inclined forward; certainly not folded. Ideally, they will be fringed with fine hair.
- One of the most obvious characteristics of the Berkshire is its dished face and medium length snout (avoid those showing a long nose – there are more of them around these days). Check jaw alignment and avoid animals showing a discrepancy between top and bottom.
- Neck should be fine, evenly set on shoulders plus free from wrinkles and any sign of a crest.
- Legs are an important feature on the Berkshire, and need to be straight, strong and well spaced. Avoid animals that appear to be standing on their heels, especially at the back. This is particularly important with regard to breeding animals; boars that show this characteristic fault won’t be able to mount the sow properly, while sows with it will be weak at the back end.
- Belly should be straight. Look for a minimum of 12 teats. Fourteen is good and 16 is ideal. The two rows should be level on both sides. The more teats there are, the more piglets there can be.
- A good Berkshire should present a ‘white sock’ on each leg, albeit a short one. Ideally, the white should not extend up higher than the knee.
- A good well rounded ‘rear end’ is important on animals being reared for meat; this is where the hams come from.
- Tail should always be curled and tipped in white.
What’s it like?
The Berkshire is medium-sized pig available in just one colour; black with white feet. In fact, a good example should present six white points; white socks on each foot; white socks on each foot, on the tip of its tail and on its face. The ‘socks’ shouldn’t extend up beyond the ‘knee’ and there should be s strip down the centre of the face which extends partially around the muzzle (not under the chin). The face is where you’ll typically find the greatest variation in white marking.
Top 10 reasons to buy!
- Great temperament
- Hardy and durable
- Resistant to disease
- Wonderfully tasty pork
- Reasonably quick to mature
- Manageable size
- Attentive mother
- Good support from club
- Ideal ‘starter’ breed
- Worthy of conversation
What to pay?
When buying Berkshires you should expect to pay £50-£60 for a good quality weaner for that’s to be reared for pork. Youngsters destined for the breeding pen are likely to cost more – typically £70-£80. To buy a gilt in pig ‘starter pack’, is likely to cost about £250. You can expect between four and eight piglets from a first-timer, rising to a peak of about 12 from a healthy sow in subsequent years.
The genuine article?
If you want to buy a Berkshire pig, make sure you are getting the real thing. Remember that without a pedigree, it’s just another pig. If you want to sell Berkshire pigs by name, or Berkshire pork, then your pigs must be pedigree registered.
Only registered pigs will be included on the Breeds at Risk Register, as part of the national conservation effort to save our native breeds. For advice on buying your Berkshire pig visit britishpigs.org or contact the Berkshire Pig Breeders’ Club.
For a more in-depth guide, see the Autumn 2019 issue of Practical Pigs
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