Our Breeding Philosophy:
Maintaining the genetics of an entire breed from a very small genetic base requires disciplined and informed breeders. At Gods Blessing Farm we are constantly balancing the preservation of an adequately broad genetic base of the Meishan Breed with the realities that animals must conform to breed standards and performance goals. It is our strategy that we never completely remove a bloodline from our herd but we are willing to and have culled individual animals. In 2016/2017 we evaluated our breeders and our litters and removed 12 boars (which entered our barrow program) 3 gilts and 2 sows from our breeding program . These 17 Meishans we culled from our breeding herd are more Meishans, from more bloodlines, than most other Meishan breeders own We always adhere to the sage advice “breed the best and eat the rest”. It was a significant commitment in opportunity cost but it will allow us to more quickly reach our breeding objectives and in the long run will benefit the entire breed.
Genetic integrity is not just purity of stock.It is documenting the diversity of each breeding animal in relation to the other animals it is bred to. Being a breeder with all three research herd bloodlines assures us that these three genetically distinct bloodlines( USDA, University of Illinois and Iowa State) offer the greatest opportunity for genetic diversity possible. These three research herds were completely isolated from each other for over 25 years and countless generations. The unique genetic profiles of the different research herd animals were documented in a USDA research paper on genetic drift (Blackburn et al 2014). In addition our USDA line hogs which were obtained directly from the USDA Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Nebraska were provided with 3 generation pedigrees. Our University of Illinois lines came directly from the campus in Champagne and were the last descendants of the original research herd there. We are the only independent breeder on record to receive breeding stock from these two facilities.Only Gods Blessing Farm and those breeders who purchased stock from us in 2016 have these USDA and University of Illinois bloodlines. These bloodlines are critical for the effort to maintain a genetically sustainable Meishan herd in North America. We are also proud to be deeply involved in the American Meishan Breeders Association. The A.M.B.A. was incorporated in 2016 to develope a pedigree data base that will allow breeders to make informed breeding decisions as part of the effort to establish a genetically sustainable herd of eishan pigs in North America.
During our research on the breed we noticed a disturbing trend among some breeders claiming to have “Pure Meishans” never actually showed pictures of their breeding stock.Nor did they discuss size, structure or growth rates. Very often all photographs of “their stock” were pulled from the internet (from zoo and research herd websites). The pictures were simply not of their own pigs. We would like to share with you our actual Meishan breeding lineup. This is the most genetically diverse Meishan herd outside of China. In addition our bloodline diversity assures you of avoiding the pitfalls of “pure” but highly inbred examples of the breed which we have seen all to frequently. If you currently own or breed Meishans we can provide you with fresh genetics that will assure you of offspring with a 0% coefficient of inbreeding.
Our ability to maintain a closed herd is based on the incredible genetic diversity our boars feature. We obtaned five distinct boar lines from the USDA and one boar line that traces back directly to the Iowa State research herd. In 2017 we added a sixth boar line produced by our Iowa State boar and one of our University of Illinois sows. This boar epitomizes our goals for our breeding program in looks and growth.This diversity allows our hogs to exhibit superior structure,prolificacy and growth rates as compared to highly inbred examples of the breed.All of our original foundation boars are named after different Chinese Dynasties.They are the cornerstone foundation bloodlines for the future of our herd.
USDA-We acquired five genetically distinct boars from the USDA herd at the US Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Nebraska. With the entire USDA herd we also have pedigrees back three generations. All of our USDA boars were born in the spring of 2015 and should have many years to contribute to our breeding programs.
Blocky and stout Ming is one of our favorite boars. We reserved him during the 2016 breeding season . He will however be a cornerstone boar in future breedings
Another big bodied Meishan Boar Yuan is has the structure we intend to build on in our breeding program Yuan is the one on the left next to Pink Lady one of our University of Illinois bloodline girls.
Zhou is the tallest in the hindquarters of our USDA Boars. We hope to breed that trait into our future stock to allow for a larger structured hog. Zhou was also reserved in 2016 but will made available soon
With a classic Meishan “Blocky Bulldog” head Shang is another great example of the breed. Unfortunately soon after his first breeding Shang was lost to us.However his genetics weren’t. We have retained his daughter Fu Hau to preserve this critical breeding branch in our herd. There are only three intact remaining Shang line boars.Theses were placed with our customers on farms in Washington State, Georgia and South Carolina. If you are geographically located in those areas we would be happy to provide contact information for these farms if you want to add this rarest of USDA boar lines from a local supplier.
Tang- USDA Tang is the most active of our USDA boars. A proven sire that has produced outstanding offspring
Wu- Iowa State Wu is a proven sire with already 3 litters on the ground..He has a great build and produced some of the most outstanding piglets in our 2016 litters.He is a sire in our spring farrowings but is not scheduled to be bred again any time soon. WU may be available for placement with the right breeder.
Junior Boar:We are thrilled to announce our new boar generated through
our herd grow out program.
Sun Quan – University of Illinois/Iowa State Farrowed 08/07/2016
Sun Quan is our first boar with University of Illinois blood lines.He is a striking young man and will enter our breeding program in 2017 to trait lock the outstanding University of Illinois characteristics in our core herd. His growth to date has been outstanding.
Our Proven Sows
We are so proud to compliment this impressive and diverse boar lineup with some outstanding Meishan Sows. Once again we feature bloodlines that have never been available to private breeders before
Originally scheduled for slaughter to complete a final scientific experiment we were ecstatic when the Director of the USMARC facility agreed to let us get two genetically unique sows for our conservation effort. We are humbled by the opportunity and responsibility to manage these two girls. Having pedigrees three generations back allows us to manage our breedings to the USDA boars
Blocky and only slightly smaller than her USDA counterpart Xishi Minghou is the friendliest of the USDA swine. You must remember that these research hogs were raised almost without human contact or interaction.How fast they socialize is a tribute to the Meishan personality. She has already demonstrated the inherent profligacy of the breed in her first farrowing.
Xishi is the tallest of the USDA sows. She is a classic example of the Meishan breed. A wonderful mother Xishi is scheduled for two farrowings in 2017
University of Illinois Sows
Through an incredible series of events were able to acquire the last Meishans from the University of Illinois Champagne Urbanna Research herd. These two ladies (sister gilts) are simply the rarest Meishan bloodline in the US. The Illinois herd was almost completely gone when were able to bring these ladies home.They were both just over two years old when they arrived here.The Illini girls are larger with better loin length that any of our other certified pure stock.With the most pendulous ears this side of China they are a hit with everyone who sets eyes on them.We hope to use these ladies as the template for our future breeding goals.
Panda- University of Illinois
Panda is amazing.Docile and well built . She farrowed some of the fastest growing best examples of the breed in her 2016 farrowing.
Pink Lady- University of Illinois
Taller than Panda Pink lady is the largest of our Meishans. Her initial parity(usually the smallest for a Meishan) was still 12 piglets.In the spring of 2017 she farrowed 20 piglets. We are thrilled with the demonstrated prolificacy of our bloodlines. Her offspring are the basis for new Meishan breeding programs from Maine to Washington State.
Just as we identified prime boar candidates to retain for our herd development and grow out program we have also added a great lineup of junior gilts to our farm.
Butternut- Iowa State Lines Farrowed 06/16/16 This strong healthy girl is less than 7 months old in this picture.The two pigs behind her are Pink Lady and Panda.They are n the 350 lb-400 lb class. This picture shows quite clearly the structure and growth rate possible with Meishans when genetically diverse pairings are utilized
Ling Ling- University of Illinois/Iowa State Farrowed 07/07/16 In this picture Ling Ling is celebrating her 6 month birthday. Once again genetically diverse breedings produce better growth rates in our Meishan stock.Profiling genetic diversity in any potential customers purchases is a key element in our breeding decisions.
Fu Hao- USDA Farrowed 10/01/16 and Wazi- USDA Farrowed 10/13/16
Our first pure USDA gilts retained for our breeding herd include some of the best genetics within our boar pool. Because of the growth rates we achieve and the fact that Meishan sows become sexually mature in 90 days or less we will be able to get our young gilts to the 200lb target breeding size weight in time to breed them in 2017.
Farrowed Tai Ping- Iowa State /USDA Farrowed 12/24/16
Our fifth and final edition to our 2017 herd is Tai Ping. Already she has distinguished herself with her best in litter growth rate. We will have a picture of her shortly
Growth Rates, Heterosis and Inbreeding depression:
In considering any true livestock pig a breeder must consider growth rates. Very often the enthusiasm for heritage breeds is quickly dampened by the realities of small liters, one to two year grow out times , and parent stock that is destructive or even dangerously feral. Often that parent stock grows to sizes in excess of 600lbs. Thats a lot of pig to feed for small litters and slow growth rates. Meishans are a truly versatile pig, We have shown in even our slowest growing examples that when given access to quality pasture and some supplemental feed our customers have documented 200 lb+ plus weights in less than 9 months . In our best growing combinations we and our customers have reduced that number by 30 days or more. Meishans are incredibly docile and have the lowest environmental impact on pastures of any pig we have seen or grown personally. In addition the meat is truly a premium pork.It has been bred for over 5000 years in China to produce incredibly tender and micro marbled red meat. The caul fat or “Meishan Tian” is some of the finest grain fat available in any swine in North America.It is light and almost sweet and enhances many forms of cooking.
We believe that heteroisis or hybrid vigor is involved in these excellent growth rates (as compared to other Lard carcass heritage breeds) . While heterosis generally refers to crossing different breeds the three Meishan bloodlines were documented by the Blackburn study to be genetically differentiated from each other. Conversely we also believe that inbreeding depression has negatively impacted some of the breeding stock that traces to the dispersal of the third research facility on or around 2008-2010 .Inbreeding depression can express itself in reduced size , reduced litter sizes , poor structure and poor health and vitality. Only by generationally re-breeding these pigs and their offspring to differentiated bloodlines can their unique genetic profiles be retained in a healthy breeder pool.And that should be done.All Meishans have a role to play in the preservation of the breed.
We hope you will join us in this effort to preserve this unique and special breed of hog.