Panda and Pink Lady enjoy a snack.
Chinese Meishan Pigs- Perfection 5000 years in the making
Gods Blessing Farm is excited to be deeply involved in the preservation of Meishan Pigs in North America.. Meishans are part of the Taihu group of Chinese pigs (so named for the lake in that area) . The Chinese have been selectively breeding domestic swine in this region for over 5000 years. Taihu pigs are prized in China and Japan for their succulent marbled meat and superior lard and fat quality.It is a medium sized lard carcass hog growing to a maximum size of 250 to 400+ lbs. It is the most docile breed of hog in the world. However today there are shockingly few Meishans that are verifiably pure worldwide. Research by the American Meishan breeders Association has revealed that in China today the only verifiably pure Meishans are raised on state conservation farms and their genetics are tightly controlled.Estimates put the worldwide population of verifiably pure Meishans at less than 2000 animals.
After over two years of research,negotiations and relentless investigation we were blessed to acquire our current herd of certified pure Meishan pigs.These are some of the rarest pigs in the US and in our opinion one of the most genetically significant pigs in the world. Meishans were first imported into the US in 1989 (after 10 years of negotiations with China) as part of a joint study between the USDA, Iowa State and the University of Illinois. Meishans were imported to be studied for their hyper productivity. Meishans are renowned for their large liters(15-18 on average by the third farrowing) and superior mothering abilities that result in higher ween to farrowing ratios. They also enter puberty at approximately 90 days which is significantly faster than domestic hog breeds. Meishans typically have 16-20 teats allowing them to easily raise such large litters of piglets. They are also a very sedentary and docile pig which allowed them to be raised in smaller areas in China with minimal environmental impact on pastures and woodlots. Meishans also thrive ,unlike most pig breeds, on a diet higher in fiber and roughage .Under the agreement between the USDA and China the Meishans were restricted to use in research facilities or zoo’s until the experiments were concluded. These three research herds then spent over 20 years in almost total genetic isolation. None of the research facilities shared genetics and the three herds displayed independent levels of genetic drift from the original importation herds and each other. This fact is the basis for the A.M.B.A.’s recognition of three distinct Meishan bloodlines.There is no breed of pig that has been more fully researched and examined by the USDA than the Meishan. Between 2008 and 2010 Iowa State terminated and dispersed their herd. Today almost all of the pure Meishans that are currently being bred by a very small number of breeders are descendants from that herd. Based on our investigations none of the University of Illinois herd or the USDA herd ,which was housed at the US Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center Nebraska (USMARC) were available to private breeders. Until now that is. In February of 2016 We were able to acquire the remainder of the Meishan pigs in the University of Illinois research herd. In May of 2016 we concluded negotiations with the USMARC facility director to acquire the last Meishan Hogs in their research herd. On May 26th 2016 We picked up the last remaining Meishans in the USDA herd in Clay Nebraska. Today NONE of the original research herds remain.But the genetics were not lost. These last reservoirs of genetics still exist here at Gods Blessing Farm.This has been an incredible find and the first step in our mission to establish and preserve this breed in the US. The hogs from these two research herds (USMARC and University of Illinois ) combined with our other Meishan pigs that are directly traceable to the Iowa State research herd means that Gods Blessing Farm and our customers, are the only breeders in the US to have genetics from all three of the original research herds.We even have pedigrees on our USDA stock going back at least 3 generations.In addition we have sufficiently unique lines(both boar and sow) to assure a genetically sustainable population of Meishans going forward in the US.If you have a Meishan we can provide you with an unrelated breeding partner.If you want a breeding pair we can provide you with the most diverse genetic base to choose from outside of China.If you want multiple unrelated breeding pairs we can supply those also. Currently we have seven genetically unique boar lines and four genetically unique sow lines. And we can now supply these unique genetics to breeders who currently own Meishans or wish to.This is extremely significant because of the conclusions from a 2014 USDA study of the Meishan pig population in the US. USDA senior geneticist Harvey Blackburn from the USDA Plant and Animal Genetic Resource Preservation Service in Fort Collins Colorado conducted an extensive study (Blackburn et al 2014) sampling DNA from both the USMARC herd and the Iowa State herd. These samples were compared to the DNA samples from the original Chinese Meishans that were imported in 1989. Over the 20+ years of genetic isolation the herds in the US had not only experienced “genetic drift” from their Chinese cousins but had even become genetically differentiated from each other. That genetic drift had effectively resulted in each research herd becoming a genetically unique sub species of Meishans . This “drift” had even resulted in DNA gene pairings,or alleles, that were unique only to the US examples of the breed. Each herd had become genetically differentiated from the original Chinese Meishan and each other. The USMARC pigs were found to be genetically closer to the original Chinese Meishans than the Iowa State herd. While the University of Illinois pigs were not sampled it is safe to assume they have “drifted” also. Our observations of the different characteristics of each bloodline(from the respective research herds) confirms this.We have had extensive conversations with several of the co-authors of this study. They confirmed that to truly breed a hog most similar to the classic Chinese Meishan you would need to reassemble the genetics of the original importation herd by combining the remnants of the three research herds. With the USMARC pigs and the University of Illinois pigs Gods Blessing Farm can now help committed breeders to do this. We are currently looking at our breeding schedules for 2018 and will be able to offer pure Meishan genetics to a a variety of breeders with a variety of farm goals