#1 Does she have a story to market?
The showpig industry has become a competitive online marketplace. When selecting females, it is important that you are able to tell a story.
Whether she was a litter-mate to a successful barrow, her dam was the mother of a well-known litter, her sire is proven in the showring or as one who sires a particular kind of breeding piece – it is important that you can convey those qualities to your buyers.
A female with history immediately increases the credibility of your herd as one that contains sows that are proven to generate.
#2 Will she make your program more relevant?
While there’s much discussion to be had on whether one should follow trends, you must recognize that if you’re not ahead – you’re behind.
This not saying that you should change your breeding philosophies to fit a current trend. However, injecting features, such as bone, that are prevalent in the winner’s circle isn’t a terrible idea for sell-ability and increasing your odds to win as well.
This requires doing your homework on what current champions look like and how they are bred in order to achieve those results within your own herd.
#3 Will she increase the value of your herd?
As much as we like to believe raising showpigs is a hobby, it’s also a business to many and should be treated as such. Without question, your sows are your biggest asset and any investment in females should be taken seriously.
Like an acre of fertile farmland, sows are expected to produce. And when they generate offspring that the buying public demands or the kind that win in the ring, their value can skyrocket. When they consistently generate either kind, they become valuable.
The options females offer should not be underestimated. They are the core for growth, expansion and succeeding in a competitive marketplace.
#4 Will she generate predictability?
It’s not uncommon for a repeat customer to ask about the mother of their last showpig and often, that litter is the one they wanted to see first. There is a high degree of trust that comes with a sow that consistently generates and buyers feel most comfortable investing in genetics that they know are proven.
Similarly when purchasing boars, breeders and stud owners alike are more confident in their purchase if they know the history of his dam. If she has proven ability to produce winners or even something capable of genetic advancement, there is more assurance for continued success with this generation and the next.
So how do you know if a gilt will be predictable? You don’t…However, the probability that she will generate is directly correlated with the track record of her mother. That brings us back to the importance of being able to tell a genetic story. That story is not at all a marketing gimmick, it’s a measure of what to expect.
#5 Is she a show gilt AND a sow?
The question is obvious, yet as breeders who market online, it’s the most common question we receive every time we have a sale, therefore we believe it’s worth mentioning.
By purchasing a prospect, you have the chance to show her as little or often as you like. Opportunities abound to show in all corners of the country and in many cases, the same opportunities exist to sell your show gilt and earn a healthy premium. The demand for mature females is as great as it’s ever been. If you don’t sell, can she still be a sow for you?
There is always risk involved with buying prospects but do your homework, study the pedigree and evaluate the gilt. When you buy a gilt from a reputable firm with proven sows, you’ve bought her story. When she hits the showring, she has the opportunity to create her own.
#6 Will she diversify my genetic base?
Building a consistent, predictable sowhered should be a constant work in progress. We relish the opportunity to add females from time to time. In fact, buying the next great female can often be more fun than selling.
Because the genetic cycle turns very quickly for showpigs, it’s imperative to make every attempt to keep up. That can mean using semen from a new boar or adding a new female from a sowherd that’s proven or a genetic line that offers something you don’t already have.
Consider adding different breeds in an effort to diversify. Opportunities to show purebreds is greater than ever which is driving demand and pushing the value of purebred females to record levels. An additional breed can often attract new buyers and families that you may otherwise never meet and that can only help your bottom line.
#7 Can she make a boar?
In a highly competitive industry, we don’t believe anyone strives to be average or sets goals to raise average pigs.
While some may disagree that trying to make a boar may not be the best mentality to have when selecting females, it’s a legitimate question to ask. Even if you don’t raise a boar, keep in mind that average hogs don’t win shows either.
This question lends to asking yourself if this female is special enough to raise the next great one. Does she have an intriguing pedigree that would appeal to breeders should she lay down and produce a boar prospect? Does she push the envelope just enough to separate herself from the others while maintaining all the characteristics a female needs to have?
When considering a female for your herd, don’t be content with being ‘good enough’. No successful breeding program has been built on the basis of average.