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Red Wattle Hogs Suit Small Farm Producers
After raising a few Red Wattle hogs, Kathy Bottorff turned from a skeptic into an enthusiastic owner and secretary/treasurer for the Red Wattle Hog Association (RWHA). She and her husband are among 98 members of the association that raise the heritage breed across the U.S. and Canada. Though interest and numbers are growing, Bottorff said the total number of Red Wattles is unknown.
Members of RWHA are dedicated to preserving the breed and educating producers interested in raising them. There’s plenty to appreciate about the breed, Bottorff says. She recalls mean hogs from her childhood so she considers the Red Wattle’s gentle, friendly nature one of its best qualities.
“They are a wonderful fit and choice for us. We’re an older couple, and we needed something that was an easy keeper. We have plenty of pasture. They are hardy. They check off every box,” she says.
The breed’s name comes from the two pieces of cartilage that hang from inside the jowl area and the fact that the hogs are always some shade of red from strawberry blonde to deep cherry black. Despite false stories of it being crossbred from other breeds in the 1970’s, Bottorff notes that there are mentions of the breed in books and newspaper articles dating back to the 1840’s. Though hard to determine their origin, the most widely accepted theory is that Spaniards and Portuguese brought them to the Gulf.
“Red Wattles don’t do well shut up in a building,” Bottorff notes, “so large confinement operations don’t want them. They suit small producers who prefer raising livestock on pasture. At 6 months they are breeding age and weigh 250 to 260 lbs. Adult breeders are 500 to 600 lbs. and average 7 to 12 pigs/litter.
Breeders have different ways of raising them, but many feed on pasture. The Bottorffs supplement with a swine mix to provide necessary nutrients.
The meat from Red Wattles is outstanding and often wins in cooking competitions.
“The meat tastes different because they are pasture-raised, and it has more Omega 3’s so it’s healthier,” Bottorff says. The flavor and quality attract customers who buy directly from them.
The couple also sells weaned pigs (about 2 mos. old). Costs are higher on the East and West coast, but prices for weaned pigs in the middle of the country average $250 to $275.
“They adapt to different climates very well. We have sent some to Canada and they do well in places like Florida, Texas and California,” she says. “Hogs are herding animals. They need to stay in groups. If one is kept alone it can go off feed and become lethargic, and that may even bring on illness. We always recommend at least two hogs.”
Producers provide shelter for cold and for shade from heat. Hogs are typically kept together as they like to sleep in a group.
Finally, like many heritage breeds, Red Wattles are very hardy; many producers avoid using antibiotics and vaccinations.
“We’ve had them for 11 years and only called the vet once,” Bottorff says. “That was when a sow was struck by lightning. She survived and raised her babies.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kathy Bottorff, Red Wattle Hog Association, 41 Jones Rd., Horse Cave, Ky. 42749 (ph 270 565-3815; www.redwattleproject.org; redwattles@hotmail.com).

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2020 - Volume #44, Issue #1