Bill Wehlage is among the top producers of registered Tamworth pigs in the US
JAY, OKLA. – As a former U.S. Army chaplain, Bill Wehlage understands a person’s temperament or in this case an animal’s temperament is very significant and important.
“Animal temperament significantly affects meat quality,” Bill said. “We lead pigs, not drive them. We talk to them; we don’t shout. We guide them but do not shove and kick them.”
Owner of Bacon Acres Farm, Bill started the pig operation while still in the U.S. Army.
The farmer owns no electric prods, he said.
“Our goal is for the pigs only to have one bad day – their last day at the processor,” Bill said.
The farm has been first in sales transfers for registered pigs for the past six years among registered Tamworth breeders in the United States and in the top three for litter production during this time, with some years being ranked the top in the nation.
Tamworth Pigs have been sold and shipped to 35 states.
“I deployed to Qatar for my fifth deployment, right before my retirement, and I decided to plan a pig operation,” Bill said.
Bill ordered breeding stock nine months before returning from the deployment and began the operation in the summer of 2013.
Bill works with the Tamworth breed because of its vigor and ability to endure.
“Tamworths are active, therefore a leaner type of hog,” Bill said. “They have more marbling than commercial breeds. Tamworths are pretty busy. They do not stress easily and can endure the elements quite well.
“Years ago, farmers raised hogs for the lard. After World War II, lard fell out of popularity and pigs became leaner, and lard-type breeds moved away from the main focus on swine operations.”
Bacon pigs denote an animal that is best suited for cuts of meat rather than lard, he said.
While Tamworth’s are a bacon type, they have more pork belly than most other pigs, Bill said. Tamworths can grow to be extremely large and long.
“A great-looking Tamworth should yield around pork bellies which total 16 percent of the carcass weight,” Bill said. “These cuts produce beautiful bacon that is striated perfectly between fat and lean.”
The adult pigs receive a sow gestation ration which is 16 percent protein, Bill said. Butcher hogs receive a similar allowance that meets their needs, he said.
“Our original breed boar, Cletus, grew to be 1,169 pounds,” Bill said. “His heart girth was 76 inches, and his length from ear to tail joint was 74 inches.”
Bacon Acres Farm uses a natural breeding program.
“We want only animals whose dam and sire were naturally bred themselves to be the breeding stock we sell,” Bill said. “We run two breeding herds. Each herd has a separate bloodline boar and five to eight sows. Ideally, they will farrow twice each year, averaging 8 to 12 piglets per litter.”
The total headcount on the farm ranges to more than 100, he said.
“Tamworths are a very old breed, first imported into the country in the early 1800s, Bill said. “The Tamworth pigs originated in Ireland, where they were known as ‘Irish Grazers,’ being given that name since they were such wonderful foragers.”
About 1812 Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristic of these hogs imported some of them to his estate at Tamworth, England, he said.
“It is from this place they derived their name,” Bill said.
Tamworth pigs are a pasture breed rather than a confinement’ breed, suiting them for outdoor operations. They graze, root, forage and defend their young with an impressive sense of instinct, Bill said.