Agriculture This Week - Lacombe hogs worth preserving

This week is very much a nostalgic one for yours truly, and it all relates to coming across a story from several weeks ago.

The story at which ran in August was about Leah Predy from Ponoka, Alta., who was raising Lacombe pigs after moving back to the family farm a few years ago.

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Fewer than five farms in Canada have registered Lacombes today, and Heritage Livestock Canada puts the current population of the species at 10 to 15 adult breeding females and two active breeding males. These numbers are so low, Lacombes are listed as being in danger of becoming extinct.

That hit a real nerve for me, and even as I type this I feel greatly saddened by the prospect for Lacombes.

The reasons for my sadness are twofold.

In general terms I have always been a proponent that rare livestock breeds need to be preserved because they are part of agriculture’s history, and one cannot predict what genetic traits might serve the sector best in the future.

More specifically to the case of Lacombes, they are one of the few livestock breeds developed in Canada, in Lacombe, AB. back in 1947, to be precise, and they are a breed of pig I myself raised a few decades ago.

I grew up on a farm where my dad raised registered Yorkshire pigs. Of course there came a day I wanted pigs I could call my own, and like many kids I didn’t want the same thing dad had.

So, I did some extra chores, begged some extra dollars, and at a swine sale in Melfort purchased an open (not bred) Lacombe gilt. The seller was good enough to offer to take the gilt home to mate and in about four months I was sitting near her stall in the barn dreaming of the litter she was about to have and how I’d no doubt take the Lacombe world by storm with all her offspring.

She farrowed, giving birth to one bouncing baby boar, which while doubling my herd size, did not exactly do much for the future growth of my herd.

Back then of course, the late 1970s, Lacombes were far from endangered with breeders such as Ernie Hirsch, who I purchased the gilt from, Doug and son Don Brooks of Rosthern, Ken Leask at Marcelin, and Walter and son Jurgen Preugschas of Five Lakes Farms at Matherthorpe, AB., having sizeable herds that regularly headed to major shows of the era.

To think the breed is now on the brink of disappearing is incredibly sad from my perspective and I am left remembering my past as I also hope for the future of Lacombe pigs.

Calvin Daniels is Editor at Yorkton This Week.

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