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Iowa farmer dedicates time to Hereford hogs

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Date Modified: 05/13/2013 2:32 PM

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ALGONA, Iowa — Anyone can tell Hereford cattle by their distinctive color markings. However, not as many people know about Hereford hogs.

As a young farm boy near Algona, Philip Kramer noticed the neighbor's hogs. He wanted his own, but his dad said no.

After college graduation, he returned close to the family farm to help with the Niman Ranch farrow-to-finish operation of 75-80 sows and 300 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats.

Kramer is a regional field agent for Niman Ranch. His wife, Erin, is a veterinarian in Humboldt. They have two sons, Henry, 3, and Samuel, 4 months.

"It was always a thought to own this breed someday," said Kramer. "I saw them at a Small Farm conference in Missouri, which prompted me to do something."

He purchased his first boar and four gilts from Arlan Schulte in 2005. He has 15 sows and gilts now, and the herd has become a hobby he manages as a small business.

Kramer was elected president of the breed at the 2012 National Hereford Hog Show.

Algona farmer John Schulte worked in a cooperative effort to lead a group of hog breeders in Iowa and Nebraska to more fully develop the breed.

The National Hereford Hog Association formed in May 1934. Schulte was the first president. Hereford hogs first were given a classification at the Iowa State Fair in 1939.

Sow litters average between 10 to 12, with a weaning rate of eight to nine. Their growth rate is a little slower than a hybrid, but yield grades compare well.

Their disposition makes them easy to work with, he said. Sows are easier to handle.

"The meat is a darker red," said Kramer. "The way pork used to be, I am told."

Kramer said his Hereford pigs must meet the breed's specifications for coloring. They must have two-thirds white face and two-thirds red body. They can't have any white beyond the middle of the shoulders and over the back. They must have three white legs one inch high and must go all the way around the leg.

He usually has one piglet from each litter that doesn't qualify. Those are placed in the market pen.

He and other breeders in the NHHA have been choosing genetics that have improved the herd's overall depth of quality, productivity and growth.