It is best for everyone to know upfront that we are Teat Snobs at Lucky George Farm. Our ideal set of teats on a Large Black are 14 evenly spaced and in 2 completely straight parallel rows near the belly midline. Each teat is pronounced with a raised and small but erect nipple. This is what we breed for, this is our perfect world.
So why are we hung up on teats? For the benefit of the breed of course! As you can see in the diagram, good teats allow two lines of piglets to suckle at the same time. Evenly spaced teats allow for piglets to lay next to each other and really belly up to the bar. Great teats are accessible giving all piglets of a litter the opportunity to drink their mother’s milk. That gives them a great start in life.
For our farm the boys’ teats must be as good as the girls or better. A single sow can have as many as 5 litters in a two year period. Imagine how many litters a boar can father in that same two years! Every litter is half of his genetics. That means his underline characteristics are being passed forward to his offspring both his sons and daughters.
Large Blacks are excellent milk providers to their young but they have to have the proper equipment to get that milk to their piglets. Now that you understand what excellence looks like we’ll discuss what to look for and why.
Inverted nipples are of the greatest concern. This condition is characterized by failure of nipples to protrude from the udder surface. The teat canal is held inward, forming a small crater so that normal milk flow is prevented. This abnormality has a genetic cause, but the number of pairs of genes involved is unknown. The frequency of inheriting this trait is estimated to be approximately 20 %.
Caution must be exercised in evaluating underlines since nipples surrounded by a ring of loose skin are not inverted if the nipple tip is present. Nipples located near the sheath of boars are often falsely classified as inverted. Since the genetic causality is unknown, culling of parents and littermates is not recommended. Individuals with a high proportion of inverted nipples should not be placed in breeding herds.
Blind nipples are those that simply have no visible nipple or canal. They will not produce milk and we fault a piglet if they have these. We want only the best underlines going off farm so they can feed the future generation of Large Black piglets.