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Lacombe Swine

The Lacombe breed of swinePork producers across Canada may not know exactly where Lacombe, Alberta is located, but they know its importance to their industry. The Lacombe swine, developed at the Canadian Department of Agriculture Research Station in the 1950s by Dr. J. G. (Jack) Stothart and Dr. Howard Fredeen, became one of the most popular breeds in Canada. It is still being raised at farms across Canada and has also been exported to the United States, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy, Great Britain and Germany, among others.

Stothart and Fredeen applied selective breeding and testing to develop the Lacombe swine. They were seeking to develop a white, productive breed, which could be cross-bred with the Yorkshire (the dominant swine breed in Canada) to bear vigorous offspring with good carcass characteristics.

Their "foundation breeds" for the development of this new swine breed were Chester White, Danish-Landrace, and Berkshire. Each of these breeds had desirable characteristics; Berkshire sows had high milk production and their offspring produced good quality ham, while Danish-Landrace and Chester White had the preferred white color and were noted for good bacon production.

Subsequent generations of offspring were assessed against rigorous criteria; "a variety of economically important traits, including the number of pigs per litter and their weight at weaning and at 6 months; 14 well-developed, uniformly-spaced teats; vigor; physical soundness; strength of feet and legs; freedom from defective conditions; and carcass merit, growth rate, and feed requirements in accordance with Canadian ROP (Record of Performance) testing policy," an Agriculture Canada article notes.

These criteria helped select a rather small population with the desired characteristics; only six per cent of males and 24 per cent of females weaned were used in further breeding.

At the same time the selective breeding of the Lacombe hogs was underway, control litters of Yorkshire swine were being bred at research stations in Saskatchewan. Between 1954 and 1956, the Lacombe-bred swine were compared with the Saskatchewan-bred Yorkshires and judged superior based on litter size, average weight and growth rate to 90 kilograms.

The results prompted the project advisory committee to recommend releasing the breed for widespread production, and the Lacombe breed was officially registered in 1957. The first public exhibition of the Lacombe breed was made at the National Swine Show held in Brandon on 1 July 1957.

A national draw was organized for the first 50 Lacombe boars to be released, drawing more than 800 applicants. The draw, held on 7 October 1957, distributed the boars to breeders from British Columbia to Ontario. By 1960, 462 breeding females were distributed across Canada, and the Lacombe breed had become established as a top-rank swine.

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