We had planned to have four litters of piglets from November onwards but when they actually arrive it can be a little overwhelming with the numbers of animals.
Tina was the first to farrow on 6 November with a litter of 7 piglets – 5 boys and 2 girls. This was her first litter but she handled everything really well. She is from the Maple female line and is a descendant of Esther, one of our original 2 breeding sows.
Doris (a Princess sow) was not far behind Tina and farrowed on 8 November piglets – 7 girls and 2 boys. This was the first time that we’d had 2 litters within a couple of days of each other so some special arrangements were needed. This meant that what used to be our wood shed had to be turned into an additional pig farrowing shelter but in the end all our efforts were worth it.
In the run up to Christmas it was the turn of Elsie (a Jacqueline sow) with her second litter and on 21 December she duly delivered a litter of 7 piglets – 5 boys and 2 girls. After about 10 days in the farrowing shed, she and her litter were moved out to a woodland pen which our pigs always prefer to the shed.
A little over 2 weeks later, Beryl farrowed on 6 January with a nice litter of 7 piglets again – 4 girls and 3 boys. Yet again our farrowing shed setup worked really well and the piglets soon got the hang of the heat lamp area
Eventually 6 boars from Tina and Doris’s litters were sold on as weaners to someone locally. They’re now living the high life and rooting up the ground at their new home further down our valley near Allenheads
We have plans to keep one of the girls from Doris’s litter because we have now sold Doris to another breeder. By keeping one of her litter we can continue to breed that female line – Princess – in the future. Most of the other piglets from these litters will be kept here and raised for meat in due course.
Some have a special role to play and will be going to out on loan a temporary new home for a few weeks. However that may change depending on circumstances so I’ll share more on that at a later date.
Sometimes events can hit you without warning and no matter how prepared you think you are, there’s always something that can catch you out.
We had 3 lovely Dexter calves born this summer – first to arrive was Ursula on 21st May and her mother, Nellie, has regularly given us lovely calves. This was followed by Hattie giving birth to a bull calf we called Jay on 2nd June and finally Daisy delivered another bull calf, Joe, on 15th June
However on 25 July, a few days after an extremely hot spell of weather, we found that Ursula had died without any prior indication of problems. She was just found lying dead in the field and her mother (Nellie) was obviously upset. In all our time here, this was the first unexpected death for any of our livestock so it was a traumatic time for all concerned.
While checking the cattle first thing the next morning, I noticed that Jay was looking out of sorts so the emergency vet was called out, They came promptly and after a quick post mortem on Ursula, decided this was a stress related condition often called Shipping Fever. They gave Jay an antibiotic injection to try to deal with this and we left him alone to rest for a few hours.
Sadly he was also found dead later that day so my concerns immediately turned to Joe, the last remaining calf born that summer. He appeared to be fine but I obviously couldn’t trust that given the recent experiences.
A nervous few days followed until it became clear that he was managing just fine so we could relax a little bit. That was easier said than done though and we’ve continued to watch him much more closely since then.
We’d never had any problems like this in 7 years of breeding Dexter cattle and hopefully we won’t see anything similar again
We took 3 of our Tamworth pigs to the Northumberland show with each one entered into a different class by age. The main reasoning being that if we entered enough classes then surely we’d at least win something for our efforts
Elsie, Doris and Beryl all behaved impeccably especially during the judging. It was 1st place rosettes for all of them
And to top it all off, the youngest (Beryl) was named as the Reserve Traditional Breed Champion which isn’t bad for less than 5 months old
After our unexpected success at the last show in 2019 I wasn’t sure that we would do quite so well this time around but we enjoyed the event just as much anyway. Looking back on the whole day, I don’t think we could have had a better time all things considered and the pigs were suitably relaxed despite having no previous show experience
A rewarding day at Northumberland County Show 2022
Over the course of the last few weeks most of the piglets from the current litters have all headed off to their new homes. We are keeping a few from each litter to raise for meat ourselves but it’s always nice to see the others head off in many different directions
From Elsie’s litter of 9 piglets we had 2 gilts that headed off to Middleham in Yorkshire and 2 boars travelled a much shorter distance, maybe a 5 minute drive across to the other side of the East Allen Valley. That same litter also yielded a couple of good gilts that were pedigree registered to continue the Jacqueline blood line. One of these we sold on to another Tamworth breeder in the Scottish Borders but we’ve kept the other one for ourselves and named her Beryl.
The rest of that litter will be meat pigs for our pork boxes in due course and should be heading off to the butcher later this summer. More news on that as we get closer to the time.
Doris and her litter
With Esther having a litter of 3 and Doris having a litter of 5 within a similar period, it made sense to combine them as they grew to weaning age. The 2 boars from Esther’s litter eventually headed off to Appleby in Cumbria and the 3 boars from Doris’s litter were selected to keep as our own meat pigs.
One gilt from Doris’s litter also headed up to the Scottish Borders with the gilt from Elsie’s litter which left just 2 gilts (1 from Doris and 1 from Esther). These 2 headed off to a new home just a little way west from us to Greenhead at the far western edge of Northumberland
Each time we have a pig farrowing we prefer to bring her into the farrowing shed near the house so we can more easily monitor them while also providing a comfortable home for the new litter while they get going.
Somehow we managed to miss the pre-farrowing signs with Doris and so she farrowed out in her woodland pen on Sun 27 Feb. Quite a surprise for us but she didn’t seem to be bothered even as a first timer!
At the time she was sharing that pen with a couple of others so we moved her friends out to another pen soon after which meant the new family could have the whole space to themselves.
A slightly smaller litter than average but she had 3 boars and 2 gilts so I was happy enough with that. They had a good start in life and enjoyed the huge wooded space all to themselves
Esther was one of our 2 original Tamworth breeding pigs but she is now an older sow who has farrowed a few times before so I wasn’t too worried. However there was a slight concern in my mind because she hadn’t had a litter for some time. To help her relax she was brought into the farrowing shed on Saturday so that she had plenty of time to get properly settled.
As it turned out that was very good timing because she farrowed on Tuesday 22nd. A fairly small litter of just 3 lovely piglets – 2 boars and 1 gilt – but I was happy there were no other complications.
Esthers litter of 3 piglets
We’ve decided that this will be her last litter at the grand age of 7 years old, there’s an ever increasing risk of farrowing problems and reduced litter sizes as the sows get older. As a result we’ve figured she doesn’t need any of that extra worry in her life and of course we don’t want that either!
After the big arrival of Elsie in September 2021 followed soon after by a visit from a borrowed boar in October, as expected nature handled everything normally and Elsie eventually had her piglets on 22 Jan
As it turned out, I had got a bit ahead of myself by bringing Elsie into the farrowing shed more than a week ahewad of time which meant extra work each day cleaning up after her. Overall though, I’d still rather have had that than work in a last minute panic with piglets arriving when we’re not ready for them.
Elsie about 3 days before farrowing
There was a certain amount of worry and repeated checking on Elsie from my part but you can’t rush these things. It was a particularly great relief to me when Elsie decided to farrow at a reasonable hour (between 6pm and 10pm) and on a Saturday evening as well so it didn’t interfere with my day job!
For a first time mum she did an excellent job and eventually ended up with 9 piglets in total – 4 boars and 5 gilts – with no unexpected complications which is always a great relief for me
new born Tamworth piglets
We all soon settled into a nice routine with the piglets getting milk every 30 minutes or so and me feeding Elsie 3 times a day while cleaning out the shed. It’s always a nice to take some time to watch the piglets but when you see them a lot on a daily basis you don’t always notice that they are getting bigger quite quickly
After 2 weeks in the farrowing shed, the piglets had become more active and were ready for the outside world. By that time, Elsie had also had enough and would prefer to wander about in the fresh air whenever she likes. I was also ready to have a break from cleaning up the farrowing shed so much every day so we all win in the end!
Elsie and piglets in the woods
We can’t keep all of the 9 piglets due to space limitations but we have already found homes for 2 gilts and 2 boars which is a good start. The rest of the litter will be available for sale when they are weaned in about 4 weeks and any that remain unsold will be kept here for finishing later in the year.
If anyone is interested in buying our Tamworth weaners so they can raise their own pigs then just comment on here and I can let you know more information via email
When we started on our pig breeding journey, we only had sows from the Maple bloodline. This was mostly because that was what the breeder had at the time and we were just starting out so we needed to find our feet first. This worked well for us but as the original 2 got older we bred a replacement – Fifi – who also had some great litters for us.
Even when we eventually sold Fifi on to someone else, we kept a gilt that we’ve called Tina from her last litter so we could continue to breed with our original Maple bloodline. As that litter was only born in July, for the moment Tina gets to enjoy a quiet life without the attentions of the boar until she’s a bit older.
Early in September we collected an 11 month old Jacqueline gilt from the Yorkshire Dales who we have decided to call Elsie. This was the first new pig we had bought in the 5 years since we started breeding so it seemed quite a big deal to me. However everything went really smoothly and, after a week to settle in, she was introduced to the borrowed boar ready for piglets during January 2022
Then in early October we collected a 9 month old Princess gilt from Gateshead who has been named Doris and, helpfully for ease of identification, she has a shorter tail presumably due to part being lost when she was little. As before, she soon got used to our routines and by late October was introduced to the boar.
I think by this point, the boar couldn’t quite believe his luck with 3 females of various ages to keep him company and almost an acre of woodlands to roam around in. But then it got even better because it was pumpkin season…
As part of a longer term plan to increase the number of female bloodlines, we sadly had to part with Fifi to make room for new breeding stock. However as it turned out, we were able to find an excellent new home for her and also 2 gilts from her most recent litter.
Thankfully loading on collection day (7 Oct) went without a hitch and without a backward glance she was soon on her way.
Fifi was very well behaved for loading
It was also agreed that Fifi would be in-pig when she left us so the new owners could expect to see piglets early in 2022. This meant she had a few weeks with a borrowed boar before departure and when they first met he certainly seemed to be very pleased to see her…
Fifi and the borrowed boar
It seems that they’ve all settled very well in their new home in Dumfries and Galloway with plenty of woodlands to explore over the coming months judging by the picture below. I’m hoping to hear good news about Fifi’s next litter arriving at some point during early January 2022