Pig Update – keepers and eaters

Earlier this week the 4 Tamworths turned 6 months old so I started to think about a special pig blog update. This batch of pigs has not featured heavily in the blog so it would be good to rectify that a little.

It’s definitely time for a weigh-in as the 2 “eaters” will be heading off to the butchers later in the summer and I’ll need to plan ahead for that. The 2 “keepers” need to be monitored as well though so that they are in good condition when we want to get them in-pig towards the end of Autumn.

Cause for concern

Last night one of the “keepers” suddenly showed signs of being ill with reduced appetite – she ate but left the feed trough before finishing – and uncharacteristically lethargic when compared to the 3 others – ambling instead of running.

The other 3 were oblivious to all of this and they happily cleared any extra left overs from the feed trough without batting an eye.

Fortunately she ambled over to me and was quite happy to lie down for a scratch which meant I could have a closer examination. To my untrained eye there was nothing obvious and no flinching when I checked everything I could think of at both ends as well as the feet and legs.

Poorly pig resting
Poorly pig resting

It’s only at times like this that you realise how lucky we’ve been with no major health incidents for any of the 3 batches of pigs we’ve had. Of course, they were all weaners in the past and only kept for 4-5 months so if looked after correctly there’s not much that can go wrong.

Now that we’ve decided to keep some for breeding we’ll have them for years to come and will need to be much more aware of the potential problems. It’s always best to keep alert to any signs of illness and if possible prevent anything rather than treating it.

As luck would have it, this morning she appeared to be on the mend with an improved appetite and a little more spring in her step. Not fully back to normal but a definite improvement from last night which is good.

Heads down and munching
Heads down and munching



Once they are all busy at the trough, the task of measuring is made much simpler although you do have to take into account the fact that their heads generally stay down in the food which can affect the length measurement.

As these were all tattooed by the breeder we can easily identify them by the last digit from the ear and that saves us from the temptation of giving them names.


No. 7
  1.0m heart girth x 1.02m long
 (1.0 x 1.0) x 1.02 * 69.3 = 71kg
No. 8
  1.06m heart girth x 1.06m long = 82.5kg
 (1.06 x 1.06) x 1.06 * 69.3 = 82.5kg


No. 6
  1.02m heart girth x 1.03m long = 74kg
 (1.02 x 1.02) x 1.03 * 69.3 = 74kg
No. 9
  1.05m heart girth x 1.02m long = 78kg
 (1.05 x 1.05) x 1.02 * 69.3 = 78kg

On reading back through old posts here for the previous set of weaners I find that we sent the 3 Oxford Sandy and Black boys off at about this weight last year. On reflection that was too early but they had got a little more boisterous and hadn’t had the snip either so we were nervous about keeping them for too long.

Luckily this years Tamworths are all females and  I’ve decided to grow the “eaters” on to 90kg or perhaps even a little over that. This should mean that we get some good-sized cuts to turn into bacon plus the roasting joints might be a little larger.

Cattle progress – a summary

After the fiasco at the end of May when our 2 Dexter cows were delivered the events at the start of this week were a major relief. We had been given many differing opinions by everyone we spoke to but we tried to follow as many of them as made some kind of sense to us.

Last thing on Monday night while doing the regular rounds I found that they had wandered into our field of their own accord. Luckily for me they were calm and seemed happy enough to just watch me as I replaced the old gate and fencing so they couldn’t wander back out again!

A bit blurry but what a relief!
A bit blurry but what a relief!

The next day or two were no easier on my nerves though as, having finally got them into our field, I was always worried that they’d get out again! At least my worries were eased having promptly got the fencing man in a week or so ago to put some additional posts and barbed wire around the perimeter to make the field more secure.

Unfortunately because we have tried so many tactics and been given many differing opinions on the best approach, I can’t report which was the one that made all the difference. Here is a rough idea of the main suggestions attempted

  • Gentle attempts at herding them with only one person
  • More forceful attempts at herding them using a quad along with 3 or 4 people
  • Cutting back an overhanging tree at the entrance point to our field
  • Regularly tempting them with small amounts of tasty feed
  • Positioning the water trough/bucket just inside our field
  • Wait until the grass stops growing (luckily this one wasn’t needed!)

Perhaps none of this made any difference or maybe it all contributed in the end. However I’m just thankful that there was a happy ending to the first part of our cattle keeping experiences and very grateful for all the advice/support we received while trying to fix the problem.

The next step is to get them used to us and eventually to accept some limited human contact because if all goes well they are due to calve around December/January. The idea was always that they should manage all that by themselves because they’ve both calved before but it would be better for us (and the vets) if they were more happy around people!


A real rollercoaster weekend

Last weekend was the second anniversary of our move and was also probably the most stressful weekend so far. Now that the dust has started to settle and there are plans in place to deal with the various problems I can take stock with a blog update!


After what seems like a very long wait, Friday was the day that our 2 Dexters were finally being delivered. They are both 3 years old and, according to the vet check before departure, they are in calf with one 12 weeks along and the other only 5 weeks along.

Having waited so long and done so much planning ahead of time, it seems that fate decided to mix things up a bit. As new cattle owners we had tried our best to cover all eventualities but hadn’t considered that they would be extremely grumpy after the dramatic events of the day.

Immediately when they were unloaded into their new home they promptly disappeared over a stone wall, through our woods and over another wall into the neighbours fields!

The calm before the storm
The calm before the storm

They somehow ended up in separate fields and apparently unable to see or hear each other which was less than ideal. After much rushing around up and down the neighbours hilly fields over the next 24 hours we eventually had to give up on getting them back together.

First thing on the Saturday morning, I found an unexpected sight around the chicken house but unfortunately she still wasn’t happy enough to stay. Within minutes she’d hopped back over the walls and into the neighbours field again.

An early morning visitor
An early morning visitor

Obviously the best option was to let them calm down in their own time and tackle the problem later. Luckily while checking them on the Sunday morning one of them decided that it was time to head back uphill and find their companion.

In due course some progress was made even though they’re still not in our fields, at least they’re next door. The next job is to get the fencing man in to raise the boundaries of their initial home then we can considered herding them around the corner and back onto our own land.

Suspicious stares
Suspicious stares


On a lighter note and as a distraction from the cattle stress, the veg beds got some long overdue attention. Finally some more seedlings could get planted out into their final growing position and I can clear up some of the cold frame area.

The additional raised bed that was added at the last minute has really helped with my usual problem of planting too many things in pots and trays! The lettuce, dwarf beans and nasturtiums all seem to be getting well established now.

It might be nice to see a little more progress from the peas but I’m happy that they are at least making slow progress. Maybe the experiences with the cows will remind me to be more grateful for the simple pleasures and less demanding overall!

A quick check on the soft fruit and fruit trees also helped to raise the mood on what could otherwise have been a very dispiriting weekend.

There’s always a smile to be had with a picture gallery!