Surprisingly, today marks the 4th anniversary of the move to our smallholding in the North Pennines. This is hard to believe partly because it’s just 4 years since we left the suburban semi-detached house but also because it feels longer than 4 years given that so much has happened in that time.
The ups and downs along the way have been both educational and humbling in equal measure but the overwhelming feeling is that we have been extremely lucky and we should continue trying to make the most of the opportunity.
We have been helped along the way by far too many people to mention but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate all the help and advice provided though. We still have a lot to learn though and without the knowledge and experience of others we definitely wouldn’t have made it this far.
Over time it’s becoming clear that there will never be a point when we can just sit back and relax. Mostly because there’s always a job that needs to be done or another mad idea to plan and pursue. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
To celebrate this significant milestone, here are a few of my favourite pictures from the past 4 years
After all the excitement with litters of pigs over the last few months, it’s now time to think about the cattle and get ready for calving again. The last time they calved we missed the actual event but were on hand within an hour or two to check on both mother and new-born calf.
Our calculations for calving dates this year are based entirely on the dates for the bulls visit last year and their level of interest in him at different times during his stay. Apparently the usual gestation period for cattle of 283 days can be out by as much as 7 days (earlier or later) but I’ve calculated the dates as being 26 May for Nellie and 7 June for Daisy.
Spotting the signs
A good indicator that calving is getting closer is how the cows body changes in preparation for the event. The first visible signs were a noticeable increase in udder size on Nellie who is due first when compared with Daisy who should be almost 2 weeks later.
We could have had a vet in to check/scan them in the early stages just to confirm that they were in-calf but we decided that made no difference to our plans. If they both had calves that would be great but with just 2 cows this is still a bit of an experiment for us. It won’t be the end of the world if it turns out one of them wasn’t in-calf but I hope that isn’t the case.
Finding some grass
Our top concern for the moment is having somewhere with enough grass for them to eat while still being secluded enough to offer a little privacy for calving. For the last few weeks all 4 Dexters have been out in the front fields to give the back fields a chance to recover a little from the rough treatment over winter.
A stay in the front fields is always a bit of an adventure for them and they have enjoyed exploring the furthest corners over the last few weeks. As the picture below shows, even the youngest calf – Elvis – enjoyed himself despite still being a little too short to see over the walls in places. Luckily these old dry stone walls have “smoot holes” which are designed to allow sheep to pass through.
A lesser concern for me is whether to separate the current calves – Oscar and Elvis – from the herd before the new calves appear. There is a slight worry that their occasionally more boisterous behaviour could be a problem when the new-born calves appear or even that the 2 cows might be a little over-protective.
I think we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes but I’m certainly going to have a plan in mind if it becomes necessary.
We still have a few Tamworth piglets available for sale out of the most recent litter (some are already reserved). The mother – Esther – is a registered pedigree sow, very good-natured and calm around people. These are good hardy stock, well suited to living outside all year round although we usually bring our sows inside to farrow – both for our convenience and their comfort.
Born on April 5 so they will be ready to go by the last weekend in May but both the sow and her litter can be seen before then if required. They are currently living outside in woodland so they will be used to electric fencing.
We are in the Allen Valleys (Northumberland) at the very northern end of the North Pennines. All buyers must have a CPH number
Price is £45 each. Please use the form below to get in touch:
After enjoying the comforts of the farrowing shed for a few weeks, it was finally time for the latest litter to move outside to the woods.
This is mostly because they are getting a bit more adventurous now with more interest in exploring but also so that they can get used to electric fencing. This doesn’t take long and normally within a day or so they learn to keep a safe distance.
The journey isn’t very far but there is always the potential for disaster with moving pigs because it’s just not possible to make a pig do something or go somewhere if it really doesn’t want to.
As usual the first problem was getting the piglets to cross the threshold for the first time, this wasn’t helped by the fact that Esther decided to just wander off on her own without waiting for them!
Luckily we have fairly well-behaved pigs so, after a few minutes of minor panic (on our part) and some chasing of piglets in circles, both the mother and litter were safely outside and on their way through the woods to their new pen.
There was even some time for a brief chat over the fence with the neighbours while on the way…
Once through the last gate they just need to be guided through the opening in the electric fencing but as usual a bucket of feed works wonders. After that the mother and litter were free to explore their new surroundings, meet the big kids next door and eventually settle in to their new quarters with loads of fresh straw.