There’s no escaping the fact that winter is here with the short days and cold temperatures but it’s even more obvious this evening because the snow is falling. The waterproof trousers are always at the ready just in case and I’ve already found out which pairs of wellies have holes in.
By reducing the numbers in our Dexter herd ahead of any really bad weather, we’re hoping that the fields will cope slightly better this year.
It’s unusually quiet down with the pigs now that it’s just the 2 sows left and they’re enjoying a change of scene while we rest their usual pens over the winter.
After sending off the last 3 meat pigs, the 2 sows seem to have become friends again and now share the same ark most nights. The straw is regularly monitored though because as it gets colder they’re bound to need a top up from time to time.
The first sow (Esther) is already in-pig and due to farrow in mid-January while the second AI attempt with Sissy is currently underway – the first one was slightly mistimed I think. Before we know it there will be some more piglets so we’ll need to get everything prepared over the Christmas / New Year period to make sure we’re ready in time.
Our first efforts with selling the Dexter beef have gone really well. The best approach all round seems to be to sell it primarily as beef boxes but individual cuts are also an option once the initial rush dies down.
The same goes for the pork boxes which have sold very well again this year. There were concerns originally that we had too many meat pigs this year but that hasn’t been much of a problem in the end.
It’s been a tougher time than I’d expected but our first Dexter steer went off to slaughter at the start of November. The difference with keeping cattle is that they are around for much longer than with our pigs and as a result there is more time to get attached to them.
Despite this we knew what had to be done and a plan eventually came together. The first one had to go off this year which should help to reduce the damage to the fields over the coming winter with one less set of hooves out there. Our second Dexter steer will be kept through until late spring or early summer next year which helps to prevent overloading our freezers with too much meat at once.
The Dexter breed is a native breed which is quite happy with the British climate so ours live fairly naturally and are not housed over the winter. It’s reassuring to know that they have not had (or needed) any special feed or antibiotics during their lives – just grass or hay plus our North Pennines spring water of course.
We have high hopes for the results as we have been told by many people that this will be “the best beef we’ve ever tasted”. This will have quite a lot to live up to though because our pork has got some excellent feedback this year but I’m expecting the beef to be just as good if not better.
The beef will be back by the end of November and, as with our Tamworth pork, the plan is to sell beef selection boxes in 2 different sizes.
Somehow time has just shot by in recent weeks and I realised (yet again) that it’s been far too long since the last blog update was posted. However, even though the updates have been few and far between, that doesn’t mean nothing has happened.
The biggest topic over recent weeks has been the pigs with those we kept for meat going off to slaughter in 3 batches during the summer and autumn. We raised a total of 7 meat pigs from the two litters this year but we also sold another 9 piglets as weaners to other people.
Our first batch of 2 pigs went in August and I was pleasantly surprised to find that nearly all the pork sold out fairly quickly. The second batch was also 2 pigs that went off in October and again we found that the vast majority of the pork sold very quickly.
So eventually we get to the final batch (3 pigs this time) which went off to slaughter last week and the pork is now with the local village butcher for cutting/packing.
Luckily we have a number of very happy customers who have placed second (or third) orders and all the feedback has been positive with the roasting joints (and crackling) coming in for some special mentions.