Pork is selling like hot cakes

Whenever I collect another batch of pork from the butchers there is always a real sense of pride along with all the other obvious feelings. Pride partly because we have produced something ourselves but more importantly we are proud to have reared animals with the respect it they deserve and given them the best life possible while they were with us.

As it turned out, the latest results were some of our best which is particularly pleasing because rare breed pigs (not just Tamworths) can be quite tricky to rear with the right balance of meat and ratios.

In no time at all, our larger pork selections boxes were all sold, in some cases before we had even collected the meat from the butchers. It’s nice to know that the quality of meat from our Tamworth’s is so highly regarded!

Recently we’ve been trying out the Wool Cool insulated boxes from 3R Sustainable Products and have been very pleased with the quality. This will come in very handy for the future as word spreads and we start to deliver further afield either ourselves or by using an overnight courier.

There are now just some assorted individual cuts still available but with more pigs due to go at the end of March there’s not long to wait until we have more boxes available

In the meantime, there is pork fillet – great for stroganoff or stir frying – or some chops and diced pork – both of which are great from our slow cooker. Of course there are always sausages available in a range of flavours including traditional, pork and leek, cumberland, lincolnshire and more.

Don’t want to cook?

If you’d rather eat out then Gary Dall at The Roxburgh, Whitley Bay has done some really interesting things with our pork in the past. Their place in the Good Food Guide 2019 was not easy to come by but it’s richly deserved I’m sure.

Judging by the many great reviews from customers (and the Secret Diner) the results are going down very well but make sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment

Having said that, I’m not known for being an adventurous eater so I’m not sure that I could bring myself to order some of the dishes. The presentation is always impressive though so if you’re brave enough then keep a look out for pigs heads on their menu in the near future

Farrowing does not always go according to plan

Despite all the preparations, forethought and planning leading up to Esther farrowing there was still a surprise in the works for us.

The theory was that we would move Esther into a stone outbuilding nearer the house a few days before her due date so that we can keep an eye on her more easily. This would also mean she was separated from the 2 meat pigs that have been company for her but were due to go off to the abattoir at about the same time.

Looking okay at breakfast time

Having checked her at breakfast time on the Saturday morning, I was happy that she could be moved into the shed at mealtime that same evening. This would mean the meat pigs could stay in the woods until they were loaded in the trailer on last thing on Sunday or first thing on Monday morning.

Everything was continuing according to the carefully made plans so far…

We got down to the woods to move her at about 4pm and immediately noticed that the 2 meat pigs rushed out to greet us but there was no sign of Esther coming out of her ark. Highly unusual because she’s normally fairly keen on her food and moves quickly even at this late stage of the gestation

As I got closer to her ark the reason became clear, she’d already farrowed 5 piglets and looked to be still in the process of producing more. Luckily she is a very placid mother and happy for us to be around her even during farrowing.

Barely an hour or two old

An immediate change of plans was required, I would not be comfortable leaving a sow with new born piglets in the same pen as a couple of mildly boisterous 6 month old boars.

In the end, the 2 boars got some unexpected luxury accommodation in the farrowing shed for a couple of nights and we left Esther where she was. The pig ark was very sheltered and she’d done an excellent job with looking after them so far. There seemed no benefit to disturbing them at that point especially given that we’ve got some very mild weather at the moment

We’ve not had pigs farrowing outdoors before, mainly because we’re fascinated by the whole process and like to feel that we’re helping by being on hand. There have been a few occasions where we’ve managed to save piglets that where weaker when born but that’s not always possible.

It’s just a fact of life (and death) that sometimes an apparently healthy looking piglet will be born very weak or even dead and while it’s never easy to see though but we just do our best to help where we can.

The final outcome for this litter was 3 gilts and a boar – there was another boar that seemed okay at first but sadly he was dead by the next morning.

Most importantly for the surviving piglets, their mother was doing well and soon up on her feet again. It’s obviously tiring for the sow during the farrowing but she worked up quite an appetite after missing her Saturday evening meal due to the early arrivals.

By Sunday morning she was glad of her extra rations and a chance to come out of the pig ark to stretch her legs.

Glad it’s over and food has arrived

This time it’s for real… I hope!

It’s been a troubling time since the last expected farrowing – mainly because I still can’t quite explain why I misjudged events so completely.

Admittedly it is true that Sissy already had quite a reputation for carrying a few extra pounds compared to her sister (Esther). Added to that is the constant juggling of time between the smallholding activities and a full time job not to mention the usual family commitments.

As a result I’ve been doubting myself even more than usual when studying Esther for any of the usual signs as the expected farrowing date gets closer.

Esther in January
Esther in January

More recently there have finally been enough signs for me to believe that this time we’ll actually get some piglets around the middle of the month.

Although not completely clear from the picture below, there are definite signs of the teats forming up and this could be confirmed by gently checking her underline

Esther 3 weeks later
Esther 3 weeks later

Next on the list of tasks will be a preemptive worming injection sometime over this coming weekend. This will not only help her but also passes the protection on to the unborn piglets. That should mean they get the best possible start to life with no unwanted parasites.

Now it’s just a waiting game and I’ll be keeping an eye on her development. In about another week or so it will be time for her to move inside in preparation for farrowing.