Another low point

After disappointing results with the litters from Dora in January and Beryl in February, I was keeping my fingers crossed for Betty with our final litter of Spring 2024

Initially everything seemed to be positive and I was able to monitor Betty via our camera so that I could leap into action when she started to farrow.

Betty on Pig Cam 2024
Betty on Pig Cam 2024

It was fairly clear that she was building up to something and she eventually started to farrow around 3am on Mon 25 March. We don’t get too many farrowings that happen at a reasonable hour but I’m used to the situation now

Over the course of the next few hours Betty delivered a litter of 8 piglets – 4 boars and 4 gilts. The heat lamp did it’s job with keeping the new born piglets warm for the first period and I restrict them to that area initially.

Once they’d all perked up and dried off plus Betty had finished moving around so much while farrowing then I was able to encourage the litter to suckle.

Some were a smaller than others but that’s not too unusual. All seemed well and I was able to leave them at that point so I could get on with my day job

However over the following week a combination of problems meant that we lost nearly all of this litter. Partly due to Betty lying on a few (perhaps they were not nimble enough) and also it soon became clear that Betty didn’t have a lot of milk.

Sadly she now has just a single piglet with her but hopefully her limited amount of milk will all be taken by this little one.

Just in case the milk from Betty isn’t enough or gets any worse, I am also bottle feeding this remaining piglet at intervals through the day. I will eventually try to get it drinking from a tray or bowl but the first priority is to make sure it gets some nutrition

Definitely not the outcome I’d hoped for or expected but all eventualities are possible and it’s a timely reminder that sometimes we don’t get what we wanted despite all our efforts!

Beryl and her little litter

This time around we moved Beryl into the farrowing shed a few days ahead of the expected date but as it turned out she didn’t want to wait that long. More likely my calendar calculations could have been better I guess

Either way I didn’t check on her overnight into Friday because I expected another days wait but as it turned out she had a large litter and she lost most of them. When I checked her first thing in the morning she just had 2 live piglets and one of those wasn’t looking too good

The weakest piglet was immediately placed in a box of straw with a hot water bottle to raise the body temperature. The heat lamp hadn’t been on overnight so we needed to do something while that could warm things up

Luckily the warmth made all the difference and within an hour or so I was able to put the piglet back under the heat lamp with the stronger one. A nervous few hours later it was clear that both piglets were doing okay so I could breathe a small sigh of relief.

Two piglets suckling
Two piglets suckling

As with previous litters, we’ve found that Beryl is a really good mother and also (happily for me) very clean while she’s confined in the shed with little ones.

This saves on the workload when cleaning out the shed because we can let her out of the farrowing area to do her toilet, eat her breakfast and stretch her legs.

Sadly not all pigs are like this and some seem to take great delight in peeing on their beds, often quite soon after the straw has been replaced!


A first litter for Dora

As with previous first time mothers I’ve had, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Dora moved into the farrowing shed ready for her time.

She’s a very friendly pig and easy to move as she happily follows a bucket full of feed. However maybe she wouldn’t like being confined in the shed even though that meant being out of the winter weather.

A small litter of 2 for Dora
A small litter of 2 for Dora

In the end she delivered a small litter of which only 2 survived – a boar and a gilt – but she showed excellent mothering instincts. The piglets did well right from the start which can be a concern in case a first time mother doesn’t have strong instincts when presented with little ones


A grand day out at the Wolsingham Show 2023

This was our first time taking pigs to the Wolsingham Show but I’d heard good things about it and wanted to make sure that the Tamworth breed was represented at the show.

We’d only ever been to one day shows before and this was a 2 day show over a weekend so I wasn’t sure how the pigs (or myself) would cope. As it turned out I needn’t have worried because we all coped very well

Allendale Tamworths setup and ready
Allendale Tamworths setup and ready

Thankfully the weekend did not involve any showing or judging of the pigs so there was a lot less to worry about than our trips to the Northumberland show.

Betty and Wilma meeting the public
Betty and Wilma meeting the public

More rosettes at Northumberland County Show 2023

This time around we took Elsie as the most senior sow, Beryl who is Elsie’s daughter and also our most recent addition Dora that we kept on from Doris’s litter last year

Settling in before the judging
Settling in before the judging

They all behaved impeccably although Elsie did get very grubby because she enjoyed digging up the fresh grass in her show pen. She still got a second place rosette for her class though!

As usual, it was an excellent day out for all concerned plus a great way for the public to meet our Tamworth pigs and find out more about them

Rosettes for each pig
Rosettes for each pig

So many piglets around the holding

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.

Doris and litter in the woods

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

Beryl in the farrowing shed feeding her first litter

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.

An excellent day at the Northumberland County Show

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

Tamworth piglets head off to good homes

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

First time litter for Doris

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