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

Esther delivers (for the last time?)

Esther was one of our 2 original Tamworth breeding pigs but she is now an older sow who has farrowed a few times before so I wasn’t too worried. However there was a slight concern in my mind because she hadn’t had a litter for some time. To help her relax she was brought into the farrowing shed on Saturday so that she had plenty of time to get properly settled.

As it turned out that was very good timing because she farrowed on Tuesday 22nd. A fairly small litter of just 3 lovely piglets – 2 boars and 1 gilt – but I was happy there were no other complications.

Esthers litter of 3 piglets

We’ve decided that this will be her last litter at the grand age of 7 years old, there’s an ever increasing risk of farrowing problems and reduced litter sizes as the sows get older. As a result we’ve figured she doesn’t need any of that extra worry in her life and of course we don’t want that either!

Elsie has her first litter

After the big arrival of Elsie in September 2021 followed soon after by a visit from a borrowed boar in October, as expected nature handled everything normally and Elsie eventually had her piglets on 22 Jan

As it turned out, I had got a bit ahead of myself by bringing Elsie into the farrowing shed more than a week ahewad of time which meant extra work each day cleaning up after her. Overall though, I’d still rather have had that than work in a last minute panic with piglets arriving when we’re not ready for them.

Elsie about 3 days before farrowing

There was a certain amount of worry and repeated checking on Elsie from my part but you can’t rush these things. It was a particularly great relief to me when Elsie decided to farrow at a reasonable hour (between 6pm and 10pm) and on a Saturday evening as well so it didn’t interfere with my day job!

For a first time mum she did an excellent job and eventually ended up with 9 piglets in total – 4 boars and 5 gilts – with no unexpected complications which is always a great relief for me

new born Tamworth piglets

We all soon settled into a nice routine with the piglets getting milk every 30 minutes or so and me feeding Elsie 3 times a day while cleaning out the shed. It’s always a nice to take some time to watch the piglets but when you see them a lot on a daily basis you don’t always notice that they are getting bigger quite quickly

After 2 weeks in the farrowing shed, the piglets had become more active and were ready for the outside world. By that time, Elsie had also had enough and would prefer to wander about in the fresh air whenever she likes. I was also ready to have a break from cleaning up the farrowing shed so much every day so we all win in the end!

Elsie and piglets in the woods

We can’t keep all of the 9 piglets due to space limitations but we have already found homes for 2 gilts and 2 boars which is a good start. The rest of the litter will be available for sale when they are weaned in about 4 weeks and any that remain unsold will be kept here for finishing later in the year.

If anyone is interested in buying our Tamworth weaners so they can raise their own pigs then just comment on here and I can let you know more information via email

Expanding the breeding herd

When we started on our pig breeding journey, we only had sows from the Maple bloodline. This was mostly because that was what the breeder had at the time and we were just starting out so we needed to find our feet first. This worked well for us but as the original 2 got older we bred a replacement – Fifi – who also had some great litters for us.

Even when we eventually sold Fifi on to someone else, we kept a gilt that we’ve called Tina from her last litter so we could continue to breed with our original Maple bloodline. As that litter was only born in July, for the moment Tina gets to enjoy a quiet life without the attentions of the boar until she’s a bit older.

Early in September we collected an 11 month old Jacqueline gilt from the Yorkshire Dales who we have decided to call Elsie. This was the first new pig we had bought in the 5 years since we started breeding so it seemed quite a big deal to me. However everything went really smoothly and, after a week to settle in, she was introduced to the borrowed boar ready for piglets during January 2022

Then in early October we collected a 9 month old Princess gilt from Gateshead who has been named Doris and, helpfully for ease of identification, she has a shorter tail presumably due to part being lost when she was little. As before, she soon got used to our routines and by late October was introduced to the boar.

I think by this point, the boar couldn’t quite believe his luck with 3 females of various ages to keep him company and almost an acre of woodlands to roam around in. But then it got even better because it was pumpkin season…

Fifi off to a new home

As part of a longer term plan to increase the number of female bloodlines, we sadly had to part with Fifi to make room for new breeding stock. However as it turned out, we were able to find an excellent new home for her and also 2 gilts from her most recent litter.

Thankfully loading on collection day (7 Oct) went without a hitch and without a backward glance she was soon on her way.

Fifi was very well behaved for loading

It was also agreed that Fifi would be in-pig when she left us so the new owners could expect to see piglets early in 2022. This meant she had a few weeks with a borrowed boar before departure and when they first met he certainly seemed to be very pleased to see her…

Fifi and the borrowed boar

It seems that they’ve all settled very well in their new home in Dumfries and Galloway with plenty of woodlands to explore over the coming months judging by the picture below. I’m hoping to hear good news about Fifi’s next litter arriving at some point during early January 2022

2 gilts enjoying their new home

Third litter of piglets for Fifi

I never like the idea of talking about important events before they’ve happened and you’re sure how they will turn out. This definitely applies to our sows when they farrow because there are a multitude of things which could go wrong if you stop to think of the worst.

Although I make sure our sows are handled regularly and familiar with having us close by, once they move into the farrowing shed near the house in preparation for the event I still get concerned that unforeseen problems could come up.

So far I’ve been quite lucky and had mostly problem-free farrowing for all our sows – only rarely does a situation come up which means that the vet needs to be consulted. I like to think that our native rare breed Tamworths are made of strong stuff with a good constitution but I’d still rather be prepared just in case

Is there anything cuter than a pile of piglets?

This latest farrowing for Fifi was one of the smoothest I’ve ever had and, apart from it starting at 2am onwards, it was a real privilege to be there the whole time. It also made a change from the winter farrowings we’ve had because I could happily sit with her in just a t-shirt and jeans instead of the full kit of jumpers, coat, thick socks etc.

By the time the sun was fully up on Weds 14th July, Fifi had delivered 9 live piglets – 5 gilts (girls) and 4 boars (boys) – which is remarkably consistent because her other 2 previous litters were also 9 each time. She did have some piglets that were stillborn this time (despite my best efforts I couldn’t save them) which is tough to take for me but that’s all part of the process and she has enough to keep her fully occupied anyway.

They’ll spend about a week or two in the farrowing shed until they’re strong enough and curious enough to move to our designated piglet pen in the woods. In fact this move will have to wait until I finish preparing that pen but I’ve still got a few days before it’s needed

Right now the farrowing shed is their whole world and that’s more than enough to occupy them as they explore all corners when mum isn’t looking. After some feed which is at least 3 times a day, Fifi does like to go outside for a wander and to make use of the toilet facilities in the woods but I’ll save that treat for the piglets once they’re a little bigger