All stages of pig breeding in one weekend

The past weekend has been a major entry on my calendar for some time because a number of fairly big events were scheduled.

However looking back on it all now, I realise I hadn’t fully appreciated that nearly all stages of pig breeding were involved – artificial insemination on Sissy plus a new litter for Fifi and also 3 meat pigs heading off to the butchers.

Fifi farrows for the first time

Fifi had all week to settle down in the farrowing shed and was getting closer to farrowing so we started final preparations on Sunday morning. This just means gathering the various things we might need at short notice once it all starts. If there are problems then we don’t want to waste time hunting for something crucial that might save a life.

By lunchtime things were clearly moving fast and over the course of the next 2 hours she rapidly farrowed 9 piglets with remarkably little trouble given this was her first litter.

They’re now almost 2 days old and all are still doing well. Almost up to the psychological (and non-scientific) 3 day point when I can start to believe they’ll all survive.

The most important first hurdles have been passed though – getting milk from their mother, finding the heat lamp and getting plenty of sleep!

Sissy AI

After the rather worrying time during the last farrowing for Sissy we’ve decided to try getting her back in-pig as soon as possible.

Another AI for Sissy

Once separated from a litter at weaning, a sow will come into season again within a week.

As usual, this meant careful planning to make sure I could be around to do this, ideally at a weekend. Also it meant timing the order for supplies so they arrive at the right point – it only lasts for about 5 days

In the end it all seemed to go well with the 3 AI attempts spread out over Friday and Saturday. As often happens, at least one attempt was a bit of a disaster but the other 2 appeared to be fine.

We’ll know for certain in about 3 weeks if we don’t see Sissy coming back into season – another future entry in my calendar!

Meat pigs to the butchers

To round off the weekend, there was a trip to the abattoir on Monday to take the first 3 meat pigs. This is never a great day but we always keep things as calm as possible for the pigs.

Having been born and raised here on our smallholding, they travel less than 30 miles in the trailer which all helps.

Considering the nationwide problems with smaller abattoirs closing due to the costs of regulations these days, we’re quite lucky to have something within a decent distance.

Locked and loaded for the trip

The pork from this batch has already been sold out in advance via social to a combination of our loyal regular customers and a few new ones as well.

Once we get the meat back next weekend, we’ll know for certain whether there is any left available or, in the worst case, if we’ve over sold it ahead of time.

There will be another batch of 3 meat pigs heading off in about 6-8 weeks time so anyone who missed out this time won’t have long to wait. We’re also hoping to get a little more bacon from the next batch – we don’t often have bacon made because the pigs needs to be kept quite a bit longer but it’s nice to have it every once in a while.

As well as being some of the finest pork available (according to me at least!), the pork sales help cover the costs of keeping all the pigs on our holding so we’re always very grateful for that.

Weaning the first litter

About a week ago we brought Esther and her litter of 9 piglets into the pig shed to start the weaning process and in preparation for collection. At this stage they were just over 7 weeks old and had been on hard feed for a while so it was a good time to start.

This can sometimes be a tricky procedure once they’ve had a taste of life outdoors in the woods but this litter seem to be better behaved than some of our previous ones.

Room full of piglets

The initial batch of 4 piglets were collected first which left 5 piglets in the pig shed and therefore a bit more room at the trough for mealtimes. It can be very crowded around feed troughs with 9 mouths to feed even if we split the food between two troughs.

Bit more space at the trough
Bit more space at the trough

The remaining 3 weaners that we had sold were picked up a couple of days later and that left us with 2 to raise for pork ourselves. This was pretty much as we’d hoped before Esther had farrowed but you can never be sure in advance exactly how much interest there will be in weaners.

Esther and the remaining 2 that we’re keeping as meat pigs could then be moved back to the woods. This was very much appreciated by everyone because it means we don’t have to muck out the pig shed and they prefer live outside anyway.

Happy to be outdoors again

There is no time for us to rest though because we have to clean out the shed ready for the next litter which is due in a couple of weeks. I’m pretty sure that Sissy will be very glad to get indoors for a few weeks given the muddy state of her current pen

Clearing out the pig shed

Settling in to the winter routine

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.

The cattle are happily working their way through the hay we made back in September. At the same time we’re adjusting after sending our first steer off for beef.

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.

Meat sales

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.

Premium Beef box
Premium Beef box

Autumn 2017 – Tamworth pigs and pork boxes

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.

Rare breed Pork for sale
Rare breed Pork for sale


Rare breed pork for sale in the Allen Valleys

We will have some fresh outdoor-reared, rare breed Tamworth pork available for sale over the weekend of Sat 22/Sun 23 August. This can be collected in person (by prior arrangement) or could be delivered if you live within the Allen Valleys area.

This meat is from our pedigree Tamworth pigs that are raised outdoors in a natural, stress free woodland environment.  Click here to read the blog updates about our pigs if you’d like to find out more about them.

Most standard cuts will be available including roasting joints, chops, steaks, sausages among others with everything vacuum packed and labelled by the butchers before we collect it. As a rough guide, we expect to have a selection of 1.5kg and 2kg roasting joints available as well as chops, sausages, etc in packs weighing around 350-500g.

Pre-orders are recommended to avoid disappointment, particularly if you want something specific as we will only have a limited amount on this occasion.

Please complete the form below to let us know what you would like or find out more information and we’ll be in touch.


Pork into sausages, bacon and ham

After a lengthy delay, I have finally added a pork processing page under the USING section with the information about how I used the pork we got back from our first two weaners in 2013.

Back bacon before curing
Back bacon before curing

This was just a gentle introduction to bacon curing and sausage making although just before Christmas there was also a flurry of curing ham as well but the process for that is actually much the same as for bacon. It might be just plain beginners luck but these turned out well and the results were very well received over the Christmas period!

Another burst of sausage making only yesterday reminded me of a couple of extra points which I have now included but I’m sure there’ll probably be a few more additions or changes as time goes on.

The Processing Pork page has been added mainly as a reference for the methods and recipes used this time around so that I can look back at the information when our next lot of weaners arrive back from the butchers. If this page also helps others as well then that’s a bonus and if there are any glaring errors or omissions then please let me know so I can correct them!