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.
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
This weekend was weaning time for Sissy and her small litter of 2 piglets so the farrowing shed became the piglet shed just for one night. In the morning Sissy moved back to the woods for some peace and quiet while the piglets enjoyed a hearty breakfast without having to share it with mum
They’re off to their new home now (at Wilde Farm if you’re interested) and it’ll soon be time for us to see whether Sissy comes back into season as expected or not.
Although it can seem a little soon, the fact is that a sow will come into season around 5-7 days after her litter have been removed. It’s not an exact science so we’ll need to keep a close eye on her over the next week or so just to check
The current plan is to try the AI again with Sissy when she comes into season so that she has another litter during this year.
In the meantime, the shed has now returned to more normal use with Fifi moving in this evening in preparation for farrowing in about a weeks time.
Since the only Tamworth boar available as AI at the time was actually her father, this litter is an experiment with crossing 2 rare breeds – something we’ve not done before.
The AI used was from a Berkshire boar so I’m really curious to see what the piglets look like when they’re born.
I can still remember doing the AI with Fifi and, if I’m honest, it really didn’t go very well so I’m pleasantly surprised that she’s in-pig at all. That may mean a relatively small litter in the end but it’s impossible to tell at this stage.
Watch this space for further piglet developments in about 7-10 days!
We have 4 Tamworth piglets (castrated males) available for sale out of the most recent litter . The mother – Sissy – is a registered pedigree sow, very good-natured and calm around people. Sow and her litter can be seen if required.
The Tamworth is good hardy stock and ours happily live outside in woodland all year round although we usually bring them inside to farrow as can be seen in the photograph.
If you want to help support a rare breed and would also like some great home-grown pork for your freezer then these come highly recommended. Born on Jan 12 so they will be weaned, wormed and ready to go by early March
We are in the Allen Valleys (Northumberland) at the very northern end of the North Pennines. All buyers must have a CPH number
Price is £45 each but could do a deal for a single buyer taking all 4 of them. Use the form below to get in touch:
For my own reference in future, I have decided to note down what I can remember of the overall sequence of events surrounding the farrowing for both Sissy and Esther. Looking back now it’s a little bit of a blur mostly because it was our (and the sows) first time for farrowing. I can imagine I’ll forget something crucial which would be helpful for the next time so it’s good to have this noted somewhere.
Despite having a good plan in place in advance, the reality was that there were minor differences between each of the pigs which were dictated by the circumstances at that time. This was not entirely unexpected as many of the books and information about farrowing contradict each other to a certain extent which makes it hard for first-timers like us.
The first litter will be ready to go in a week or so with the second litter ready about 3-4 weeks after that so if you’re interested in supporting a rare breed and would like to produce your own pork then you can’t go wrong with a couple of Tamworth weaners! Click here for more details
About 1 week ahead of time we prepared the shed and moved both sows indoors together so they could keep each other company. We decided to farrow them inside as being nearer the house would make the job more manageable for us and besides the weather was too cold to leave everything to nature outside.
Rigged up a heat lamp in a corner of the shed and blocked it off with a sheep hurdle to give the piglets somewhere to get away from their mother
Set aside all the bits and pieces in readiness for farrowing – iodine spray, cloths/towels, bucket for warm water etc.
We were on-hand for the first farrowing (Sissy) between 5pm and 11pm on Thurs 25 Feb with only 5 born and all survived. The first piglet arrived a little unexpectedly so we had to hurriedly move the other sow (Esther) back out to the woods so that Sissy could have the shed to herself.
Second farrowing (Esther) eventually happened in the early hours of Mon 18 Mar with 8 surviving out of 10 born when we checked at about 7am. That includes one piglet which needed some intensive care at the beginning and at one point we almost gave up on it but he had rallied around a couple of hours later and is now indistinguishable from the others.
The piglets had limited interest in exploring for the first couple of days and were just happy to suckle and sleep. The heat lamp worked really well and it only took them a day or so to realise it was a good spot for snoozing
By the end of the first week they are getting much more inquisitive and exploring the shed until a human appeared then they’d scuttle back to the heat lamp corner.
After 2 weeks they were fully active and investigating their surroundings (and mothers food)
By 3 weeks they should be getting at least some hard feed as mothers milk production will peak around that point and then starts to reduce over time.
Both litters were moved out of the shed and back to the woods somewhere around 3 weeks old
It was always planned to move each little back to a prepared pen in the woods, partly to clear the farrowing shed in time for the second farrowing but also so that the piglets get used to electric fencing at an early age. If necessary we could move the piglets back into the shed in preparation for selling them once they are ready to go.
We moved Sissy and her litter by leading her first and returning to carry each piglet in turn (with 2 people). The piglets were between 2 and 3 weeks old so carrying was the safest and quickest option.
We moved Esther and her litter by herding all of them together (with 3 people) because the piglets were a couple of days over 3 weeks old (due to other commitments elsewhere).
Initially a creep fender was used in the woods to try to contain the piglets until they were used to their new surroundings which worked well for Sissy’s litter for a couple of days. Unfortunately Esther’s litter were that little bit bigger and had jumped the fender within an hour or two on their first afternoon in the woods so it was removed completely in the end.
Once they are all in the woods, the only problem we found was that we needed more buckets as the each group had differing quantities of feed plus each group had a ration of sow rolls for the mother and also another ration of smaller pellets for the piglets. Keeping each to their own feed was eventually only partially successful but so long as everybody ate something I was happy!