pigs

Eeny-piggy

Perhaps I shouldn’t use this expression,

but the number of piggies we have on the Ffarm at any one time, is something of a moveable feast!  Housed comfortably in one of our two traditional drystone sties, the ladies are our main source of ‘whey-ste’ disposal: because the by-product of cheesemaking (whey) is particularly damaging if poured into a water course, we’ve had to find an alternative means of getting rid of it.  The most natural, traditional method, is to feed it back to the livestock – thus, the pigs greedily gobble it up (& even the goats get the odd bucket, which puts a wonderful bloom on their coats). 

Whilst our first pig-keeping experience started as a ‘piggy co-operative’ with four Gloucester Old SpotxWelsh weaners back in March 2006, we’ve decided to annually purchase 3 gilts (young female pigs) for our own consumption, at Easter time; fattening one for pork which is sent for ‘conversion’ in July, leaving the remaining pair as company for each other for the next couple of months (pigs are sociable animals & you cannot legally keep one pig in permanent isolation); when they too make their ultimate journey to Haverfordwest (our nearest porcine abbatoir – unfortunately, over an hour’s drive away), with one being used for bacon & the smaller of the two, for sausages.

As with all our animals, the pigs’ welfare is for us the most important thing: during their lives they are mucked out every day & always have unlimited access to clean, fresh water.  In addition to a comfortable bed of thick straw in the cosy, enclosed living area of the sty, they also have toys to stimulate their naturally playful & inquisitive personalities.  Because we currently lack the facilities to free-range them, they regularly receive buckets of earth in the front, outdoor, area of the sty to stimulate & encourage natural rooting behaviour.  In addition, they are often the grateful recipients of shoulder massages; & on hot summer days, a careful application of oil is administered to backs, ears & any other susceptible ‘pink bits’ to prevent sunburn.  Their diet of a Universal Smallholder mix (rather than just plain pig nuts) & whey (which produces particularly succulent, flavoursome meat) is supplemented by fresh fruit & veg from the garden or the local produce market (please note – you CANNOT, BY LAW, feed kitchen scraps or waste vegetables from the supermarket to your pigs in case there has been cross-contamination with animal by-products).

And, whilst taking them on their final journey is never welcome (we travel them in a spacious, comfortable trailer, with plenty of straw containing ad-lib concentrate feed & veggies to make the trip as stress-free as possible, & even unload them ourselves so that when their final moment comes, they are indulging in their favourite pasttime – eating – & don’t know a thing about it), at least we have the cold comfort of knowing they’ve had a far better life than that of the sad slabs of anaemic-looking pork adorning the supermarket shelves.    

On the naming of pigs?  Well, the first four to reside here, were dubbed ‘Eeny, Meanie, Miney & Mo’; & our latest residents are called ‘Bacon’ & ‘Sausage’ (‘Pork’ having left us just before the announcement of the FMD outbreak).  Many smallholders insisit you shouldn’t name anything which will ultimately end up on your plate; it’s an oddly English squeamishness, which somehow denies the connection between the farmer’s field & his fork.  We have a close bond with all our animals & feel we develop more rewarding relationships, through their names; they definitely respond, & seem to have a greater degree of trust in us owing to this more personal touch.  Subsequently, their lives are more relaxed & enriched – which can only be a good thing. 

And the ultimate result?  Happy, healthy piggies – & the most delicious pork, bacon & sausages we’ve ever tasted. 

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11 Responses to pigs

  1. Dingbat says:

    Why do you feed your pigs when you take them to slaughter? I was advised you should not feed them for 24 hours before!

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hello there Dingbat –

    thanks for visiting, hope you’re enjoying the site. I can only imagine the reason it’s suggested pigs are not fed for 24 hours prior to slaughter, is that it’s easier to load them onto the trailer if they’re a bit hungry & have been trained to follow a bucket. For this reason we also don’t give ours a full meal for 24 hours before moving them – this way, they do indeed more readily follow the bucket into the trailer. By putting pignuts etc in the straw it keeps the animals occupied in rooting around, during the journey – pigs are especially prone to stress whilst travelling (however the conditions in which some arrive at the abbatoir – with minimal, filthy bedding & then roughly prodded & poked, I’m not surprised). I know some people even load them the evening before, to give them the night to acclimatise.

    By putting a few handfuls of tasty feedstuff into the straw we’re not really feeding the animals but giving them something to do. The journey to our nearest porcine abbatoir is almost 1.5 hours when pulling a loaded trailer & driving sympathetically for the porky passengers. So they are still sufficiently interested to follow the bucket off the trailer & enjoy their food when their final moment comes – & therefore don’t really know anything about it. Other pigs may be forced, unhappy & stressed, out of their trailers & then chased to their deaths; but we feel we owe it to our pigs to make certain their final moments are as comfortable, stress-free & painless as possible – after all, we’ve taken responsibility for their lives, it’s only right we do the same at the very end.

    As for technical reasons, not to feed for 24 hours beforehand? Well, I suppose if we were going in for surgery it’d be ‘nil by mouth’ for a prior period; however what happens at the abbatoir is pretty terminal so I can’t think that’s the reason!

  3. Amanda says:

    We also raise our own pork, a pig or two at a time… interesting that there are legal repercussions to keeping one pig isolated in your region! Our barn is primarily designed for horses so it is not an ideal pig-keeping parlor.

    I agree there is some pleasure to be had in knowing that the pork that you are eating has not been living in a concrete muckhole, and has had a pleasant life. Our most recent pork was named “Flipper” and was actually bottle fed for a time. She enjoyed peppermint sticks as well. 🙂 They are such a neat creature, aren’t they?

  4. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Welcome – Croeso – to Ffarm Fach, Amanda;

    & good luck with schooling your lovely horse, I had a gorgeous, green Morgan Horse stallion a few years ago & know that it’s such a pleasure to see them come on (although I was lucky enough to have some truly inspirational & gifted trainers without whom we would never have achieved the great things that we did, together).

    Not sure we’ll be keeping pigs any more as we now have to buy a separate transportation license for each different livestock group we need to move – which may potentially no longer make it cost-effective for us to produce our own pork, unfortunately.

    Defra’s Animal Welfare regulations stipulate that, because porcines are herd animals, owners are not permitted to keep them individually as they need to be in social groups. We’ve found they are certainly highly intelligent, sensitive creatures; & great fun to care for. Our funniest moment was when Tony was tickling one behind the ears, & she closed her eyes, squealing with bliss. However, when he withdrew his hand said piggy groaned & keeled over – poor Tony was horrified, he thought he’d killed her! She was in such ecstasy she’d literally passed out with pleasure. If only she’d been that millionairess of his dreams….!!

    By the way, we wholeheartedly agree with your comments reference keeping the miniature horse in an apartment – whether a ‘service’ animal or not, a horse needs to be a horse, no matter his size. We have two miniature Shetlands who are used for pulling the logging cart & doing the occasional Wedding – & they are certainly all ‘horse’ – sometimes more so than our big Welsh Cob boys!

    Hope you’re off the crutches soon & that you’ll keep in touch. Best wishes –

    Jo.

  5. In light of the fact that pigs are omnivorous, I really don’t understand the UK legislation about kitchen scraps. Seems like yet another ploy to keep the small holder down and the factory farms ahead.

    HDR

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Consult Stoney on this one.

      He recently wrote a post on the subject of swill fed to ‘city farm’ pigs in the US; & I too was squirming with horror to see what those pigs ate every day (I certainly wouldn’t want to source my pork from THAT place…!). Since FMD, BSE etc everyone has been exceptionally jumpy.

      Personally I cannot see why I can’t purchase ‘condemned’, overripe veggies from a supermarket & feed them to my pigs; it’s not as if said fodder has been swimming in a pile of blood-dripping, putrefying offal or anything; they’re just plain old fruit n’ veg, goddammit. Like us, pigs are omnivorous: so how come we’re allowed to buy fruit+veg AND meat, from the same store? Not to mention, putting them in the same grocery basket, for goodness’ sake….?! And whilst the F+V might be loose, the meat is always vac-packed or at least ‘trayed up’ in such a way as to prevent cross-contamination.

      And whilst our pigs – & hens – CAN enjoy veggies directly from the garden (only so long as they haven’t been anywhere near the farmhouse kitchen) even of you are a vegetarian or vegan, if you have dared prepare said fruits of your labour in the kitchen then they MIGHT BE CONTAMINATED and as such, EVEN THE OFFCUTS CANNOT BE FED TO YOUR LIVESTOCK.

      As ever; ‘PC’ gone mad….soon even we humans won’t be allowed to eat anything, in case it harms us – & then, guess what….?!

      As you rightly point out, pigs are omnivorous: woe betide any chicken which happened to be bird-brained enough to flutter over into the pigs’ quarters, for a cheeky meal. I’ve often wondered where some of my best layers have disappeared to, hoping they’d turned broody; only to find my piggies looking super-angelic yet – hmmm – the odd feather, fluttering gently around the sties…..

      Can you transform the human race, into vegetarians? No. So can you force the ominvorous, intelligent pig, that way, too….?

      Oh purleease….

      Rules; regulations; & rules. Whilst we are obliged to obey them…

      Bah humbug, I say.”

  6. Ahhhhhh, but we can all drink and smoke at will! Imagine, I can go buy cigarettes (which we KNOW kills us) at 16 yrs in Canada, but you can’t come by fresh goats milk from me at any age. I guess if the fresh milk lobby or small farm raised pork was worth billions, things might be different eh.

  7. The captain says:

    How many pigs do you have and what breed?

  8. andy says:

    my pigs have fruit and veg left overs from the shops if its good enough for me to eat then its good enough for them.fed up with people saying what you can and can’t do

  9. jonathan says:

    Hi there we have a smallholding in carmarthenshire and we would like some help and advice would we be able to contact you by phone.

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