Advent: December 24th

This week has felt very strange because for the first time in about 9 years I’ve not had to feed my pigs twice a day. I used to breed pedigree Large Black pigs, one of the rarest of Britain’s Traditional pig breeds and now even rarer than it was when I first started. Large Blacks are not suited to modern farmings intensive production methods based on efficiency of feed conversion and the conformation of this breed doesn’t suit modern tastes either. The market requires super lean meat and large “eyes” on a chop and large hams. Belly pork, marbled back bacon and shoulder bacon joints have fallen out of favour despite being the most delicious food.

Where Large Blacks excel is the fact that they are ideally suited to outdoor low input systems and are a brilliant smallholder pig. They have a lovely gentle temperament, make wonderful mothers (unlike commercial breeds of pigs) and do well on low grade food like grass and vegetable waste which means they have to be grown on slowly rather than forced as pigs are in intensive systems. The larger amounts of back fat they carry and the bristly thick coat means they don’t feel the cold as much as other pigs and the black colour also means they don’t get sunburn like pig pigs. I love mine. But they are hard hard work and very expensive to keep if you’re not utilising them as farm animals and with other things happening I’m no longer able to use them in this way.

My original sows and boar have long since gone but I kept a young sow that I bred and she’s had one litter but I’ve not bred from her for over a year and pigs need to be kept productive. So last week she went to stay with some farmers nearby who have a couple of pigs as a sideline for 6 months to a year to give our land a break from pigs and to earn her keep. She’s settled in well with the other pigs and is very happy so that’s a relief. I do miss her though. Pigs have big characters and she is a particularly nice creature.

So I thought I’d post a picture of her mum Winnie who was my favourite sow as I didn’t take a picture of Petunia herself before she left. This was taken the day Winnie gave birth to Petunia and her litter mates and it was a bitterly cold day – it’s actually still snowing here but as you can see she was quite happy waddling around in the snow eating apples I’d thrown down for her, I do remember this was the morning and she farrowed (gave birth) in the evening. It was around this time of year too – without digging out records I can’t check but I have a feeling it was near Christmas Eve so this is a good one for today. There is no snow and there are no pigs here today but it’s nice to remember other Christmases as well sometimes!

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