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
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
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 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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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
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…
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.
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…
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
We had been a house of cats for sometime with 3 of them after moving here and adopting a cat along with the new house. However over recent months the cat numbers had sadly been dwindling and by June this year we were back to having no household pets
While this was obviously quite a sad set of events, it was also nice to have the house free of animals plus their feed and water bowls, cat litter and assorted small mammals that were sometimes brought in.
There had been discussions recently about getting a dog at some point but eventually this was agreed to be something for my retirement when I would (theoretically) have more time. The theory was that there’s barely enough hours in the day for the current day job plus all the smallholding related work.
As it turned out, fate decided something different because we heard from some friends about someone who needed to rehome one of their dogs. We duly considered everything and decided to at least visit to see what the dog was like… On reflection I can see the problem with this because once we’d seen her we couldn’t really NOT take her on!
As a result, we now have Jess who is roughly 4.5 years old and has the sweetest disposition as well as being impeccably trained so she’s fitting in here beautifully. I have even less time now but it’s definitely worth it in the end
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
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
I’ve now established a fairly reliable procedure to follow in the run-up to farrowing which seems to work for me and more importantly seems to suit the pigs too!
About 5-7 days before the due date, the expectant mother is moved into the farrowing shed – a fancy sounding name but in reality a stone outbuilding nearer the house which is already setup for piglets and also makes my life easier when checking on them.
There is a small “creep” area in this shed which has been partitioned off using wooden sheep hurdles so that only the piglets can get into it. This area has a heat lamp so they keep warm without huddling around their mother rather than potentially being stood on.
Experience has shown that after moving in the sow very quickly settles into a new routine in this shed with regular trips out for exercise. It’s not quite the solitary confinement that it may appear at first glance and they do still get access to fresh air and grass. However the primary goal of using the shed is to ensure the lead-up and actual farrowing are as stress-free for the pig (and me!).
This is also a good time to deal with a worming injection so that the protection that gives can be passed onto the unborn piglets. For this purpose, we use Panomec which is an injectable form of Ivermectin administered subcutaneously. We don’t want (or need) to give any unnecessary medication but this is a good way to get a specific job done with the minimum of fuss – provided the sow is busy eating at the time of course!
Another important step in the preparation is getting a “farrowing kit” ready in advance. It’s always a good idea to have everything you might need easily to hand during the farrowing rather than having to rush around looking for things. This includes the obvious things like iodine spray, cloths and a travel mug to keep my tea warm. It also includes other less obvious items such as some gloves, a marker spray (for identification purposes), a hot water bottle and a handy sized carboard box with straw for any piglets that need some warming up – although that’s perhaps more important in winter than for a July farrowing.
This will be the third litter for Fifi so I’d hope she’s getting the hang of it all now and won’t need any help from me. Her previous litters have both been 9 piglets which is a good litter size for Tamworths at least. Hopefully she can keep these numbers up again but I’ll settle for whatever she gives us just so long as mother and offspring are healthy
I’ve recently reviewed the records I’ve kept on previous litters from all our sows and that indicates an average gestation of 113 days. Based on my calculations from the time Fifi was in season when the boar was visiting, I’m getting ready in plenty of time before Monday 12 July!