Our first weaners – from start to finish

Around the middle of July, just 7 weeks after moving to our new house, we started our first attempt at rearing pigs. The two Tamworth weaners were collected by car using a borrowed dog cage with surprisingly little difficulty and only a slightly unsavoury smell.

Very relaxed passengers

Very relaxed passengers

On arriving home they were installed in their woodland home and immediately started eating anything that looked remotely tasty. Not many pigs get to live in such beautiful surroundings although I think the wall might be a little high for them to really appreciate the far reaching views!

North Pennines landscape

North Pennines landscape

Before long the 2 pigs had worked their way round most of the boundary clearing everything that was in their path! This was not entirely unexpected though and their home had been carefully chosen as it only had very well established trees, everything else in there was considered expendable.

Clearing the ground

Clearing the ground

Luckily, and through no great skill on our part, the 2 pigs had no health issues so although we had already identified a suitable vet they were never needed! This is one of the best parts of only raising weaners for a few months before any proper winter weather sets in.

Feeding time twice a day was always entertaining and never became a chore. There was something very soothing about the short walk round to the woods and the time spent with the pigs. I’m not sure that I appreciated refilling their water troughs so often but I expect they enjoyed turning them over soon after I’d left!

Over time each one developed their own personality which made it tough t times not to get too attached to them.

Meal time for the pigs!

Meal time for the pigs!

Predictably the time soon came around when they reached about 6/7 months old and needed to head off to the abattoir. Preparations were started well ahead of time for things like ear tagging the pigs so that by the day before their trip we had everything in order.

As this was our first time with pigs as well as using a trailer it seemed wise to do a dry run of loading the pigs into the trailer which went really well.

The pigs love the shiny new trailer!

The pigs love the shiny new trailer!

The woods now have a few months to recover and we have time to consider our next move. However it seems certain to me that we’ll have another batch of weaners next year because these two were so easy to look after and we have such great facilities for pigs in the woods.

What a life!

What a life!

When it came to unloading the two pigs at the abattoir, they were treated very well and I was able to help herd them into their own pen in the holding area. They were remarkably relaxed despite being in a completely new environment and it was interesting to see the (smaller) Gloucester Old Spots that were in the next door pen. Maybe that’s a breed to try next?

The next week was spent wondering how much pork we would get back and what would we do with it all! The answer is clear from the photo below, it was around 120kg in total

Look at all that pork

Look at all that pork

The chest freezer is now pretty full of roasting joints and chops but at least it coped with the load! Also the past weekend included a start on dry curing some bacon but I’m not very confident about the results of that at the moment, time will tell.

The sausage making on the other hand is getting better which each batch that are made. First up was pork and leek flavour then the next day it was Cumberland but all of them were headed for the freezer. Of course some of the sausage meat was cooked up for testing purposes just to be sure they’ll turn out okay.

Home-made Cumberland sausages

Home-made Cumberland sausages

I’m not sure we can sensibly eat pork more that 3 times a week but there are many ways to process or cook it.

This is a good moment for family and friends to rally round and support us by taking some of the huge quantity of meat off our hands. This time there might be some freebies for them as we’re just trying the whole process out – next time around we may not be so generous!

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