April 2020 Farm Round-Up

The strange times continue – lockdown has become an everyday word and people are adapting to their new lifestyle.  For some, able to work from home or farmers like us, not so much has changed – things are very busy, but for others … those homeschooling, perhaps without a garden, things are tough.  We must all be grateful for the positives we have right now, even if you have to look a little harder than usual.

The three litters of piglets that arrived in March are all thriving – they quickly change from being shy to being very bold.  Sadly, because of the lockdown, we haven’t had our usual stream of visitors.  We tend to find we suddenly become VERY popular when we have piglets on the farm!  That means the responsibility for their socialisation process falls to us so lots of time has been invested in morning and evening tickles!  As they grow up it is important that they are happy to be handled – less stressful for them and their owners – so it is an important part of their education 🙂  That’s my story and I am sticking to it!  Here are the Berkshires at 3 weeks, and again at 7 weeks, this time sharing their paddock with the Guinea Fowl who are always on hand to clear up any food that might get missed.

For those of you who have done a farm tour at some stage, you will have heard me talking about the different temperaments of the different breeds.  It is a bit of a generalisation but, overall, pigs with pricked ears (Tamworths and Berkshires for example) are livelier and more engaged than lop-eared pigs (such as Large Blacks and Saddlebacks).  There are always exceptions of course, but it seems to have proven true with these litters.  They’ve all had the same amount of attention, but it is the Berkshires who seem more on their toes and the Large Blacks who are more chilled.    Here’s a recent video of Frosty’s 8 Large Blacks at about 7 weeks, all happily tucking into mum’s food – she is not very tolerant at this stage and will flip them out of the way if they are interfering with her lunch!

And speaking of Saddleback, we had some new weaners arrive on the farm during the month – 4 pedigree Saddlebacks – they soon got to grips with the electric fence which was a new experience, but fortunately, they are fast learners!  You’ll see in the video that their markings are somewhat varied – the farm where we get them keeps the perfect examples back for showing and breeding but we’re more than happy to give good homes to some of the others!!

It has also been a month where lots of signs of Spring have appeared – not just buds and shoots (and stinging nettles, which always seem to be the first things to grow) but blossom on apple trees and on blackthorn in the hedgerows promising lots of fruit to come, and delighted to report that the swallows are back from their long winter holidays in Africa!  You don’t see much of them in this video clip but you can hear their distinctive ‘chatter’.

The ground has continued to dry up and we’ve had some really wonderful spring weather this month.  Happily (!) we have also had a couple of rainy days which has really accelerated the regrowth in some of the paddocks that got turned over in the winter months – we don’t have to re-seed – there is plenty of seed in the ground just waiting for its chance.  Once the grass starts growing in these warm and damp conditions, you can almost see the changes day by day.  It’s growing so well I wouldn’t be surprised if the first hay cut is early this year.  

The adult pigs seem happy with the change in weather also – fresh grass to munch, softer ground to dig over and most importantly … wallows!  It is so funny to watch them digging and then just flopping into the mud.  A bit challenging for the humans to keep them topped up with water, and frankly, the pigs look shockingly bad – they still have most of their winter coats so are shaggy and muddy – not a great combination in terms of photos but it makes for contented pigs which is the most important thing!  Mostly, when I go out to feed, they are all waiting for me at their gate but sometimes, if I am early, or it the wind is blowing the wrong way, they don’t hear me coming!

In amongst all the crazy news headlines at the moment, World Earth Day came and went without much fanfare.  At this time when food sourcing figures highly on people’s radar and perhaps they have a little more brain-space to give some thought to this area, maybe now is the time to make some plans for long term change after ‘this’ is all over.  Where does your food come from?  Is it sustainably and responsibly produced?   What about food miles?  If some of these thoughts are hitting the spot with you, check out the Slow Food group in the UK and find out more.