September’s mini heatwave moved on and October brought proper Autumn days – sometimes sunny, often rainy, but with a real chill in the air.
Our Autumn glut of piglets continue to thrive – and are now happily tucking in to the windfall apples supplied by our neighbours.
October was a big month for the piglets as they were all weaned, tagged and wormed.
Weaning, separating the sow from the piglets, happens at around 8 weeks old. By that stage, the piglets are happily eating mum’s food and relying less on milk. To minimise the disruption to their lives, weaning at Buttle Farm means taking the mother away but leaving the piglets where they are – for them, it means that everything in their lives stays the same except the milk bar has gone. The sows are usually VERY happy to be on the move – as soon as we back the trailer into place, they are ready to go up the ramp and away to some peace and quiet!
Next step is tagging – all pedigree pigs have their own unique number all managed by the British Pig Association. Should they ever go walk-about, their tag will tell whoever finds them where they were bred and, through their unique number, who now owns them. For a week or so, while they are eating, we make a big fuss of playing with their ears so that when the day comes, the tagging happens quickly while they are eating and they barely stop munching for a second. A birth notified pig has one tag, a registered pig (one that will be used for breeding in future) gets two.
The final step is worming – this is the only routine medication that our pigs receive – up to now, they are covered by mum’s immunity but now need their own.
With all that done, some of them went off to their new homes – including a couple of beauties who have been registered and will go on to produce piglets next year. As always, a little sad always to see them go but we can’t keep them all (so I am told!)
The sows are now off in their own paddocks for a couple of months peace and quiet before we bring some boys to visit with the aim of Spring piglets!
Our Winter preparations continue and necessarily so as the rain fell during the month and we started to get pretty muddy in places. Fencing off sections of paddocks is best done while the pigs are eating so you need to move fast. Trust me, having a pig help out with fencing is not helpful!! The pigs enjoy the wetter ground – it means they can dig ….. and dig and dig!! Sometimes, they are so absorbed in what they are doing, they don’t even notice me turning up with their breakfast!
The two big oak trees on the farm have done well on acorns this year and every time we have a windy spell, they literally rain down in the pig paddocks. It’s not unusual to find all the pigs waiting under the tree, just in case!
Our final hatch of guineas have moved out into the big coop to give them more space to practice their flying. They are feathering up well but still have a heat lamp to keep them warm especially during the cold nights. It also introduces them to the adults who flock around the coop and, it seems, harangue the youngsters – even pecking at the wire. You’ve heard the term ‘pecking order’ – well, this is the pecking order being clearly established. The youngsters are safe behind the wire and learn that they will need to respect their elders once the wire is gone!
The cottage on the farm has been quite busy this month – people taking advantage of the Autumn colours for a walking weekend as well as some teachers escaping for a half-term break. Lovely reviews from all the groups which is always nice to see. It seems that the combination of peace and quiet in the countryside AND a touch of luxury is a combination much appreciated. If you’ve not checked out the photos, take a look now!
We’re busy gearing up now for Christmas – trying to plan how many hams, how much bacon etc is always a bit of educated guesswork. Salamis are made and hanging, hams going in to cure – once they are gone, they’re gone so if you want to place your Christmas order, don’t delay!!