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August 2019 Farm Round Up
Summer is racing through at a ridiculous speed - and just for a change, nocomplaints from this farmer about the weather. It's been a good mix of sunshineand rain - everything is growing well, the fields are in great condition, thepigs are happy - life is good!
This month has been all about piglets. Whatever the planning spreadsheet says,the reality is that we can't always manage Mother Nature the way we wouldchoose. Instead of a litter of piglets per month, this month we celebrated 3litters in 8 days!
Getting ready for the big day involves moving mum to her own paddock, nearerthe house so we can keep a good eye on her when the time comes. Two of ourexpectant mums are first-timers so spending a lot of extra time with them sothat they are 100% used to having us fussing around just in case we need to getinvolved on the day. You always hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Installed in their new individual quarters with a couple of weeks to go,every day we check for signs .... In all three cases, we are pretty sure weknow when the deed was done so have a good idea of their due dates. A pigis pregnant for three months, three weeks and three days - easy to remember andsurprisingly accurate.
A few hours before they go into labour, there is a noticeable change inbehaviour - they start nesting. Each pig is different - some just shuffletheir straw around a little to make a nest, others go BIG bringing in mouthfulsof grass, weeds, sticks, anything they can find and build a mountain! Forthe big builders, we spend just as much effort clearing the weeds away whilethey are off eating - you really don't want piglets being born onto a huge pileof stinging nettles or thistles. Apart from potentially being ratheruncomfortable, there is always a risk that a piglet gets buried in the pile andinadvertently laid on by mum.
First up was Frosty, our lovely Large Black sow. This is her secondlitter with us and she was LARGE! She duly delivered overnight and thefollowing morning we were presented with 7 largehealthy piglets - not a huge litter but healthyis the most important thing. As with previous litters, she is tendingthem well and theyare thriving.
Next up was Gertie, an Oxford Sandy & Black - her first litter. She turned out to be a super-nester - her ark was loaded with greenery but bydistracting her with dinner, we were able to clear most of it out and just lefta few bits and pieces in to try and dissuade her from doing more. Thebiggest surprise was that she produced 13piglets without any help from us. She was not particularly bigso that was a remarkable score for a first-timer! Four days later,Gertie's sister, Goldie, followed in her footsteps and build a monster-nestbefore producing 11! A prolific family it would seem! Sadly, Goldielost one on Day 2 but the remaining 10 are growing well.
Boristhe boar has been in action - another first-timer who is approaching hisnew job with enthusiasm if not much skill. He no longer looks like theshow pig he was when he arrived - he loves a good wallow - but in my opinion,he looks like a real pig now!
The Guinea Fowl have been busy too - if you read last month's blog you willknow that we had a long power cut halfway through incubating a second batch ofeggs. Despite wrapping the incubator in towels and getting an emergencygenerator going, it would seem it was not enough as we only had 5 eggshatch. But 5 was better than a complete wash-out and they are now in the brooderin the barn and seem to be none the worse for their challenging start inlife! The first hatch is now fully free-range and the groupincludes a white - haven't had one of those for a few years - sadly, beingwhite in nature is not always a good thing so we keep our fingers crossed forhim. We have one more batch of eggs being incubated now so hoping for nopower interruptions this time!
The cottage has been busy - our visitors range from people in the area for afamily wedding, through to walkers enjoying the Ridgeway or the White HorseTrail, to people just wanting to escape busy towns for a relaxing stay in thecountryside all giving us greatreviews. Having 4 equally lovely ensuite super-king bedrooms meansgroups of friends don't have to draw lots for who gets the master bedroom orthe box room!!
The swallows that took up residence on the farm have hatched their secondbrood of the year who are now filling the skies with their flying practice,getting some training in before their long flight south as Autumn arrives.
Also this month, we welcomed three vet students on to the farm. Duringtheir studies, all vet students have to do placements on farms covering dairy,sheep and pigs. Due to the reluctance of many intensive pig farms toallow any strangers on to their premises, students struggle to find placementswith pigs. They each spend 2 weeks with us, doing whatever needs doing -and we usually save up a few jobs for them to. We hopefully send themaway enthusiastic about pigs, about high welfare, about rare breeds and whoknows, they might end up being the only pig expert in whichever practice theyjoin. It is quite an investment in time for us, but the more people wecan 'convert' to pig enthusiasts the better!
And last but not least, we welcomed another film crew on to the farm thismonth. Not BBC or documentary makers this time, but a crew fromDEFRA. They captured LOTS of material - they are putting together threeseparate information films focussed around pigs. One is looking at a dayin the life of a farmer - and that onehas already gone live as part of Farm24. Another is looking at rarebreeds and each of our 6 breeds got their moment of glory and the final, moreserious, one is going to be a feature on African Swine Fever - a nasty diseasethat is present on the European continent and concern is growing about itcrossing the channel and reaching the UK. Sorry to end the blog on aserious note, but ASF spreads here, the effect could be devastating so pleasepay heed to all the advice - a big risk is bringing meat products back fromEurope, ideally, don't do it and always dispose of any wastecarefully. Disaster could be caused by someone buying a ham sandwich inEurope then at some point, throwing the remains away carelessly - perhapsthrowing it out of a car window onto a verge where it could be eaten by ananimal ..... You will see lots ofnotices about it at ports and airports, but please, be mindful when you travel!
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