It’s quite possibly been our most eventful week so far at the Smallholdings. In a nutshell: James took our two pigs to the abattoir and we put a dozen fertile eggs in the incubator. Making all the arrangements for the Gloucestershire Old Spots to be dispatched was as complicated as many people had warned us. The system isn’t really designed with micro-farmers in mind and I feel for those who have to grapple with the appallingly designed (and frequently malfunctioning) electronic pig movement service (EAML2) website on a regular basis.
Then there’s a heap of conflicting advice about whether to slap-mark or tag your animals – or both – and our friend and the pigs’ breeder Roger, the farmer-cum-butcher, the abattoir and EAML2 all had a different slant on this surely black-and-white issue (we ended up with tags containing our herd mark)! Anyway, the most important element of the business went brilliantly and that is the stress-free delivery and dispatch of said Old Spots. James and I did a dummy run to the abattoir after a day of DIY on Sunday (I wouldn’t recommend driving out to one of these inevitably slightly grim, in-the-middle-of-nowhere places on a damp, cold winter’s evening if it can be at all avoided, by the way – it left us feeling a little unusual). Then, on Monday evening, James made a kind of corrugated-iron chute, which funnelled the porcine pair straight into Roger’s straw-filled trailer. When they reached the abattoir they were given their own pen and immediately started snuffling around the floor. When the owner came for them, he found them asleep. It couldn’t have been a less stressful end to their happy lives.
I miss their fun presence in the garden (though Audrey and Mabel do quite a good job of keeping this up, see above) – and I’ll always consider them special, being our first pigs – but that means we’re keen to take on another pair (or possibly trio). We’re now addicted to these wonderful animals! As soon as we’ve made more progress on the house and we can spare a weekend or two to do some more fencing and create a new run (we’d like to rest the other), we’ll be off to pick up our next piglets. I love the idea of keeping Oxford Sandy & Blacks, like Nick and Bella at Walnut’s Farm (see the regular series in CL), but perhaps we’ll just see what breed is available when we’re ready to take them on. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing how many Ixworth chicks will emerge on 21 March – a happy coincidence that they are set to hatch on the second day of spring!