I am writing this at 11.26pm, stood in my hog roast trailer awning in Food Court One, at the Devon County Show.
Thank goodness the agricultural show season is upon us.
I have just started cooking the three 80kg deadweight pigs that we will be selling tomorrow. They will now cook slowly for 11 hours until we start serving them at around 11am tomorrow.
We have been trading at this show since 2000, and on this pitch for the last 12 years – I know every square inch of it.
Shows give all types of businesses the chance to be a proper shop window for a day or three, without incurring the year-round cost of running a shop on our increasingly desolate high streets. Look up and down your high street and consider what would be left if you took away phones and fast fashion.
Shows like this offer the chance for enterprising people to have a go. Although the big downside is the grassy car parks on our rainy island that often lead to cancellations, if you attend enough shows, the weather normally evens out in a season.
And some companies do a lot of shows, criss-crossing the country throughout the summer, hoping to make enough money to last the winter. At 11.43pm, the site is empty, aside from an air of expectation of the 90,000 people due to visit in the next three days.
My relief is two-fold. One is because it’s the start of my summer harvest, and secondly, the last couple of months have been some of the most challenging I have had in pigs for a long while and shows gave me something positive to look forward to.
The need to reduce antibiotic use and stop using zinc is a Herculean task. As my recent experiences prove, unless you have got your pigs in fantastic health in the first place in a perfect environment, be very careful.
We had an awful run of meningitis in the growers, coupled with tail-biting and leptospirosis and worms in the sows.
These ailments were cured with antibiotics, a very swift vet visit from the George vet group – thank you Fran and JF for organising it – a reassessment of the ventilation and more antibiotics, coupled with a vaccine for the sows, plus putting zinc back in the third stage creep, for now.
These tools have helped put us back on track, but God knows what we would have done if they were not available.
Back at the show, it’s now 12.08am and I am due to get up at 5.30am as we have 2,500 rolls due, plus I will need to start cooking bacon for our first customers at 6.30am. Another perk of being in Food Court One is its proximity to the Ales From Devon tent, with guest beers from across the county.
My tipple tonight? “Golden Pig”… I wish.