‘I love your mud!’ That was a great quote from a Derbyshire breeder who came down here to Devon during the middle of the wettest winter period to pick up a single litter sow at weaning.
The sow had been Berkshire Breed Champion at last year’s Mid Devon Show, so he was keen to have her and use his own boar to serve her for July 1 piglets at the weaning heat.
The mud here is very shallow, with firm subsoil on shillet rock, not like his mud that the pigs sink into up to their bellies.
To replace this sow in my breeding plan, I have a great group of gilts that are daughters or granddaughters of my champion show sow, Kilcot Mermaid 7th, who is now nearly seven-years-old and due to farrow again on May 1.
I’m sold out of pigs! In fact I am short of weaners. When you only run six sows and lose one, it takes time to fill the gap. I never have to advertise weaners in springtime as I have repeat custom each year, while the autumn litters have no sale potential as weaners, so are grown on for the butcher.
This year I also need four weaner boars for export to Sweden (I had to pass the customer’s requirement for unrelated gilts onto other breeders) and I had a visitor from Switzerland who is keen to import Berkshires when he can get agreement on the import procedure from the Swiss Government.
“I’m sold out of pigs! In fact I am short of weaners. When you only run six sows and lose one, it takes time to fill the gap”
Meanwhile, it’s time to vacate the older pig field and return it to grass. This 1.5 acre field has lasted four years at about 20 paces square per farrowing pen – I remember that well as one of the first litters was born in a winter gale in March 2013. I didn’t expect them to survive, but every single one did.
Insulated plywood arks with PVC curtains are so perfect for winter farrowing. I’m just moving the last 10 dry or growing breeding pigs (that have been in amalgamated pens keeping the weeds down) up to the new field where I have the newest farrowing pens on clean ground. The few remaining porkers from those autumn and winter litters are also still up there.
I am doing as many shows in Devon as I can get to this year as I have my best pigs for some time. I will also be at Cornwall (June), Yeovil (July) and Berkshire (September). The home-bred new breeding boar has worked perfectly at 6.5 months on his older aunt and I am hopeful that this deliberate line breeding will result in some top class and uniform litters from June 23.