Friday, 23 May 2014

Discovering the Wallow


With all the rain we’ve had – and the forecast isn’t much better for the weekend – the piglets managed to find a little bit of sunshine to discover the wallow. Mainly for drinking, of course. Oh, and peeing in. Why would they bother with their fresh water trough when they can sample the wallow and all its delights? They’re not venturing in too far. Probably because it’s around 2 feet deep and a quagmire! Maybe when they’re older, oh yes that's when the fun starts – watch this space. 
Image: HenSafe Piglets discovering their wallow
Piglets discovering the wallow

Learnings: Piglet watching can waste an inordinate amount of time, especially with a beer at the end of the day.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lamb Weaning and The Porking Order


Image: HenSafe Lambs having their last bottle
Last milk feed for 4 of the lambs
Monday 12th was weaning day for 4 of the lambs: At 6 weeks old White Face, Red Dot, Dappley and Number 7 definitely didn’t need milk anymore – full round tummies and happy on grass and creep. 
Brownie's still on the bottle
Brownie was another story so he stayed on milk until today. Abrupt weaning is recommended so as not to cause stomach upsets but it’s difficult to ignore the lambs yelling every time we walk past them!
This afternoon we collected our last 3 weaners for this year. They are Oxford Sandy & Black (sow) and Duroc (boar) cross and a lovely tan colour with a few spots. They’re 8 weeks old and been away from the sow for 7 days.  Our black piglets soon came out of the arc to see the interlopers and fisticuffs ensued on and off for an hour or so until the male black piglet was established as Top Pig in the porking order. A couple of bloody ears but nothing major. 

Now there’s more competition for food they are keener to come to the trough at feeding time! We’re following the “all they can eat in 20 minutes” rule from David Norman at The Ansty Herd. At the moment it's around half a scoop per piglet - early days!
Image: Duroc x Oxford Sandy & Black piglets at the HenSafe Smallholding
New piglets: OSB x Duroc


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Two Little Piggies Went to Market...


... and came home with us!

This year’s pigs will be coming from a different source than usual so we thought it an ideal time to try different breed combinations.
After much ringing around and reserving 3 from a local breeder (more news on that when they materialise) we decided with some trepidation to venture to Cirencester Market. We’d looked online at the market reports and done lots of research but it was just a trip out, you know, just to see what was there and how it all works…
Arriving at 10.30 we saw the end of the sheep auction and the start of pigs being unloaded by their sellers. A real mix of sizes and breeds including around 8 pens of piglets to be sold in 10’s, 6’s and 5’s. Some were quite lively, others dozing in a huge pile, one with a wound to its leg (make a note of that pen). Difficult to tell which breed they were so made the most of listening to the farmers and sellers.
We watched as 10 more arrived, were unloaded and split into 2 pens of 5. They looked healthy and lively although one of the white ones was very small. We chatted to the breeder when it was a bit quieter and she told us they are 8 weeks old and all from the same litter, in spite of 5 looking like Gloucester Old Spot, plus 3 white and 2 being completely black! They are a mix of Oxford Sandy & Black and Middle White, with a Gloucester Old Spot grandparent. This all felt good so we talked to the auctioneer about splitting pens so we could bid on 2… so much for “just seeing how it all works”… and 1 hour later we were the new owners of 2 black piglets heralding from Allengrove Farm at Luckington. 
image: new piglets on the HenSafe smallholding
They are a wee bit timid at the moment but within 30 minutes they were digging around before sussing out the arc for their afternoon nap. Hopefully when their mates arrive, next week we hope, they’ll settle down and we can waste some time pig-watching.

Learnings:
1. Do The Research: Get to auctions early to see the animals unloaded. Talk to the sellers, chat to the auctioneer if need be.
2. Look carefully at the animals in the pens. Watch how they move, breathe, behave and be prepared to walk away.

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Big Sleep-Out


Lambs are just about 5 weeks old now – time is flying by – and they’ve been happily munching on grass in between bottle feeds. Over the last couple of days if we hadn’t done the middle 3pm feed they probably wouldn’t have noticed (provided we avoided going out to see them!) so a move to 2 feeds is imminent. Yesterday we introduced them to the wide open space that will be their permanent enclosure during the daytime. Tonight is their first sleep-out so now the temporary knitted fence can come down and the barn corner cleaned out. 
image: HenSafe lambs exploring their new enclosure
Exploring the new enclosure... very slowly and carefully

They seem big enough now to be safe from predators and they have a 3-sided shelter facing away from the prevailing wind (and the rain that’s forecast). From under my duvet I watched them settling down for the night on SheepCam :)