I was on day two of my three day plan to train our new volunteer but it all went up in the air at the arrival of tiny piglets. Both Ginger sows had milk in their teats last night so we knew piglets would be arriving within 24 hours so we had separated them using electric tape and settled them in to individual arks (they had been snuggled up together in one!).

These are both really good sows and amazing mothers so the farrowing of #1 was pretty uneventful apart from three piglets who were born breech and needed help to breath. Eleven piglets plus something which at first glance looked like a foetus but was actually alive (just). It was brought in to the house and kept warm but it soon became clear it probably wouldn’t make it, it’s body just wasn’t developed enough and it sadly died in my hands.

I spent most of the day with #1 settling her down, making sure she had milk in all of her teats and that all of her pigs had and could feed. I decided to go inside for a heat and a quick bite to eat, but quickly checked on #2. She was not a happy piggy….restless and snapping quite viciously at me. I tried to reassure her but she was having none of it and very uncharacteristically of her she made it clear she didn’t want company. When I checked on her again the piglets had started to arrive and sadly mum had squashed two! She had a further seven piglets but was far from comfortable! I was worried her frantic movements and constantly getting up and down would end up with the death of more piglets so I stayed outside her ark occasionally reaching in to scoop a piglet out of harms way. She eventually calmed down a little and I simply HAD to call it a night, I was exhausted. Hoping tomorrow finds all 20 piglets alive and well…

…other news. The remainder of the Pekin ducks we had hatched for Christmas were bought yesterday by a man who wants to breed them so they’ve dodged a bullet!

6am – 10pm…

Some people who complain about working 9-5 should try farming some day!

We got up at 6am and popped 14 Hubbards in to their crate for the quick 10 minute drive to the local poultry abattoir, then it was home for a quick coffee then out to do the animals (feeding, watering, letting out the poultry, giving everyone some straw bedding). I had a hospital appointment with my Dad and when I got back I took the dogs for a big run through the sheep fields and a splash down at the stream. Seeing a van parked at our pig shed I rushed back, it was one of our feed suppliers unloading a load of poultry feed….I was starting to feel tired from the early start and run about with the dogs but felt obliged to muck in and unload the 25kg sacks! I then spent an hour replying to emails, writing letters and sorting out customers invoices. Another quick coffee (note no lunch!!!) and it was time to do the animals once more and lock up all the birds.

Yesterday we moved the livestock trailer in to the pigs field where we have the last three of our our original sows who are no longer productive. The trailer was left open, full of straw and our hope was that one of the sows (probably Spot) would settle in there by herself and therefore nominate herself for the journey to Wishaw abattoir early on Thursday (tomorrow) morning. After finishing the animals for the night we peeked in the trailer and found Spot fast asleep we suddenly realised we had two options…hope she was still there at 6am in the morning or go and try and find out if the abattoir would accept her tonight. We didn’t think they’d be much point in trying the abattoir as everyone would have been home hours ago so we tried to remember which of our friends use Wishaw in the hope they’d know if you can drop a sow off the night before. Somehow I found myself dialing the abattoir’s number in the hope there might be a night watchman and couldn’t believe it when one of the ladies who works in the office answered (apparently she was waiting for an engineer to fix the alarm…lucky us!). She confirmed that we could drop off tonight and gave us instructions on where to put Spot, how to lock up and where to switch off the lights!

We rushed outside to check Spot was still in the trailer and quickly closed it up and headed out in to the cold night to Wishaw (wrapped up in several layers as our Land Rover Defender is so draughty and cold!). Everything went smoothly and Spot was delivered to a large pen with lots of straw and she quickly started to settle down for the night. We got home exhausted at 10pm and after feeding the dogs and cat, we crawled up to bed around 11pm (note no dinner!!!)

Sooooo tired!

Splitting the sexes…

A few jobs had to b done and we were against the clock as I had to get to an important hospital appointment with my Dad. Luckily we currently have two volunteers staying with us so it was all hands on deck!

Two of our sows (sisters who always farrow within hours of one another) are very nearly ready to pop, so it’s time to seperate them from the delightful “Humphrey” and give them a little ark of their own in which to make a nest. We had a variety of empty arks to choose from but some of the better ones were pretty far away from where we needed them and currently the mud is too much for our wee tractor to handle. So, we settled on two arks very close to where they currently were, the only problem with them was that the timber bases were past their best and a bit holey! A trip to B&Q for some marine ply and some long, strong screws and our plan to remove the arks, recover the bases then replace the arks without actually having to move them around the field took shape. It was HEAVY work, even for four of us, but so satisfying to see them back in good order, cleaned out and packed full of comfy straw. The sows didn’t need any convincing to pass across the imaginary line where the electric fence had been earlier and there we penned them, together but with an ark each if they needed it.

The second good job to be done was seperating a pen of male and female as they were just approaching the magical age of 5 1/2 months when we KNOW (from past experience) that they can get pregnant. George and Alessandro managed most of this alone and I breathed a sign of relief that it was done….pretty sure we did it just in the nick of time. I have made a note in my diary 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days from now (just in case)….if they reach that date without any piglets then we’ve done well!

Catch up!

Wow, I don’t know where the time is going! Days, weeks and months are just flying past. It only seems like last week when our first lamb arrived when in fact it’s been 2 months!

The weather has been absolutely horrible and I’ve been shocked to see on the news how other farmers (and their livestock – see picture above) have suffered with the snow….it’s so, so sad! We’ve been so lucky to be able to bring all but our largest pigs indoors and we managed to convert part of the pig barn to accommodate the sheep too. We were on hand to catch all ewes and lambs as they lambed and bring them straight indoors – most stayed inside for over a week allowing us to make sure the lambs were feeding well and strong enough for the elements. It also gave us the opportunity to give the ewes an ‘MOT’ and pedicure 🙂 and make sure all was well with them. Once back outside they have had full access to their large straw filled field shelter and at nights they all (sensibly) pack inside. Their bales of hay, energy licks and troughs for feed were all in this area, right beside a field gate making checking and feeding them each day much easier for us.

We have tried and failed to adopt Stinky Pete (a triplet who’s mother rejected it) on to other sheep so after a few weeks at home with us he now lives in the pig shed being pampered!!!

The outside pigs have all stayed within their straw filled arks most of the time, sometimes even being fed in there. All of the piglets have thrived apart from one little runt we’ve called Crusty. We realised early on that Crusty was losing condition and took her home for some TLC where we realised she was unable to suckle….a bit of training later and she was finishing her bottles of warm goats milk with ease and is now back with the rest of her family. She escapes daily when she hears us arrive so we give her some mashed banana and pig nuts in the shed where she can get a bit of piece to eat (her siblings are all four times larger than her!) and this is followed with a warm bottle and a cuddle….she’s quite a character! Most of these piglets have now been reserved for other smallholders who will rear them during the nicer months and kill them before the weather gets horrible in the Winter.

Our ducklings and Hubbard chicks are now around 2 months old and will soon be ready to kill. The ducklings are such characters, noisily quacking to us every time we walk past them. The Hubbards are (as they often do) getting a little aggressive towards us which is fine….there’ll be no tears shed when we take them to the poultry abattoir 😉

Moss our puppy is now over 1 year old and seems to have tired of eating her way through all of our vehicles….the damage she has cost makes her one of our most expensive purchases according to David!

The chickens and older ducks (the keepers) are all back in to the swing of laying eggs daily following the long dark winter with short days and now that the clocks have changed the days are lighter and longer and, dare I say it, I think Spring has arrived!

There will be plenty of updates this year as we get in to our second proper year of trading professionally. We’ll be trying new things at the farm. And of course the house will be getting built which will mean we can do even more hear at the farm!

Busy day (what’s new!)…

Decided not to take pigs to the abattoir today as the restaurants are all having a slow month and we have a list of jobs to do the length of our arm!!! So two lucky pigs got a week’s repreive! We managed with relative ease (that’s a first) to swap the pigs in with Muffin our boar with three new ladies. The pigs who were with him and stayed with him over winter when we tend not to have any pigs farrow….but that was also the majority of their gestation period, so with less than two weeks to go these ladies seemed happy to be back in the big girls pen. We’ll need to prepare three of the arks for farrowing and separate them all with some electric tape (a job for another day!)

After our surprise arrival of lambs on Friday we make a start at preparing the ground inside the sheep’s shelter for it’s new flooring…Kubota decided this was a good time to get a puncture so work continued (for a while) with spades and wheelbarrows!!!

The two tups began showing an interest in the five remaining female lambs of 2012 so enough was enough and with the help of some sheep mix they were sent to the small field next to the pigs with their heads in a bucket 🙂

Realising we’ve had a bumper hatch rate of ducklings and chicks I have advertised some for sale… the ducklings are massive and are deafening me with a corus which sounds like 100 dog toys squeaking at once!!! The chicks are tiny yellow and cute, just as they should be!!! 😀

We also had to make the weekly trip to the butcher to collect last week’s pork. Jim the manager is leaving this week to open his own butcher’s in Bridge of Allan….we wish him lots of luck! x

Busy busy busy!!!

Twiglet is doing fine…

Well I have tried to reintroduce ‘Twiglet the piglet’ back with his family and although he readily joins them and is accepted by them he shows no interest in feeding/ fighting to get in to feed. Instead, he and just bides his time waiting for me to come and check on him and then scoots up to me squealing to be picked up (and fed). He has me well trained and is literally being fed ‘on demand’!

He is growing strong and becoming pretty vocal but I am being pretty tough about giving him a BIG feed before I go to bed then nothing else until morning….I just cannot function with ‘life’ on a broken nights sleep. He tends to pretty much sleep right through so I don’t feel too guilty.

So although I will continue to put him with his family for a few hours a day it looks like he’s going to be hand reared.

As expected…

Arriving at the farm this morning the first thing I did was to check on Spot. There she was stretched out on her side with a dozen little spotty bundles attached to her belly hungrily feeding. Spot seems fine. The afterbirth was there and she doesn’t seem in any pain. She is in her element on top of her huge nest grunting contentedly to her young.

We have brought the smallest one home for some heat, food and TLC. It appeared to be out on its own, cold, dozy and possibly a little injured by mum. Its now doing well in the brooder cage under a heat lamp, occasionally escaping out and bedding down on my bath robe. The plan is that all going well it will be reintroduced to its mum and siblings in the morning.

Just in time…

We’ve had a busy few days – today in particular was packed with loads of jobs! There was a huge feed delivery of 5 tonnes, and another of 11 bales of straw and a bale of hay. We had to deal with Kate, getting her up to stand and giving her lots of physio to her stiff back legs. Kate’s pig ark had to be repaired and our smaller pen for turkeys which had been getting ‘picked on’ had to be relocated.

We had some lovely visitors today who discovered us through our leaflet drop within the Blane Valley Bulletin – they also commented on how much they enjoy the website (which was lovely to hear 🙂 )

I have been checking Rosie & Spot for milk at every feed time as they are both now massive, with piglets visibly squirming around their tummies. We already have them seperate from the others in one pen with two arks but they continue to just share one which is a situation that is becoming more risky each day. After such a long day we just wanted to get home, but I went to check on the girls one last time and found this……Spot’s teats had become engorged with milk, her vulva was swollen, she was scratching the floor trying to nest and chewing pieces of wood within the ark, obviously in some pain….piglets were coming!!!

There was nothing for it but to do a bit of farming in the dark! We managed to get Rosie out of the ark and with fresh straw at the ready standby we edged the very reluctant Rosie next door. Once in her own ark we piled in the straw and started to split the two pens using two lines of electric tape. Spot then got lots of fresh straw and set about building a massive nest!

A couple of hours later and we left Rosie in her ark settling down and Spot perched on top of her freshly constructed nest. Piglets in the morning??? Oooooh yes!!!

Hhmmmm, we didn’t figure on this…

Our expectations were that in the run up to Christmas our valuable restaurant customers would be ordering more pork than usual….not so! We’re now experiencing the effects of…dah dah dah… the Christmas Menu!!!!!!

We’ll need to work doubly hard now to sell direct to local customers or we’ll have a backlog of pigs in January who will be slightly older than we’d like!


12, 13, 14, 15?…

The new weaners are settling in well in the pig barn but there was something wrong at feeding time this evening!

After throwing the feed in to each pen I rested on the gate at the young ‘uns and as usual I found myself counting them (just to check no one had escaped?). I counted again and again and there was definitely an extra pig in with them, maybe I hadn’t counted them correctly when we brought them in???

While topping up the water troughs I checked each pen. It took a while for me to figure it out but eventually I worked out who had ‘sneaked in’…we had recently split the males and females in a nearby pen, putting the females in the pen next to the new weaners….and in that pen of eight females was a younger one from a later litter. She had been reared with these older pigs along with her three remaining brothers but it would appear she wanted to be the biggest pig instead of the smallest! So, “somehow” she managed to squeeze through next door….and there she remains. The little ones are happy with their new big sister and she’s being very sweet to them…I just need to recalculate the feed they get and all will be well again.