Naughty pet lambs…

Honestly, I turned my back for a minute and Pete, Dud and Art (my three pet/ orphan lambs) were raiding about in everyone else’s feed buckets. Heads buried in to bags they were oblivious to me standing behind them filming….well apart from Dud who brazzenly turned and chewed staring right at me – the cheek!!! 🙂

Then it was off for a game of ‘Tag’ around the pig shed…

Turkeys hatch…

The 2012 turkeys have hatched! It started on Monday night and all eggs that were going to hatch have done so by this morning.

I’ve found turkeys to be rather soft compared to chickens and the hatching process tends to be more complicated too. I had taken some video footage of them hatching but it had to be cut short when I realised that one of the turkeys had essentially pulled out part of it’s intestine while hatching. This ended up being the case with over a dozen of them and I managed to repair and save all but one of them – it sadly had to be culled 🙁

Here is a little clip of them all dry and settled in their brooder…can you spot the odd ones out? We seem to have also hatched a white turkey and four unknown black ones…oh well, I’m sure they’ll all taste the same! 🙂

We are selling some of our stock to other smallholders and keeping around 60 to raise for our Christmas market….this will be the third year for some of our customers, it’s great they enjoy them so much that they keep returning 🙂

 

Shearing!…

Craig Harrower from Craigievern Farm came this evening to shear our sheep.   Our friend Peter also turned up to help us round them up. What followed was the fastest, most stress free shearing we have experienced. Maybe it was because we have scaled down the size of our flock…maybe it was because our ewes are now a lot more chilled out and don’t see the sheep shearer as the grim reeper anymore? All I know is that sheep were all wormed, checked and sheared within 30 minutes….amazing!!!

Thanks Craig!

First steps out…

Both Stumpy and Pip’s piglets ventured outside for the first time today. This is the youngest we’ve ever seen piglets out – Stumpy’s are now 8 days old and Pip’s only 6 days. The weather has been pretty mild and the ground is dry and firm and although a few of them came outside and started shivering, they all managed to work out how to get back to the warmth of their ark……eventually!!! We did have a couple of disoriented piglets…one managed to go under the electric fence and, having been zapped, was rather reluctant to go back through…another went for a wander behind the ark and then got stuck….and a third went in to join the piglets in the pen next door (not a good idea as the sows are very much reliant on their sense of smell to identify their own offspring)

Here is a little clip of them out and about. To put things in to scale you can scoop the piglets up and have their belly resting on the palm of your hand with all four legs just hanging off….they’re tiny!!! 🙂

Pip’s piglets arrive…

For days now we’ve been wondering when this piggy was going to farrow and having tested her teats this morning as she ate her breakfast it was obvious today was the day!

We left her to settle down and got on with all the usual morning tasks of feeding, watering and mucking out. David then went to check on her and there was the first piglet!!! He quickly got on the phone to Kirsty (a vet student who was desperate to witness pigs giving birth) and I joined Pip with a packed lunch (I was starving! :-D) She was up to piglet number five when Kirsty arrived with her friend…thank goodness the arks are spacious as there were now three adults, a 350lb pregnant sow and an ever growing number of piglets.

We had quite a few born breech with a mouthful of goo needing cleaned out (they must have taken a wrong turn inside mum) but all twelve arrived within an hour. Although there were some variations in size (there are a couple of really small piglets) they all seemed quite able to fight for their favourite teat and before long there was almost silence in the ark….all you could hear was 12 sucking noises and the occassional grunt of encouragement from mum.

And here are some of the earlier ones all happy and settled….I LOVE new piglets!!! 😀

At last! Stumpy’s piglets make an arrival…

Well we were starting to worry Stumpy might burst….for a couple of weeks she has been waddling about with a massive belly and desperately uncomfortable and unsettled. Last night we checked her as usual for milk and instead of two tiny spots on each teat she was squirting it out…a sure sign that piglets are on there way within 24 hours!

We stayed until it was nearly dark (which is around 11pm these days!) but seeing her settle down for the night we left her and returned early the next morning. She came out and had breakfast as normal but there was a sense of purpose about her and she was soon back inside nest building. We gave her a little extra fresh straw….not too much as the new piglets could end up tangled up in it…and Stumpy happily picked up mouthfuls and positioned it all around her.

The first piglet made an entrance at 8.35am, by 8.42am there were five and then twelve by 8.48am….this piggy wasn’t messing around!!! Number thirteen arrived a few minutes later and that was it….Stumpy spent the rest of the day on her side feeding and happily grunting to her enormous family! She is a fantastic mum…I think she lays down the ground rules with her piglets early on and they all work together to stay safe 🙂

Here is a little clip of them

Next door Pip was up at their adjoining fence listening to all the grunts and squeals…she too is huge so I don’t think we’ll have long to wait for her piglets to arrive.

A tour of the pig’s barn…

We believe in being totally open and transparent about the way we rear our animals (especially our pigs) and we welcome visitors to come and have a look around any time we’re about. So for those of you who live too far away, or don’t have the time, here is a little clip I took this morning of our indoor pigs and how they live.

I could have talked over the footage and pointed things out, but I thought I’d just leave it all  open to your own interpretation….hopefully what you will notice is how quiet, clean, settled and happy our pigs are in their home. The sunlight streams in all day and there is always a fresh gentle breeze blowing through.

You can view the clip here

Our breeding sows and boar live outdoors all year round and our piglets are all born outdoors. They stay with their mother until they are 2-3 months old and are then moved indoors until they reach slaughter weight (around 7-9 months of age). In my opinion, having raised our pigs both outdoors and inside, I have become a convert of the latter. Our pigs are extremely settled and calm in their ‘family’ groups, they are cleaned out daily and have plenty of fresh straw to root about in. As we have built up to a small commercial sized operation we have to try our best to aim for consistency in our end product. The indoor system greatly helps us manage the pig’s feed, monitor their condition and makes the selection and trailer loading process much more stress free for both us and the pigs. If we were to keep this number of pigs outside all year we would go through more land than we actually have and the pigs really don’t enjoy the cold, rain, windy and heavy muddy conditions of winter. So, although it is far more expensive for us to buy in huge quantities of straw (and hard work mucking out every single day) the benefits still outweigh the costs and effort.

I could never keep animals in the conditions many commercial pig farms use (empty dark concrete pens) in their opinion, it is the only way those farmers, selling to large companies, can make any money out of their livestock. In time we would like to enhance our pigs conditions further with a larger barn and secure outdoor pens attached.

We value our animals and provide them with the best conditions possible, they are not pumped full of drugs or antibiotics as a matter of course, they have a natural, varied diet and are allowed to grow at a slower, more natural rate – most farmers could not conceive being able to run a profitable business that way. We work hard to promote the quality of the meat we produce….as we keep saying “it is a totally different product to supermarket bought pork!” and we are lucky to have gained the support of some wonderful people who appreciate the difference in the meat we produce – both local customers who try our sausages or taster boxes then go on to regularly purchase a quarter or half pig….and more recently some fantastic “old school” chefs at some of Glasgow and Stirlingshire’s top hotels and restaurants. Their excitement for the product and enthusiasm at creating new and inventive dishes utilising all of the animal is truly fantastic and we thank them for not only supporting us, but supporting the high welfare standards we follow.

Maternity unit prepared and occupied…

Our friend Neil cleaned out two of the five arks in the sows large pen yesterday in preparation for today’s movements.

Pip and Stumpy are approaching the earliest date they might farrow and, going by the size of them, we’ve not a moment to lose! So today I part penned two of the arks and attempted to manouver six very large pigs so I could ‘easily’ (ha ha ha) coax Pip and Stumpy in and seperate them from the others.

My master plan, as always, revolved around food….it’s the pigs favourite pastime! Breakfast was therefore delayed while the posts and electric fence tape went up and straw was added to the arks. Before I was even ready to begin Pip wandered waddelled in and I hurridly rushed for a bucket of feed to encourage her to follow me through the first pen and in to the second – it couldn’t have gone any better and Pip was secured in her pen happily eating her breakfast and oblivious to anything going on around her.

Pip’s noisy munching got the attention of the others who were by now a little fed up at the delay in receiving their breakfast….all bar Stumpy who has, over the last week or so, kept away from the others while she psychs herself up for another large litter of noisy piglets! I brought the other girls over near to the pens and gave them a little feed to keep them happy and too interested to bother me in my endevour to get Stumpy’s attention. Stumpy had other ideas but after she coaxed me across the muddy field for a bit of one-to-one attention and a tummy rub (her, not me 🙂 ) she gradually followed me, a few steps at a time, with the promise of a piece of apple waved in front of her…this continued at a painfully slow rate and I thought I would run out of apples before reaching our destination. If I had called out for David to bring me more Stumpy would have realised something was going on and headed back off in the other direction – my pig psychology is coming along in leaps and bounds!!! 😀

EVENTUALLY we reached the pen and a couple of more steps and the tape was secured behind Stumpy’s large derrier! She and Pip then had a little wander about to investigate their new little enclosures and thats when they discovered the fresh straw in their arks at which point I knew we wouldn’t see them again for some time. Fresh straw is their second favourite thing to food!!!

So, with a couple of days to spare, the pigs and their unborn piglets are as safe and snug as can be….we’re now taking bets on how many piglets each pig will have – my bet is Stumpy 11, Pip 10, David said it will be the other way around and our friend Neil has put his money on 9 each….winner gets a day off ‘mucking out’!!

At long long last!…

Hallelujah! Abby has, at last, had her lambs and she managed it all by herself when we weren’t looking!

She gave me a bit of a fright when I arrived at the farm tonight for the evening feed as all I could see was a large, fluffy, white, very still mass on it’s side!!! I was almost too scared to go and look, worried that she had gotten in to difficulty when we weren’t there and….well, died! I sent David over to take a look and waited for the update with my hands partly covering my eyes!! As David approached the ‘mass’ it jumped to it’s feet and split in to three!!! 😀 Oh, I was so happy, she’d only gone and had gorgeous twin male lambs who looked just like her, right down to their massive floppy ears!!! When Abby was a lamb we would call to her from across the field and she would come running towards us with her huge ears flapping up and down – we always half expected her to take off!!! 😀

Here they are…

So that’s it – lambing 2012 is now officially over!!! Phew!

Valentines Day Arrivals

Rosie delivered a whopping 12 piglets this afternoon. This is the largest litter we’ve had! Five have already been reserved by a local group of families who share the load of rearing a few pigs for the freezer.

Rosie is such a fantastic mum and takes everything in her stride. Last year she didn’t even notice when we added two orphaned Tamworths to her brood!

Most of the piglets are female and all are a nice even size (no little runts to worry about), they’re all feeding well and already learning to stay out of mum’s way when she gets up.

If you’re not squeemish here is some footage of them being born…click here to see the Valentines Delivery…