Archive for January 17th, 2009

Pigs! I give up!

I have two sows and a gilt (female pig who hasn’t yet successfully raised a litter). Given that female pigs come into season (aka come hogging) every 21 days, you would think that getting at least one of my gals knocked up would be easy.

But no.

Bailey has been with Brini since July and nothing’s doing there. I wanted to put Scrumpy in with Bailey instead on New Year’s Day but since at least one pig from Tia and Scrumpy’s pen went walkies on Boxing Night and it looked as though they/she had made it to Bailey and Brini’s pen, I had to wait three weeks to see if either was in pig before playing the match-maker.

Neither is, as they both came hogging right on schedule a couple of days ago and I have been dithering about what do with them. Should I wait another week so that Scrumpy could get to know her new boyfriend before they got down to business, or should I go for it? (They clearly got bored of waiting for me to make a decision and took matters into their own hands yesterday, as Jennie captured on film…)

This morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue so I thought that to hell with waiting, I’d swap Scrumpy and Brini and if Bailey gets her in pig now, that’s wonderful but if we have to wait another three weeks, that’s fine as well.

Part of my brain was not convinced this was such a good idea and quickly drew up a list of all the things that could go wrong but I declined to listen. Regular readers of BmS will no doubt guess who was right – me or my instincts…!

It all went so well at first.

I decided to move them using their breakfast as a lure. I put Tia’s bowl down at the far side of her pen and Scrumpy followed me all the way over to Bailey and Brini’s pen, where I put the bowl down just outside. I went in and, as with Tia, fed Bailey on the far side and took Brini out, temporarily feeding her outside the pen. I picked up Scrumpy’s bowl and she followed me in, then Brini and I walked over to Tia’s pen. All swapped in a matter of minutes.

I quickly ran back to the shipping container where I keep everything, from straw bales to the feed to tools, and grabbed the shears as I couldn’t switch Scrumpy and Bailey’s electric fence on until I’d cleared the undergrowth a bit. For that reason, I’d left Tia where she was and put Brini in with her as the electric netting was all set up and, once Brini was in, switched on, as they’re both the main escape artists!

Leaving them to it, comforted by the knowledge that no matter what bites they’d probably inflict on one another, they couldn’t go anywhere, I focussed on Bailey and Scrumpy and set about clearing the brambles etc while they largely ignored one another. As I’d been walking down, there was an almighty squeal from their pen, but despite running the rest of the way, I don’t know what that was about as by the time I got there, Bailey was at his feed bowl and Scrumpy was a fair distance away, glaring at him. When she saw me, I got the daggers look instead!

For about fifteen minutes or so, I hacked away at brambles and, as I said, they mainly pretended the other didn’t exist, squabbling every so often but that was it.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?


The serenity of the morning was rudely interrupted by the loudest shrieks and squeals ever from Tia and Brini’s enclosure, which immediately set the dogs off (mine and all the others in the valley). I should have guessed what would happen next but I think I was deluded by the singing birds and the warmth of the sun on my back. Bailey, who had been calmly munching away at a bramble stalk I’d chucked him, suddenly got excited by something on the other side of the electric netting. Before I could do anything, he demolished said netting and greeted Tia (for it was she) in an enthusiastic manner. She responded in an obviously welcoming manner and that’s all it took for him to get down to business.

All in all, they had several goes at securing the future of the breed, though I don’t think they will all count as a success:

Bailey and Tia - 17 January 2009

Bailey and Tia - 17 January 2009

I left them to it and ran back to the container to get some nuts so that I could, somehow, return to having two pigs in each enclosure, not three in one and the fourth… Where was Brini?

I spotted her standing under the trees where her ark had been for about a month before Jennie and I moved it yesterday. She didn’t look as though she was planning on moving so after a quick inspection (a couple of bites and some sore spots but nothing serious) I kept going and returned with a bucket of nuts and some bread.

First things first – Scrumpy! Poor girl – she spent her brief time with Bailey alternating between giving me hateful and then hurt how-could-you-do-this-to-me looks but as soon as Tia started having some fun, she wanted a go too, but I persuaded her to follow me back to her old pen. Once she was safely munching away on the pile of nuts I left for her, I went back to get Brini. For the second time this morning, she followed me to Scrumpy’s pen but when we were just a few feet away she realised where she was and legged it back to her tree. Nothing could persuade her to follow me back for a third time so I gave in and took her back to Bailey.

He and Tia had clearly finished as it only took a few seconds to put Brini in and get Tia out and once I’d left some nuts to keep Bailey happy (Brini marched straight into the ark and there she stayed!), Tia happily followed me back to her pen with barely a backward glance!

So, an hour or so after I swapped them around, the pigs were back exactly where they were when I arrived at the farm this morning…

Bailey and Brini, exhausted by the morning’s activities, went to bed:

Bailey and Brini - 17 January 2009

Bailey and Brini - 17 January 2009

I spent about an hour and a half clearing away all the brambles and they barely moved the whole time!

Tia and Scrumpy, however, spent that time bickering and squabbling, probably because Tia got some and Scrumpy didn’t, but even they wore themselves out eventually and hit the sack.

Peace returned and all that remains is for me to wait yet another three weeks to see if Bailey’s efforts will be rewarded. Obviously, I hope so, but I am not at all happy that it could be Tia. After the last time, having two litters born within three weeks of one another, I’ve decided to take it in turn and let one sow stay with the boar until it’s time for her to farrow (16 weeks) and then take her out and put the next one in, so that she will have farrowed and her piglets will be weaned long before the next lot are born.

I specifically wanted Scrumpy to go first because her piglets didn’t do as well as Tia’s, mainly because the latter turned every last ounce of food I gave her into milk whereas Scrumpy always kept something back for herself. That, combined with the fact that Tia’s were born in August, when we still had the last of the summer weather, whereas Scrumpy’s were born in September and knew nothing but rain for the first few weeks of their lives, meant that Scrumpy’s piglets were smaller than Tia’s, even though Tia raised more.

So… I wanted Scrumpy to have her piglets in the spring, so that they would benefit from the spring and summer weather and grass, leaving Tia to have hers in late summer, assuming that she will do her next litter as well as the first, no matter what time of year.

Of course, that plan now looks as though it’s gone the way of most good plans so a rethink is necessary.

And since this is now an extremely length post and I’m probably the only one who will make it this far (purely because I’m reading it as my fingers type), I’ll blog about the alternatives another time.

Right now, I shall leave you to enjoy your weekend as I need to get the pigs’ dinners and veggie buckets ready, hopefully leaving me enough time to take the dogs to the beach…!