Yearle Tamworths

This is the story of how we came to raise pigs. 

For Valentine's Day 2010 we took each other on a Pig Course, and very romantic it was too. We spent a wonderful day with Sarah Dodds at Yearle Tamworths and we learned oodles of things from the boring, but very necessary, forms and legislation through to the various cuts of meat to be had from a pig. We had a smashing lunch prepared by Sarah's mum which included their own sausages and samples of other locally produced fare. And, very cleverly, Sarah gave each of us a voucher to redeem at her local butcher so we were able to nip off and buy some other cuts of her pork.
At the time of our visit she had a litter due for their iron injection so we were all given the chance to first catch and then inject a piglet.

We also sexed the piglets and counted the nipples on the gilts and checked if the nipples were parallel. This was our first close up encounter as adults with pigs. We loved it. It was a cold day in Northumberland, but the the whole experience left us with a warm feeling.

This was an excellent course run with a very personal touch. There are only a few places on each course, I think there were about 7 or 8 of us the day we went. We met all Sarah's pigs and came away with a wealth of knowledge and some hands-on experience.

The Course only cemented what we already knew. We wanted to keep pigs. And we had fallen in love with Tamworths. But we already had our favourites sorted - Tamworths, Gloucester Old Spots & Berkshires. I recently added Oxford Sandy & Blacks to my list.

We spoke to our neighbours who were delighted with the idea and so we were off.
We applied for out CPH number.
We needed fencing, a gate and a hut. After a lot of research we happened upon a local timber merchant that we knew nothing about, but which everyone admitted knowing when we mentioned them. How frustrating.
One big lesson we learned is not to blindly trust B&Q. Now, B&Q are, we feel, all well and good for some things but once they have you under their roof and you realise that you can get everything you need in one place....well, you know the story.

We decided not to have electric fencing as the pigs would be fenced in within a stone wall boundary and so went for barbed wire along the bottom of the fencing. The gate was made from a pallet with a bolt along the top to stop lifting and one on the bottom.

Steve built the pighut.
Sounds simple when you say it quickly.
It took a day and a lot of swearing.
It looked small.
And so, it came to pass that man, woman and dog crawled into the pighut and saw that it was good. The dog didn't stay long, I think she suspected that it was meant for her.
We had a Belfast sink and a long, brown stone sink doing other duties elsewhere so they were duly emptied and carted off to be a water trough and a food trough. Steve went off to see a local farmer who agreed to let us have straw from large bales that he splits for his own use. We couldn't find any small bales locally for love nor money.
Then we ground to a halt. No CPH number.
Eventually we got the CPH number. No weaners in our area.

Finally we found some Gloucester Old Spot weaners not far from us and we were up and running again.

We brought them home in the back of our 4x4. They were asleep before we got off the farm and still sock on by the time we got home.    I think the expression should be "Let sleeping pigs lie". I have no idea what the neighbours thought as we carried our squealing bundles to their new home, suffice it to say that everyone knew they had arrived.

Including the chickens.  The rest of that first day was spent watching them explore and getting to know them. We brought Jilly into their pen and introduced her to them and the chickens took turns in keeping an eye on them. Jilly has not been in since mainly because the pigs are so boisterous and she is quite an old lady. They do snuffle at each other through the fence though. The chicks are alarmingly brave and both pigs have had their snouts pecked through the fence. One brave chick actually managed to steal some cabbage leaf as one of the pigs taunted her by chewing too close to the fence.
We did all the form filling and  posted them off and got out Herd Number.

Within days of sending off our forms we were notified of a visit from the Animal Health Enforcement Officer. It came so quickly that we were worried that someone had complained. We realise now that we are probably something of a novelty for the area and that sparked a prompt visit. She was a very nice lady, loved pigs and was very helpful, especially with advice about Abbatoirs and Vets.

There is only one Abbatoir in our immediate area. And no Pig Vets. We were lucky to find a Pig Vet some miles away who recognised the fact that we have a "shortage of suitable veterinary practices" in our area and offered to provide us with veterinary care.

Ear Tags were our next problem. One school of thought is to tag early so the pigs are easy to handle and, when they are older, once you have tagged one ear, they are not going to hang around whilst you do the other one!
So we thought we should get some. Not as easy at it sounds. Online sources wouldn't touch an order under 50. Then we were directed to a local supplier. They could order us some. What was the minimum order?
"Hold on, I'll ring and find out."
It turns out that by going through the local retailer we could order as little as two tags if we so desired. Why can't they offer that online?
The tagging gun looks gruesome - we opted for metal tags which we learned were compulsory in some abbatoirs. The bloke in the shop had no advice, he just knew that cattle have two veins you have to avoid. We had no idea where to put the tags, bearing in mind the pigs ears would be getting bigger and we wanted to avoid veins. We could find no advice from manufacturers and most pigs in pictures have plastic tags. Off to the forums we went.
Across two or three forums we finally came away with the general advice to wait and tag just before the pigs go to slaughter. One opinion voiced was that by then you have earned the pigs trust anyway. Some people advise tagging once they are in the trailer and confined.
Since then our poor little piggies have had their ears tweaked every night at feeding time to get them 'used to the idea'.

Our first pigs went to slaughter in September 2010.

In 2011 we are keen to butcher our own pigs and, with this in mind, we went on a Butchery Course at the end of April.

We also decided that we wanted to have 4 pigs this year. This way we can stagger their departure and have 2 for Pork and 2 for Bacon. The Pig Ark we built in 2010 would not be big enough so we had to build a new one.

Our pigs for 2011 arrived on 7th May. We have two British Saddlebacks and two Large Blacks.