With the agricultural show entry forms dropping on the mat everyday, it is time to decide which pigs will be going to the shows this year. We usually keep back 3 or 4 in each age category and grow them on before we decide which ones will be kept. Here is a group of our July and September born saddlebacks along with an interloping Landrace gilt. It is very hard to breed the perfect pig and the one with the best teats doesn’t have the best markings and the best shaped one doesn’t have the best legs, so you just have to choose the one with the most positive features, that you think the judge might like in the show ring on the day.
There is a class for Adult Sow – which can be any age from 1 year although most sows at about 5-6 years old are getting stiff on their legs so do not move so well around the ring.
The next class is for pigs born after 1st July. So during the 2018 show season we will be showing pigs that were born after 1st July 2017. Pigs in this class can be born from July to the end of December that year, although obviously those born later in the year will not be as big and impressive as one born earlier and are therefore less likely to be in the awards.
Some shows (but not all) will also have a born after 1st September class. So again we have chosen some pigs that were born close the beginning of September 2017 for this class.
The final class and the one that usually causes chaos in the ring is those pigs born after 1st January, so these are shown in the year that they are born. With shows starting in April and May these girls will only be 4 to 5 months old when they go to their first show, so haven’t had much time for training and generally take off round the ring with the handler in hot pursuit.
The boys generally only have two classes, one for those born after 1st July and one for those born after 1st January. That means that only young boars are shown and these will still need two handlers in the ring to ensure that they are kept separate from each other avoiding a fight.
With the outdoor pens getting increasingly muddy, it starts to become difficult to feed the pigs at this time of year. Luckily our main paddock has a large concrete pad onto which we can put the feed to avoid it becoming lost in the mud and we have also taken delivery of our first round of sow rolls in the silo. Normally we use the smaller sow pellets for the majority of the year, but during the winter the larger sow rolls are easier to feed and don’t get lost so easily.
Whilst we still have a number of fatteners and young stock in the woods and about 15 sows left in the main paddock we have brought a batch of pigs into the straw filled barn to ease the pressure in the outdoor pens. And although the barn is over 50ft long, they all want to bed down in one corner, but they do seem content with this arrangement.
Oaklands Pigs was a runner up in the National Pig Association annual award ceremony which took place in London on Monday 6th November.
A finalist in the Pedigree Breeder of the Year category, which was judged on our breeding statistics, number of pedigree sales made, showing successes and how we promote pedigree pigs to the general public.
The awards ceremony meant that everyone was dressed in their posh frocks and no wellies in sight.
Oaklands Pigs were again at the South of England Autumn Show with a pen of pigs in the farmyard section. Saturday was bright and sunny and there were a lot of visitors to the show. Sunday however started wet, rallied for a dry spell in the middle of the day, before lapsing back into drizzle. We were snug and warm in the covered Abergavenny building, which became quite busy during the showers. But the wet weather left many cars being towed out of the carparks through a sea of mud at the end of the day. We had lots of enquiries and talked to many potential smallholders about the joys of keeping pigs.
Tara the Tamworth certainly strutted her stuff at the weekend to come 2nd in a class of 11 for the July Gilt group. Tamworths do not normally feature highly in mixed breed classes, so to come second was the highlight of our day.
The other pigs in the team all played their part and we came away with Best Tamworth, Best Old Spot and Best Saddleback. So a nice end to the showing season for 2017.
Oaklands Pigs once again attended the “Connect with the Countryside” event at the South of England showground. Around 5,000 children from Year 10 and 11 came from schools around Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
We were part of the farm animal section with cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and poultry amongst other more exotics. A lot were surprised to see how big pigs were at six months old and many did not know that pigs had hair, they thought they would be smooth skinned.
Our two January born saddlebacks and a January born Landrace were already experienced hands at the shows and were not phased at all by the crowds of children all wanting to stroke them and slept through most of the shouting and running around from the excited onlookers.
Oaklands Pigs were delighted with the results at the recent South of England show. Winning 3 breed champions and 1 reserve champion from the four breeds that we exhibited there.
Well it may not have been quite tropical weather at the Surrey County Show on Bank Holiday Monday, but Clare and pig Bessie dressed in Hawaiian style to win the fancy dress competition. Our Tamworth Tara then won the prettiest pig class as she strutted her stuff around the ring. Fun classes aside, all our girls showed well in the main pedigree classes which was the main point of the show.
Oaklands Pigs ventured into the world of Commercial pig showing today at the heathfield show.
We entered our Landrace pigs born in Jan 2017 and the brother and sister pair Lancelot and Loretta won the best commercial pair, and Loretta went on to win the overall commercial champion.
Lancelot also won the Jan born boar in the pedigree classes of the main show and qualified for the final best in show group, but it was not his lucky day today.
11 chefs came to Oaklands pigs yesterday to see how we rear our pigs, and find out about the differences between commercial pigs and rare breeds.
They met the sows in the field and saw how rare breed pigs are raised, and how this improves meat quality amd taste.
We discussed lots of technical foody things like muscle texture, intra-muscular fat, and the effect of stress on meat.
They also got the chance to cuddle 2 week old piglets.
On Tuesday 16th May, Oaklands Pigs hosted a school visit from the pupils of St Ronans School in Hawkhurst. A dozen, mostly girls aged 8-10 years, attended the morning session and the afternoon was filled with boys aged 10-12 years.
The pupils were taken around the paddock and woodland pens and met all 7 of our breeds here. As our pigs are well handled and used to course visitors they behaved impeccably when faced with a bank of very hands-on children. They also didn’t even mind the children getting in and sharing their arks, to see what it was like being a pig.
As it was a very warm day, the pigs also demonstrated how they use their wallow and tried to share some of the mud with anyone who stood too close. The pupils asked lots of questions and had a very interactive and hands-on time. The highlight for some was being able to hold a 3 day old piglet and lots of pictures were taken.
The sessions rounded off with the pupils being allowed to help with the training of the oaklands gundogs, throwing retrieves, and directing them to find tennis balls in the field.
The weather forecast was pretty bleak for the bank holiday weekend, but apart from an odd brief shower, we escaped the rain at the show. Luckily the pigs were inside the animal barn, so they were snug warm and dry all weekend. Whilst the show was not packed there was a steady footfall and lots of piggy questions to be answered. We took the two Kune Kune pigs Margot and Gerry who just loved meeting and greeting and “talking” the public. This breed is very much a grazing animal so before the show opened and after it closed we took them for a walk on the grass around the stands, much to the amusement of the other stallholders.
It’s that time of year, when the girls go out on the new spring pasture. Here a squadron of 11 saddlebacks seem quite contented in the spring sunshine. All in various states of pregnancy, some of them will soon be returning to the yard to give birth whilst the others have several months before they are due.
We recently had a visit from lovely couple who were pig farming in Switzerland.
Anja & Fabio were farming on a small scale, but using commercial breeds because that is all that is available there, as all the old traditional Swiss breeds have died out.
So they were visiting England to learn about UK rare breeds, with a view to importing some to Switzerland. All the UK native breeds are hardly, and should thrive ion the Swiss environment.
Anja with one of our piglets
Discussing the various breeds
We were able to show them 7 breeds, and discuss the differences between them, to help them make their choice.
Importing to Switzerland is not easy, but they will get help form the British Pig Association, who can put them in touch with the relevant experts.
We look forward to seeing what breeds they eventually choose, and finding out how they get on.
One of Anja & Fabio's fields
Their current commercial breeds enjoying the sunshine
Recently we were contacted to take part in a long term stress analysis that was being conducted for outdoor, indoor and intensively reared pigs. The normal samples of blood, urine or saliva will give a instant reading of the pigs current stress level, but that does not help for long term analysis.
The answer is through taking hair samples. So the researcher Lisa pictured below set off down our field with her assistant and a small team of helpers that we had assembled. The process involved cutting a small amount of hair from the head, the back and near the tail all to be separately bagged and identified. The samples needed to be taken from 10 sows of the same breed who were kept in the same environment.
So with one of our helpers distributing food to distract the pig and keep the others at bay, another opened and identified the sample bags, while Lisa cut the samples. Another helper kept an eye on which pig we were sampling as they jostled for food and another read the tag and notch numbers so we could provide details of each pig’s age, number of litters etc, whilst the last helper sealed the bags and grouped them together in batches.
And surprisingly no-one fell over or got stuck in the mud, and the pigs were all very co-operative. The results are due in April, so watch this space.
Clare decided that we should do both dog and pig xmas cards this year for our various friends.
So a couple of hours were spent creating a set in the corner of one of our barns. This included a xmas tree, and some presents.
Suitably fitted with Santa hats and tinsel, they headed for the ‘set’.
However pigs always look to the floor for food, so some coaxing to raise their heads was required, and lots and lots of pictures were taken to get this shot.
At Oaklands Pigs, we’re sometimes asked for the unusual, so when the Southpaw Agency asked us if we could run an Xmas Charity pig race, well we couldn’t refuse!!
Part of next year’s show team was pressed into action, and two weeks of daily training to run our course followed.
Come the day, the team didn’t let us down, and the final race selection of 5 pounded down the course, cheered on by staff from the Southpaw Agency dressed in their Christmas Finest.
The result? Well after a chaotic start, the Tamworth won, but only after they all stopped at the tinsel finish !
Watch the race by following this link
It was a busy weekend at the South of England Autumn Show on 1st and 2nd October. Oaklands Pigs provided the pig display in the farmyard area of the show. It was a good opportunity to take out our show team for next year, who are currently only 10-12 weeks old. They have plenty of sights and sounds and cuddles all weekend which should put them in good practice for the shows next year. We took 5 saddlebacks, 2 landrace and 1 tamworth who were all great hits with the children.