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.
Good results again at the Oxted & Edenbridge show. Dolores the Saddleback born in July15 won the Supreme Coloured Champion and Ebony our Large Black born in Jan16 took the Reserved Coloured Champion slot. The first time Oaklands Pigs has won both the Champion and Reserve at the same show.
Dolores then competed against the winner of the White Pig Championship, which unfortunately pipped her into second place. But she did still take home the Reserve Overall Champion prize too.
This meant that not only had we won best of breed with our Saddleback and also with the Large Black, but Greta the Old Spot also won her best of breed, giving us best of breed for all 3 breeds that we were exhibiting at the show. A marvellous result for the last show of the season.
This is an annual event for schools to find out about farm animals and countryside activities.
It involves around 5,000 children from year 5&6, who come to pet the pigs and ask questions. From 9.30 to 2.30pm there is a constant stream of groups passing through the building. And as you can see the pigs and I were exhausted when they all finally left.
Excellent results at the Cranleigh show on 19th June, with 3 out of the 4 pigs competing for Best in Show coming from Oaklands Pigs.
First to book her place was BUNTY our Saddleback sow who won the breeding sow class. She was followed by DOLORES our Saddleback Gilt who is now coming up for a year old, who also won her class. Making up the trio was EBONY our Large Black gilt born in January this year who won the junior class.
It was DOLORES the middle size pig who eventually went on to win Supreme Champion on the day. Which meant that she got a ride in the trailer to collect her cup as part of the cattle and sheep parade.
We were very busy at the South of England show, and needed two trailer loads of pigs to get them all there. These included a saddleback sow and her 6 week old piglets, a couple of Mangalitzas (to celebrate the “Year of the Sheep” at the show) and a variety of ages of show pigs including Saddlebacks, Large Blacks, Old Spots and Landrace.
We were delighted that GRETA won Champion Old Spot and BERTHA who won the Heathfield show, took Reserve Champion Saddleback. We also won the Best Livestock Exhibitors display for all the piggy facts that we pinned up around our pens.
Well Bertha the Saddleback took Best in Show at Heathfield on Saturday and little Beryl went one better by beating her at the Surrey County show and taking the Reserve Champion Slot.
Beryl is our Saddleback that was born at the end of January, so she is only 4 months old. Beryl also took first prize in the “pig most like it’s owner” with a little help from Sister Clare.
BERTHA our British Saddleback born in July 2015 took the Best in Show spot in her first outing at the Heathfield Show today.
We were also pleased that INCA a large Black boar born in January this year also won his class and was contesting for the Best in Show slot too.
His sister EBONY did well coming second in a class of over a dozen pigs of her age.
And great big LOLA the Landrace was just pipped into second place by a large saddleback sow in her class. So the show season is off to a flying start – more news to follow ….
BRYONY our January born Saddleback Gilt took a surprise Best in Show at the Cranleigh show on 21st June. Being born at the end of January this year she was one of the youngest and smallest pigs at the show. But having a good set of 16 teats, she obviously showed the potential for being a good future breeding sow.
But being so small she was hard to see as she toured the main arena as part of the cattle and sheep winners parade.
Lola the Landrace certainly strutted her stuff to win Supreme Champion Pig at the South of England show. Seen here with (L-R) judge Steve Loveless, owner Clare Wilson, Claire Scheckter (racing driver Jody Scheckter’s wife – the president of the show) and one of the sponsors. And of course Lola – she’s the one wearing a sash.
Lola fought her way through the breed classes on Thursday to win best modern breed and then put on a superb performance on Friday in the Interbreed challenge for Best in Show. On Saturday she got to ride around the main arena, chauffeur driven in her own trailer as part of the livestock parade with the winning cattle and sheep.
It was a fantastic day, as she had previous won the Reserve Champion last year at this show and went one better this year to take top spot. “It is a very hard job to get a “pink” pig ready for show” said Clare Wilson. “I have to wash them everyday for at least a week to 10 days before the show and protect them from the sun. But it has all been worth while to win the top prize at such a major show”.
A fantastic start to the 2015 showing season, with 3 wins at the Heathfield Show.
Lola our Landrace sow continued last year’s form, by winning her class. This year’s new comers Jolene our July Saddleback and Beatrice our September Saddleback also won their classes with Bridget also coming second giving us a one-two in the July Class.
We were beaten in the best in show by a cracking January gilt shown by our friend (and no relation) Mark Wilson.
Off to the Surrey show on Bank Holiday Monday to see if we can repeat our form
They were able to hold a baby piglet and meet a variety of breeds and sizes of pig including the mums and babies. Gerry and Margot the Kune Kunes also kept them entertained, as shown here.
The group went on to stroke baby lambs and pet rabbits and see a gundog demonstration. Before finally having a hot dog lunch in the barn. The sausages went down so well, that they bought some more to take back to the other residents at the centre.
Tessa the Tamworth – 11 weeks old, Bryony our Saddleback Gilt – 13 weeks old and Hamish our new Saddleback Boar at only 15 weeks, all got the chance to strut their stuff in a small practice ring.
No competitions at this show, we’re were just giving visitors the chance to experience young pigs close up, and ask as many questions as they liked.
All three loved having their bellies rubbed, as the tweet from the showground demonstrates !
London Photographer Gavin Kingcome visited Oaklands Pigs this week to take pictures for the wrap around cover of the new River Cottage Pig book. The brief was to have a line of various breeds of pig out in their free range environment. Our sows were happy to oblige with a stroll around the field gathering up beech mast and early acorns as they went. It looks as though the winning shot will be of an Oxford Sandy and Black.
Lola the Landrace finished this year’s show season with another Reserve Best in Show. This time at the Egham Royal Show. The weather was perfect, warm but not too sunny and Lola strutted her stuff around the ring to win her class and then go on to win the reserve best in show. Now that she has finished the show season, she can roll in as much mud as she likes. Although she will probably miss being washed, as she quite enjoyed the hose and being rubbed down with a horse brush during the hot weather.
We had another good show at Cranleigh on 2nd August. First out again was Hilary our Saddleback sow who won her class. She was followed by the gilts born in July 2013 which was a strong class, eventually being taken by the Old Spot pictured at the rear. Lola the Landrace came a close 2nd, but she let herself down by not moving well around the ring. Next in was Edna the September born gilt who also claimed a first and lastly the little January Saddleback Gilt Bunty who managed a third.
So just like the Singleton show, Hilary and Edna were both out again to contest the Best in Show. With two Oaklands Pigs already in the ring, the judge Richard Lutwyche then asked me to bring Lola the Landrace out again.
Unfortunately she still did not want to strut her stuff and therefore missed out on the Reserve Champion prize.
The Singleton rare breed show was held on Sunday 20th July. The pig classes are divided into white breeds like the Middle White and Lop, and the coloured breeds such as Saddlebacks and Old Spots etc.
First up was Hilary our three and a half year old sow who took first place in the sow class. She was followed by Harriet a gilt born in July last year who also won her class. There was another first place for Edna, our gilt in the September age group and bringing up the rear, Bunty our little gilt born in January this year who came second in her class.
That meant that there were three Oaklands Saddlebacks in the ring contesting for the coloured Championship. Although we were pipped at the post for the top slot, Harriet took home the Reserve Champion award.
“HER NAME IS LOLA – SHE IS A SHOWGIRL” the words of the song rang true at the South of England show, where Lola the Landrace took Reserve Best in Show. We were surprised to win her breed class against strong opposition and then even more delighted to win Best Modern breed. That entitled Lola to compete for Best in Show, which was judged on the Friday. A large black took the top slot and Lola came in as Reserve Champion.
Whilst the rest of the show team couldn’t claim any firsts there were plenty of 2nd’s and 3rd’s. The 2nd’s going to Gladys the Old Spot in the Breeding Sow class and another second to Bunty in the January born saddleback class on Thursday and then Edna the saddleback also came 2nd in the interbreed September class on the Friday.
The 3rd’s went to Hilary in the Saddleback breeding sow class and Harriet in the saddleback July born class.
And then we rounded off the day by winning the best livestock exhibitors display. So all in all, great results at the South of England for Oaklands Pigs.
Gladys the Gloucester Old Spot won a big rosette as best old spot at the Surrey County show on Bank Holiday Monday. Although she is a four year old sow weighing around 300 kilos (that’s 48 stone) she can still move around the ring. She wasn’t so pleased however at winning “The Grumpiest Pig” award in the novelty classes.
As at the Heathfield show, the Welsh pig took top honours, but we again came second and third to that winning pig in our breed classes. But this time the roles were reversed with Lola the Landrace taking the second slot and Harriet the Saddleback coming third.
Lola and Clare also won the pig most like it’s owner, I think it was the ears !
It was however a rather wet day, but that did mean lots of people visited the livestock marques especially during the downpours.