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.
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.