Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Pigs 2016: Part 1

For some reason, or rather an accumulation of reasons, I did not blog much at all about our pig venture last year. Well, as we are just embarking on Pigs 2016, I thought I'd just add a few after-the-event comments.
We dedicated one of our pigs to a community barbeque which seems to be coming an annual event.
A good time was had by all..
Well, nearly all. One of the remaining ladies expressed her disapproval in the only way she could.
As a wrap-up for 2015 and a prelude to 2016, we had a 'pig product' sampling party recently. On offer were the results of our individual endeavours with pork. There was charcuterie, ,hams, sausages, pates etc and our contribution was some of our chorizo which seemed to go down well. I mention all this by proxy as we were out of the country at the time. The Pigs' 'Ere Group photograph has been modified to protect the identities of the innocent!
And so the 2016 cycle commences. Working on the principle of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' we've gone with the same breed and pretty much the same husbandry arrangements. One change we are making is to send them to slaughter a few weeks earlier so that we have a better meat:fat ratio.

A friend has asked me "what's so special about the British Lop?". Here's some info I've found on the British Lop Society's website which makes interesting reading (to me, at least).

The British Lop is a West Country breed which originated around the Tavistock area either side of the Cornwall/Devon borders., which is exactly where we all live and our pigs are kept in a field from which they look into Devon and towards Tavistock. There's something very gratifying in this.

For most of its history from the early years of the twentieth century, it remained a local breed, undiscovered by farmers outside its native territory. It suited the locality well and was in strong demand there so there was little incentive for breeders to go shouting its merits beyond the south west. In those days it was registered and known as the National Long White Lop Eared breed. In the 1960s, the name was changed to today’s British Lop.

At the end of the war in 1945, the UK needed to maximize food production. The 1947 Agricultural act was passed and stated: "The twin pillars upon which the Governments agricultural policy rests are stability and efficiency." The government consequently recommended that British pig farmers focused on more commercially viable breeds such as the Large White, the Landrace and the Welsh pig. The British Lop was marginalised and was bred only by a handful of farmers in the West Country. When the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) was established in 1973, the Lop was listed as one of six rare pig breeds recognised by them. The inclusion of a breed as officially listed as ‘rare’ generally increased interest in all such breeds and indeed the Lop is more populous now than at any time in the last 30-odd years. However, it suffered, in comparison with the other rare breeds of pig, by not looking particularly distinctive. It is, after all, as its earlier name says, a white lop-eared pig and to the non-specialist, could be confused with the Welsh or the Landrace. Instead, enthusiasts flocked to pigs with short snouts, spotted or ginger hogs but not so readily to the pig that looked quite normal.

Normal they may look but they are very friendly, easy to work with and taste great. All good reasons for us to stick with them. Here's a fascinating statistic: there are only around a couple of hundred breeding British Lop sows in the world, which makes them rarer than pandas. Ooops, better not tell anyone that we end up eating the pig equivalent of the panda.

Here are the first of 2016's photographs.
Looking seriously cute - and the pigs are OK as well.
There's nothing like a good root around for grubs and whatever else turns up. And turning up the grass is what they do really well and hence the need to watch that the clods don't short out the electric fence that runs around their space.
We are up to 10 pigs this year as some of us are wanting more pork for friends and family. Note the awning we've had to put up to keep the sun off their backs. It was hot out there today.
Of course the traditional way pigs keep cool is to have a good wallow in mud. Pity my camera battery ran out just as they were getting down and dirty. No doubt there'll be other occasions.

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