Although outside the realm of poultry keeping, pigs belong in the domain of the smallholder.
After a hard week selling poultry and game supplies, what better way to wind down on a Saturday than attend a pig keeping course in Cumbria? Many of our customers are smallholders, and thanks to some high profile publicity from television chefs over the past few years, it has never been more popular to keep your own pigs for high quality, environmentally friendly pork.
The course was run by two extremely well experienced pig keepers, both of whom have established a great reputation for breeding pedigree pigs from traditional British rare breeds. We saw saddlebacks, lops and hampshires, as well as the prettiest of them all, the oxford sandy & black. These pigs are a beautiful caramel colour, blotched all over with black spots, and despite the fact that they take a while to mature into good meat bearing animals, their pork is some of the highest quality of any pig breed.
Pigs are friendly and surprisingly intelligent animals, and as the day went on, it was hard not to feel quite attached to them. We were shown round some styes and had pigs come up and nuzzle at our knees, then went to peer into the farrowing crates, where piglets squirmed and squeaked at one another in the struggle to reach the nearest available teat.
You can keep pigs almost anywhere provided there is somewhere warm and dry for them to sleep, and the fact that they make short work of any garden waste makes them a real boon for the smallholder. We left the day with big pig plans for 2012 - watch this space!