We’ve not had pigs at Hemscott since I was at school and we had two weaners called Annabel and Jessie. Needless to say they didn’t stay pets for long and finding my pet in a pot kind of put me off for a bit (not that long, the bacon was good!).
About a year ago I went on a trip to Yorkshire and came home with 3 Kune Kune piglets as pets. Kune’s are a New Zealand Maori rare breed that was almost extinct in the 1980’s. Some of the pigs were brought to the UK to help preserve the breed and they now thrive. Kune Kune means ‘fat and round’ in Polynesian and they are the smallest domesticated breed of pigs, often referred to as Teacup Pigs when born.
My Kune Kune’s (Maggie, Maata and Kiri) reminded me of how much I love pigs. They’re so intelligent and funny, and they make some pretty incredible noises, my friend brought her little girl to see them and she was disgusted that they barked instead of oinking like Peppa (the little girl was disgusted not my friend!).
So, not many months later I bought Hilda, a pregnant Tamworth sow, a few Tamworth weaners and a couple of Large Black piglets.
Tamworths are thought to be the most ‘natural’ form of native breed pig as they weren’t crossed with Chinese pigs as much as other breeds. They’re pretty distinctive with their ginger looks and huge long snout that is like a plough. They’re active and intelligent and make great mothers. They also make really good pork.
I’ll admit now that I had no idea what I was doing in raising these weaners. I kind of went with a structured feed guide then supplemented with feed that we grow on the farm and cattle breakfasts. I kept the first batch of weaners until they were 11 months old before sending them to slaughter. This was partly because I was scared the meat wouldn’t be good enough, and part worry about the actual processing part.
As it turned out I didn’t need to worry on either count. We took the pigs to Durham to slaughter and the abattoir was not as I’d expected at all. The pigs were herded into a pen that looked pretty much like a normal farm. There was nothing that made me feel bad about taking them there. It is imperative for good tasting meat that the animals are calm at the end, if there is adrenaline in their system it will taint the meat so they need to be handled with respect and care.
The carcasses went straight to the butcher who had agreed to cut and package the meat for us. Greens at Longframlington is a fantastic local butcher and Chris Green was very accommodating to all of my ridiculous questions. He also told me that he was surprised they were my first pigs as ‘you won’t get better carcasses than those’ cue a little happy dance as I told my Dad who said that he was probably being nice, thanks Dad!
We started selling our meat as pork boxes, Tamworth Taster boxes with a roasting joint, pork belly, chops and sausage, and quarter and half pig boxes. We also sell gift vouchers which have been surprisingly popular as Christmas presents and we’ll be busy in January delivering and posting the boxes.
Hilda’s piglets are doing well and she’s ready to go into pig again so we’ll have another litter in spring. The gestation period of a pig is pretty easy to remember, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. Hilda was bang on to the day last time.
We also plan on putting one of the Large Blacks into pig as well, more about those two coming in another blog (let’s just say they are called Sausage and Bacon as an empty threat because they are the naughtiest pigs ever and think they’re dogs and above farm law).
If you’re interested in buying pork from us we have set up a dedicated website www.hemscotthillfarmgate.com or if you want a smaller amount, or just a Sunday roasting joint just drop us an email.