Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have you heard the joke “how do you get two whales in a Mini ?” to which the hilarious answer is “down the M4”? If you’re now staring at your computer screen with a blank, uncomprehending expression, let me help. It’s a homophonous play on words, sounding just like the question “how do you get to Wales in a Mini?” to which the response “down the M4” is now a sensible reply. [The M4 is a motorway linking London with West Wales.]

When you’ve scraped yourself off the floor from your laughing fit, let me pose you another: “how do you get two pigs in a bucket?”

And the answer is, as you can see from these photo-graphs of our pair of Berkshires, “you don’t!”

Doing the rounds this evening, I’d already anticipated that I’d need to replace their water—which they have usually dirtied with muddy snouts—and so had walked up to their paddock carrying a bucket of food and another of water, only to find that their food trough had been commandeered earlier in the day by Gabrielle to wash sheep’s wool. Rather than make yet another trip at the end of a long working day, I put down the bucket and let them sort it out themselves.

I did end up making another trip but to grab my special pig weighing tape measure as I thought the opportunity (heads stuck in a bucket) too good to miss. They both have belly circumferences of 87 centimetres, which means that they apparently weigh 52 kilograms, which means that they seem to be about right for their age and a target weight of 65 kilos kill out weight. This is of interest for two reasons: we overfed our first pigs (this is our third year raising pigs) and, secondly, we’re hoping to reduce our porkers consumption of cereal-based foods by making sure that they make the most of the seasonal excesses of plums and cherries (coming to the end now) then apples (now ripe) then acorns, feeding (with greater experience now) by eye.

To read more about our experiences raising pigs, click on the link on the right, top one under “Magazine Articles” or buy the current edition of Permaculture Magazine.


Val Grainger said...

They still look a bit portly to me!!!!! you lose about a third of the weight in killing and berkies really are pork pigs and put weight on really quick!!

Doyu Shonin/Risa Bear said...

Really focused, aren't they? :)

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for your comments, Val and Risa, we always enjoy receiving them.

Val, thanks for your advice, I'll be posting a follow up very soon to explain a bit further what we're doing with their diet.

Stonehead said...

They look a little well fed to me as well, especially around the belly.

We look to sell our Berkshire weaners at 25-30kg, aged 10 weeks. We finish them at 80kg liveweight, aged 28 weeks. I'd want ours to be no more than 45kg around 16 weeks and that would be one of the bigger boars.

Ours are on grass and rationed to 1.6-1.8kg sow rolls per day. Boars usually get the lower end, gilts the higher, but it does depend on individual growth rates and the size of the pig we start with.

I handle them most days, running a hand firmly down their spines. If the bones are pronounced and nobbly, they're too thin (not a problem with ours!); if I can't feel any nobbles, they're too fat; and if I can just feel the nobbles, they're about right.

I find the Berkshires do better on the lower protein rolls—17% is about the highest you'd want to go. It's also important to get the proportion of lysine to protein right, but a properly formulated pig food will have that. (Lysine helps convert protein to muscle.)

It's very easy to overfeed Berkshires, as many of our customers find. I give them a printed advice sheet but they decide the little darlings are still hungry and feed them more. The result is 110-115kg pigs at 28 weeks—but with 3-4cm of fat.

Have to dash now. School bus time. Get in touch via the contact form on my blog and I'll email you the advice sheet I give our customers.

Val Grainger said...

Trust Stonehead....I have seen him/her give very good advice on a number of forums!

Sarah said...

I thought the answer to the joke about how to get two whales in a mini was 'across the Severn Bridge' but I guess it depends on where you live!
Just found your blog and I am enjoying it.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

You may well be right, Sarah, it rings a bell. The effect is broadly the same though! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.