Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Portly Porkers or Svelte Swine ?

A postscript to my how do you get two pigs in a bucket blog. Val, our good friend and Somerset smallholding expert read the blog and posted a comment to say, “They still look a bit portly to me!”

During the first year we had pigs and sheep, Val came for lunch one day and did a pre-prandial tour of our permaculture smallholding, pronouncing our pigs to be too fat and our sheep too thin. As beginners in animal husbandry, her expert opinion was helpful and we wormed our sheep and put them on better rations and made an unsuccessful attempt to thin down our portly porkers. Now in our third year of pig keeping, we still value her advice but was not so sure that we are that far from where our pigs need to be, diet-wise and felt rather that the piggie pics were unflattering in a sort of “does this dress make my bum look big” sort of way. The last photo (reproduced here) shows one pig sat down, head scrunched up in the bucket, appearing to be a touch more tubby than in reality.

I have therefore set myself the task of taking a more honest, flattering and stretched-out portrait to email to Val to ask her to review her opinion. The problem is that our pigs have been (unwittingly) conditioned to associate my presence with food, so they follow me closely with a certain loyalty/friendship/attentiveness meaning that I can’t easily get the side-on, stretched out shot I’m after.

The dustbin containing their feed bucket was coming to the end and I had asked Paul, our neighbouring pig farmer for a refill. (I help him out with some occasional tractor driving and handle the English-speaking bookings for their gite; in return, Paul gives us all the grain we need for our animals.) When I went to collect the sacks, Paul told me that he’d been thinking about our pigs nutritional needs, as his are raised in concrete barns yet ours walk around on pasture, with access to plums, then apples and soon acorns. His has thus given us a “finishing” mix, less rich in nitrogen and protein but with more minerals. Paul has never kept Berkshires before but reckoned that they look about right; Val has.

So, Val, and anybody else that has experience keeping Berkshires, please post a comment and tell us what you think of their shape. They are sixteen weeks old and, according to my pig tape, and weigh around 50 kilograms (110 lbs).

STOP PRESS : Have a look at the comments on my "how do you get two pigs in a bucket" blog to read some helpful expert advice from Stonehead, a breeder of Berkshires.