It was one of my stranger days. Early afternoon I was with the extended family setting up the paddock for new baby pigs, including chasing an escapee across the paddock! A few hours later I was sitting on a plane disguised as a corporate guy, sipping champagne and flying to Amsterdam to give a speech to bankers on sustainability and finance. I suspect I was the only person on the plane who had crash tackled an escaped pig that day.
Expanding our pig herd seems like a sensible way to go. Asher has an endless need for them at The Apple Shed and given we feed our pigs the scraps from there, there’s a nice circle of life connection. As you can see, our pigs don’t do it very tough. We love them and they get spoilt rotten with lots of contact, fresh pasture, great messy digging opportunities and total freedom to “express their full pigness”, as Joel Salatin calls it.
It was also a case of opportunity knocks as Sam the guy we bought our two first pigs off, Lucy and Charlotte, was moving a bunch of little pigs on. Sam and Bec run the local fruit and veg shop in Cygnet that specialises in local produce and have recently taken on mushroom production as well, so they’ve got a bit on. They’re a typical Tassie story of a portfolio of crazy ideas involving food and its production, but in their case they all seem to work! So some of Sam’s little ones had to go. And we’ve been really impressed before with his Berkshire X pigs. They’re so incredibly good-natured and friendly – though a very large ball of muscle can be a bit too close and friendly when you’re “discussing” the need to move somewhere else!
My favourite Sam story is how he’d go out to see his pigs on a moonlit night and give them a scratch with a star picket (long metal fence post). Such is the love that Sam gives his pigs, who have a very good life and it shows up both in their nature but also in the meat they produce. We got one of Sam’s pigs made into ham and bacon by Graham at Cygnet Butchers. Graham and his sons make their own naturally cured and naturally wood smoked small goods. His product is always outstanding but with Sam’s lovingly spoilt pigs, it was truly incredible.
Pigs love a good scratch but because they’re so tough, a human’s hand is more like a tickle. The bigger the pig the harder it seems to be to get a good scratch. Generally they try their water container or their pig house but when you move your pigs a lot (which is necessary for new pasture and fresh dirt to dig in – which keeps them healthier) you have to balance making the water and house strong but still moveable. And that’s not easy given 100kg of pig muscle feeling a bit itchy can exert a lot of pressure!
When we went to Sam’s to pick up the new piggies we got to see their dad, the rather well named “Bear”. As you can see below, the 200kg Bear found the bull bar on our land cruiser ute just to his liking. Fortunately it’s a very heavy vehicle as it sure was rocking when Bear gave it a good rub!
Getting the new members of the family into the ute was quite the Tassie experience. I had to grab each piglet from behind by the rear legs while it was distracted eating, with Sam standing guard over mum so she didn’t chase me, while I ran with a squealing pig, jumped over the electric fence and got to the landcruiser where my 12 yo daughter Grace was ready to open the back quickly then close it, after each of our four new piggies were safely inside. It was quite the scene.
Fortunately Sam kept mum at bay and Bear – the very scary looking dad – was really only interested in having a scratch on the landcruiser. New age fatherhood hasn’t arrived in pig land yet….
By the way, they might look cute and cuddly at this young age, and they are. But when they don’t want you to pick them up they are surprisingly heavy, strong and bloody determined. Moving baby pigs has more in common with extreme sports adrenalin than playing with cute babies!
With our four new boys and girls safely on board and now surprisingly relaxed we slowly drove off to their new home where the extended family and all the neighbours kids were there to welcome the new arrivals. We weren’t really sure how the new little ones would go with Lucy and Charlotte who are now seriously big. So we kept them separate but right next door so they could check each other out – they do share a father (Bear) after all so we figured they’d be curious.
One of them was particularly curious and made a run for it, squealing as her back rubbed the electric fence which just made her accelerate and race off across the paddock. At this point my teenage son’s girlfriend arrived with her dad just in time to watch me leap over the fence and chase her (the pig, not the girlfriend), make a dive with the aforementioned crash tackle and secure Houdini. Lucy and Charlotte gave me a rather serious stare but luckily I’ve long ago got their measure, despite our equal weights and their superior muscle. So they let me run past with squealing pig as I put the new one back where she belonged! With girlfriend, father, neighbours kids and my extended family all rolling around in the grass laughing, the job was done and I went to pack my bags for Amsterdam.
Strange days indeed.
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