|Posted on 26 September, 2017 at 5:15|
When we decided to keep pigs, it was for only one reason – to produce meat for the B&B. We thought it would be easy. Stick them in the field and after a few months send them to the butcher and bacon will arrive.
How wrong we were. Numbers One and Two, the first of the bunch, were a pair of boar weaners, bought from a smallholder we found through the Oxford Sandy and Black Society website. We had done a smallholding course with Farmer Rob at Cwmcrwth Farm (http://www.cwmcrwthfarm.co.uk/) and learned about handling pigs, tagging, injecting and caring for them, so we thought we were ready.
Getting the piglets was easy, although their squealing as they were loaded into the trailer was unnerving. Feeding the pigs was easy (while they were little) and getting them booked in for slaughter was also easy. Even the Pig Movement paperwork was easy.
Not so the transport to the abattoir. We had not expected that the delivery of our lively, characterful and LARGE pigs would be such a challenge. Challenging, yes. Challenging getting them into the trailer, challenging backing the laden pantechnicon up a slope to the abattoir and even worse, saying goodbye. Without realising it these sources of scrumptious bacon and sausages had stolen our hearts.
Fast forward two years and this last week we have delivered Numbers Five and Six to the butcher. This time a different butcher; Ifan and Iwan at E T Jones, Sons and Daughter (http://etjonesbutchers.co.uk/), who will slaughter rare breeds for breeders’ personal use. One of the most upsetting aspects to the final journey by Numbers One to Four was the transport off Anglesey to the mainland, with a two-hour trip in the trailer. Numbers Five and Six had only been in the trailer for twenty minutes to get them to Cae’r Bryniau and an even shorter trip for their final journey.
The whole experience was as pleasant as it could be and yet, even with the years of experience under the belt, it was one of the hardest things to do. Numbers Five and Six, gilts this time, had superb characters and were a heart-warming sight, running across their field with ears flapping, like wannabe Dumbos, trying to catch the wind. Mind you, as Bill Clinton once said (and I’m not often one to quote him), ‘You can put wings on a pig, but you don't make it an eagle.’
And again it was a hard thing to do. What we remind ourselves, however, is that the pigs have had a fabulous life, living entirely outdoors, with an acre field to themselves. They often stood and shared a moment with the sheep in the next field before resuming their foraging, using their well-designed snouts to turn over the turf, or galloping across to say hello to one of the Labradors.
Now, five days later and after a weekend of dicing, mincing, sausage-stuffing, de-boning and packing, we have a freezer full of the freshest, least food miles, tastiest meat and there’s only a hint of guilt, as without us they may not have lived such a fabulous life and certainly the breed may not survive unless the likes of us continue to look after such wonderful creatures.
We are committed to having pigs, if not every year but regularly. To look after pigs is to be committed, you can’t just be involved, as we thought we would be.
‘The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.’ Martina Navratilova