Monday 18 August 2014

Weighty Problems

The pigs under the beech trees
If you have read the link through to Anne's blog in the last post, you'll have seen their little double-take when their pigs stole a march on them weight wise. I have to admit to having had my own confusion around this when I went measure the girls at 4 months. We are using, as you will have read, the 'bust squared' method (see my 18th July post) and had estimated out our pigs at 33 kg-ish by 3 months, and were now showing as 50-55 kg at 4 months. In my head, I had that our 'Bible' (Liz Shankland's (Haynes) Pig Manual) was advising that porkers should be grown to 50-55 kg (about 5-6 months), baconers to 80-85 kg, so I was taken aback by my own measurements. Surely these little babies could not be 'ready' already, at only 4 months old?

Mapp still all baby-faced.
I started double checking and even fired off an enquiring e-mail to Margaret and Alfie, my training course 'experts' and to Therese and Michael in Kildare, where we originally bought the girls. Needless to say, it is all now sorted and I feel a bit foolish. The weights given in Liz Shankland and described as 'ready for butchery' are, of course, the dead, cleaned out carcass weights. My experts tell me that with Tamworths, I should be aiming for around 36 weeks and 90 kg live weight. They vary slightly from the 'bust-squared' figure by being slim of hip and not huge in the 'ham' department, so that you need to subtract around 6 kg from the 'bust-squared' figure. There's a relief.

Buff Orpington chicks under IR light, just because I liked
the colour of the picture!
Incidentally, I spotted that our beech trees seem to be doing very well for 'fruit' (nuts) this year to a degree where I wonder if this might be a 'mast year'. Beech mast was always, since Medieval times, a vital part in the farming of pigs, and the right to graze your pigs under the beech woods to eat the beech 'mast' was called pannage. I am amusing myself with the idea of me, the land owner, granting me the pig farmer, my own rights of pannage.

Taking his meds like a trooper.
We had a little minor hiccup in the Buff Orpington chicks department, when on Sunday morning one of them looked a bit off. He/she (I'll go with 'he' for now) was not running about like his fellows, and was standing with his head up and back, silently gaping as if weakly trying (but failing) to clear a tickle from his throat. Well, there is precious little you can do for these guys if they are going to 'check out' but we isolated him, kept him indoors under the heat lamp while his siblings were outside, dribbled small amounts of water and cod liver oil into his open beak and shut him up quiet to let him think about it.

11 healthy chicks enjoy the August sunshine. They are
well protected from the unseasonable chilly breeze.
Well, this time it had a happy 'ending' and he is now back running around, pecking food, drinking and squabbling with the best of them, to such a degree that we can not now tell him apart. (It was always easy - just look for the one gulping air!). One friend emailed suggesting 'Ribena' rather than water. We had no Ribena but we assumed this was just to get sugar into the patient, so we subbed in a little of Liz's elder flower cordial. Maybe it was that which 'cured what ailed him'!

Post and Rail fencing round the lawn.
In other news, fencing contractor, Paul showed up - we suspected he might just when we were about to have visitors! He is a really nice bloke and quite appreciates me helping him, so that gave me a lovely day of lining up runs of posts and persuading them into our variable soil using the 50 kg 'pile driver' on the back of his ancient tractor. Variable because in one place the post will sink easily into soft, pure Roscommon clay, straight as a die, descending 3-4 inches at each whack while at the next 'hole' it will stop dead at a big tree root or veer off and twist on a huge buried boulder. The former take seconds to put up, you can be half an hour trying to get some of the latter in.

We made good progress working through from lunch-time till 7 pm and getting all the posh post-and-rail posts in place, the tractor roaming around on our lawn on double rear tyres leaving only the lightest of foot prints. Tomorrow and Wednesday, however, we have the Silverwoods up and fencing equipment and children do not really mix, so Paul is off doing some other jobs and will return, we hope, on Thursday after we have rounded up and delivered (we also hope) Anne and Simon's #2 pig. Anne phoned me today; it seems that #1 has now been butchered (by them) having killed out at 85 kg or so. Her estimates of 125 kg live weight cannot have been that far out. 2 of them in my trailer at once might have been pushing the envelope a bit. It's all go!

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Our beech tree is also heavy with masts as it was last year as well, quite strange to have two consecutive years as masts years, folk law would have you believe it's every seven years.
I think the use of Ribena for birds is due to the high vitamin C content and it's supposed to be high in anti-oxidants.