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Pig farming

Having a guaranteed outlet through which to sell our produce in our Back to Nature Farm Shop, in 2007, we decided to start a herd of pigs, to supply the shop with traditional farm-reared pork to complement our naturally-reared lamb and beef.

In a quest to determine which pig breed would suit our farming practices and ultimately taste the best, we bought a litter of weaners from three native, English-breed herds; Saddleback, Gloucester Old Spot and Tamworth, and kept between 3 and 5 maiden gilts from each.
When it came to choosing a boar, we needed to cross these breeds with one which was naturally leaner, but still an English breed, so we chose a Middle White. This cross produced good pork from all the sows, however because our system meant moving the pigs around and separating two or three each week to supply the farm shop, the Saddlebacks and the Old Spots proved very difficult indeed to move, due to their lop ears restricting their vision.
We settled on Tamworth sows, which are prick-eared and so quick to move and can be worked by Jim the sheep dog.

Saddleback sow scrumping apples!

Our pigs are smaller and slower to mature than the fast-growing, commercial breeds, which the supermarkets source for purely economic reasons. It is precisely this slow-maturing which gives the meat it's flavour and firm texture, a far cry from the bland, watery stuff mass-produced from the Continent.

Our pigs are fed a non-GM maintenance or fattening feed, as appropriate, containing protein and fibre from wheat, barley or maize, omega 3 oils from soya or linseed, and vitamins and minerals; all of which are derived from the natural raw materials. They are also treated to vegetables from the shop which have gone past their presentable best!

Piglets at Shabden Park Farm

Pig husbandry
Our pigs are born indoors so we can keep an eye on them, and all the time they are suckling, we keep them with the sow, separate from the rest of the herd. The piglets get all they need from the sow's milk, and when they start to eat the sow's food too, they are close to ready to wean.
The piglets are weaned at around 12 weeks old and kept in a group of their own age. The weaners are kept outdoors in a fenced area where they can wander around and dig all they please, unless the weather is cold, wet and windy, as it often is at Shabden Park Farm during the winter months, when we bring them into a large area in the farm buildings.
When indoors, each group of pigs is housed in a large area, on clean straw which they like to root through and make their own bed.


Gloucester Old Spot weaners

Iron-Age pigs

The Tamworth is believed to be the purest of our native breeds and the closest living relative of the old English forest pig. Of all the native breeds, it certainly looks most like the Wild Boar and is sometimes crossed with them to produce a gamey pork.

The Tamworth pork also produces the nicest crackling, has just the right amount of fat cover for a good rind and the meat is a dark pink colour with a depth of flavour.

Tamworth sow and piglet

Henry the boar



photo of henry


Countryside Code video   Creature Comforts animation advert for the Countryside Code
Tamworth Breeders Club Breeders Club and Pedigree Tamworths
British Pig Association Official breed society for British pig breeds



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