New little piggies

Looked in on the piggies this morning.  Once I’d persuaded Gaffer out with some food – which took a lot less effort than yesterday – I tried to take some photos of the new little ones.  Unfortunately with the light and the fact they kept moving around – they’re lively little things – I only got a couple of okish shots which I’ve put in below.  There were definitely seven and I couldn’t find any dead ones which was great news.

A little addendum to last night, is that I moved Hacker out of the area with Gaffer and in with Snowball.  This was to give Gaffer some space, and also make sure Hacker didn’t sit on any of the new piglets.  I also tried to move the runt but she was having none of it.  Shouldnt be a problem as she’s still quite small, but I might try and move her tomorrow.


Feeding at sunset may contain surprises…

At this time of the year if I get the 625 train home I can get home in time to get changed into my animal clothes and get out to feed the animals while it’s still light.  It’s lovely being out in the fresh air with the sunset colouring the sky, especially after a day in the big smoke.

This evening was going as normal until I was halfway through the pigs.  The second group I feed is made up of three pigs, two sows, Hacker and Gaffer, and a weaner who was a runt in one of our spring litters and is growing fairly slowly.  Today I could only see the runt and Hacker.  I called out to Gaffer but she didn’t appear.  Now there really are only three reasons why a pig won’t appear at food time:

  1. Escape – but to be fair they usually come back for feed anyway
  2. They’ve given birth in the last few hours – and even then some of them will run out when called (Bernard for one)
  3. Illness or death

I was fairly confident it wasn’t 1 based on a quick look at the fencing.  I knew it couldn’t be 2 because we’d been good at keeping Sir Humphrey away and anyway, she’d shown none of the signs, no big belly, no swelling teats etc.  So it was with some trepidation that I walked towards the hut fearing the discovery of a sick or dead pig.

So I was totally shocked to be greeted by a sow with seven (I think) piglets a-suckling!

Somehow, approximately three months, three weeks and three days ago – in early May, Sir Humphrey managed to get in and, well, when a mummy pig and a daddy pig love each other very much they have a special hug.  And here we are.  I’ll have to work out what this means against our animal reduction plan at some point.

If I can sort myself out I’ll try and grab some pictures tomorrow morning, they truly are cute when they’re so small.

Getting back into a regime

I thought this morning would be a normal feed and I’d be straight back into the daily cycle.  Three small incidents put me off balance a little:

Muga’s advances

One of the reasons we feed the sheep, even though it’s summer, is to distract them while we take the feed to the pigs.  This is mostly due to our Soay ram Muga.  If he feels you have food and aren’t sharing then he can charge.  He’s rammed me a couple of times and not only does it hurt, the bruising lasted a few days, but it’s also a shock as he charged from behind.  This means I keep a special eye out for him when I’m crossing.

This morning he didn’t seem interested in the food and instead kept cutting in front of me as I walked across the field, sticking his tongue out and licking his lips.  The only time I’ve seem him do this before is when he’s sizing up a likely ewe.  I did not think him getting too close to me would result in a positive outcome, so I moved into a more defensive position when he got too close – tricky with 20kg of pig feed on my shoulder.  He backed off a bit but continued to follow me all the way to the pig fence.  I usually feed the boys first and stay in the sheep field pouring the feed over the fence to avoid being pushed about by Sir Humphrey.  Today I decided to avoid any misunderstandings with Muga and climbed into Bernard’s pen, which is next to the boys, as I can handle her and the piglets without too much trouble.

Where’s Bernard?

But then I got into the pen and couldn’t see Bernard anywhere, until I looked around properly and realised she was in the passageway between the pens.  This seemed strange as the gate looked closed, and the fences were all fine.  On closer inspection the gate seems to have come open and she’d just pushed through and had a nice little time digging up the grass, the gate then swinging back into the closed position but not shutting properly.  I persuaded her back in to her pen and as I was trying to open the feed bag – which is now plastic having been an easy paper thing previously  – she poked her snout in and tried to get into the hole I’d cut with my pen knife.  A brief struggle with her and I had control again, as well as a pile of feed at my feet for her, and went about feeding the rest of the pigs with no problems.  I then returned to the barn to feed the poultry.

Where are the ducks?

Feeding the poultry involves braving the geese with a bucket of feed for the Borerarys.  I drop that down, they get their long necks in and dont bother me as I go in to the chickens – though I misjudged them this morning and one of the ganders pecked my welly violently – I then give them a handful of chicken feed and pick up the bucket for the Borerarys whom I usually feed last.  I’m usually mobbed by the ducks and chickens when I enter their area and have to walk carefully to avoid stepping on them to much squawking and quackage.

This morning the chickens were there, but no sign of the ducks.  We’d seen them last night, but nothing this morning.  I even called out to them, and on the odd occasion when they’ve not been at the gate they’ve usually come running.  But not this morning.  Perhaps they were hiding in the nettles?  There was no duck sounds at all and I was a little worried.

Fortunately when I went out ten minutes later to take the above picture of Muga, all the ducks were there and quacking away happily.  Phew!


Back from Holiday – Part 3 – Shovelling Poo!

As we completed our checks on the menagerie we decided.  Actually, I’ll stop there.  Alex decided that she would clean out the animal restaurant area and I thought it best to help.  The last time we’d cleaned out the animal restaurant the poo had been two inches thick in some places and it took as three sessions of around an hour and a half each to get it cleared.  We agreed at the time we’d clean it out more regularly to avoid such pain.

When we’d been sorting out the Suffolk with the footrot Alex had noticed that it was starting to become fairly quick in some areas, so wanted to get it shifted.

At this point we’d been back from holiday for less than two hours!

I chose the shovel and her weapon of choice was a fork and we set to.  It took about an hour and I was dripping sweat by the end, but we managed to get it nicely cleared.  The only real down point was that half way through I swallowed a fly and nearly choked trying to get rid of it!

It did feel good to get such a chore dealt with, and I had a positive feeling of achievement as I returned to the house to have a shower and a well-earned cup of tea.

Mostly cleaned animal restaurant (straw in the corner was what we used to give the Suffolk a bed to lie on while we sorted her hooves, and the two goats in the frame are Ishy and Moby who I’ll write more about at a later date):

The resulting pile of poo – though to be honest we only added a layer of about a foot of poo to an already existing pile!

Back from Holiday – Part 2 – More footrot!

We decided to do a quick tour of the animals after lunch to make sure they were ok.  Our initial cursory look at the sheep and goats showed they all looked good, until I noticed one of the Suffolks lying in the animal restaurant area*.  All the others had run towards us in happiness, they’d clearly missed us… but she was just sitting there.

As I approached her she slowly got to her feet and stumbled forward a couple of paces, clearly limping on three of her legs!  Alex ran in to get the bits and the straw while I grabbed her and held her in position next to the wall.  While she was held like that I checked out her rear end to make sure there was no fly strike, but although it was a bit mucky it seemed more about the fact she’d been lying in the poo than anything else.

We flipped her over, which is not the recommended way of dealing with sheep but we find it easy when they have real footrot problems and it means we can both work on her.  Her hooves were pretty bad – I forgot to take my camera out otherwise I’d have got some shots – with three of them having bad footrot and the fourth having fairly bad rot.  We trimmed them, cut out as much of the rot as we could given her discomfort, and then sprayed them with the blue antibiotic.  We also trimmed the fleece around her rear to get rid of the muck and make sure it wasn’t attractive for flystrike.

A quick special marking on her so that we can check her again in a week or two, and we sent her off after bribing her with a saucepan of feed!

I didn’t then I’d be dealing with footrot within an hour of getting home, and I sit here typing with some of the blue dye on my hand from the antibiotic spray.

The rest of the menagerie seemed fine, which was good news at least.

* we have built a feed store area with some hard standing which has somehow picked up the moniker of the animal restaurant.  It has a lockable area for feed and several areas for hay, and at some point will have gates so we can keep the animals out, or if necessary hold them in when we need to examine them.

Back from Holiday – Part 1 – Greetings!

After a fairly long drive we got back just after lunch.  As we made our way up the drive it was great to spot all the animals which all seemed to be happily going around their business.

We pulled up and as we were so hungry Alex went in to start the bbq for our lunch, and I started unloading.  The geese decided to mosey on over and take a look.  As I took each bag out they hissed and honked, but didn’t actually try and attack me.  In fact I think they were quite happy to see me.  After they’d inspected the boxes of wine we’d also brought back, and watched me unload the last bag from the car they wandered off again, mumbling happily to themselves.

As Alex picked up the bags and took them in, and I locked up the car I thought to myself it’s good to be home!



Alex and I are about to go on holiday for a week in sunny southern France.  People often ask us what we do when we go away, and I normally reply that the goats are left in charge and they sort everything out…

Actually we have a nice lady who comes in and looks after our animals.  Which in the summer is really just feeding them and making sure none of them look unwell.  Really the only animals which need to be actively fed are the pigs, and possibly the chickens.  Still we like to get a close look at all of them so tend to give them all some feed at least in the morning, and only really concentrate on the pigs in the evening.

The instructions I’m going to leave for the feeding are as follows:

Morning Feed:

– Two saucepans (we still have the saucepan we used when feeding our first goats and use it as a standard measure for all ovine and caprine related feeding) of ewe mix from the black bin in the feed store.  This should be spread out on the goat tables (piles of bricks) and in the troughs in the first fenced area.  It will stop the sheep trying to mob you as you go to the pigs!

– Half a bag of pig food to be split in the following proportions:

  • Half to the boars (Sir Humphrey and the three young boars)
  • A quarter to the two Sows and Weaner in the far right fenced area.
  • The remaining quarter to be split between the two sows in the far left and near left areas (The one in the near left is mostly white and has four piglets!)

– A saucepan of ewe mix for the Borerays in the sheep orchard area

– Two large handfuls of poultry feed for the ducks and chickens from the bin in their orchard

– A handful of feed for the geese (they will follow you with the red bucket as they like to steal some ewe mix when I put it down)

Evening Feed:

Just the first two steps above, i.e. the ewe mix in the immediate area to stop being mobbed and then the pig feed.

In the evenings if you could also look out over the Soays in the far field, particularly the three old rams, and make sure they’re ok.  They don’t need any extra feed unless you want to.  They will come to food if you need to get a closer look.

They’re mostly easy to look after, so while we’ll have a phone available if we’re needed we should able to relax and enjoy ourselves!


Il pleut

One of the joys of keeping animals is feeding them each morning and night.  They all come running up and there’s a definite sense that someone at least is happy to see you.  However it is a lot less fun when it’s raining.

Not only did I get drenched this morning, but I had to cajole the pigs into coming out of their huts for food, and the Borerays seemed particularly unhappy about leaving the safety of their hut (they often take shelter in a large pig hut we have in that area of orchard).  Even Muga was under cover.

To add to the fun the sheep often push past me to get to the food, rubbing their fleeces against me.  Fine when it’s dry (though it can test my balance), but it hastens the drenching when it’s wet!

Howard the goat

About a year ago we were asked if we’d be willing to take on two goats.  They’d apparently been dumped into a farmer’s fields, and he didn’t want them.  This was before our animal reduction plan and when we were still in rescue mode.

We connected up the trailer and off we went to check out and then probably take the goats.  They were much larger than our Angorans, one nanny and a castrated male.  They didn’t have tags or any other information, so we agreed to take them, duly notifying defra, and asked the farmer to contact us if he heard anything more about their erstwhile owners.

The two new goats, christened Howard and Hilda, settled down quickly.  Hilda was a tough goat and soon became flock queen, but after that they were just two more bleating mouths to feed.

Hilda died in the spring, of what we have no idea.  She was absolutely fine and then the next day we came out to feed her and she was dead.  We were worried that Howard might follow her quickly as goat twins often do, but he carried on merrily.  He’s a very curious and friendly goat, except to children, which he tends to butt if given the chance.  I suspect there’s a story there somewhere.

One of his particular tricks, which he did again this morning, is to thrust his head into the feed bucket as I’m trying to pour out the sheep mix.  He then pushes down, and he’s so strong it’s difficult to hang on to the bucket!  The only way to get his head out is to grab him by the neck and try and hold his head up while dragging the bucket down and away from him.  Here is he looking somewhat nonchalant and pretending to eat some grass – he’s just waiting for a chance to get some more ewe mix:


This little piggie… Update

The little piglets seem to be doing well now, and often frolic around when we go to feed them.  They’re also definitely starting to like the solid food, though they don’t yet run to it in the way the adults do.

Two updates to my last post on them, the first is that the largest one is actually a girl despite my original assertion that the two largest were boys.  She’s got a very wide white band much like her mother, and when she feeds she locks on and gets as much milk as possible.

The other is that the littlest one is definitely starting to grow and even catch up with her siblings, she’s nearly as big as the next one up now!