Sunday 18th Jan - Pork and Crackling are our two Berkshire pigs, and tomorrow morning they are off to the abattoir, the slaughter house as it is supposed to be called.
It has been fun bringing up these two weaners. It has been our first experience of pig keeping and I am sure it won’t be our last. They have been a valuable addition to Field End. The boys have loved feeding them, except when they get a bit boisterous and chew on their wellies, sitting watching them, giving them a scratch and just having them.
And people beyond the family have become involved. We have been getting apples from a neighbour, local pig breeders have been offering help and advice and our friends have been grilling us on whether we want to send them to slaughter and eat them…
As a family of animal lovers (if that is not a contradiction in terms), we have felt strong feelings about the pigs going. Tonight we’re all a bit fed up. They are only 6-months old and it seems such a desperately short life.
I think, perhaps, we are all a bit naive about food and this process is opening our eyes. I am pleased about that. We talk about the food on our family table a lot now – the taste, where it has come from, if we like it. However, we all knew (all except Charlie who’s 5) that they would be leaving us one day and return another as chops, sausages and bacon.
And the day has come. To transport them to the slaughter house in Heathfield we had to get a trailer. We had been buying meat from a local farmer and he has let us borrow a small livestock trailer. It was now a matter of getting the pigs into the trailer. Using a bucket of food and apples, we coaxed them out of their pen and into a holding pen by the open door of the trailer. Once there they refused to move. Ros got in the trailer and Will and Tom shuffled and edged them forwards with the fence panels making the shrinking pen. I was pushing and shoving but they are pretty heavy and wouldn’t budge.
As light was fading, Ros told me of the tip she had from a local farmer: “Cover the head with a bucket and reverse him in. Anything was worth a try, so with a bucket over Pork’s head, I heaved him up the ramp and into the trailer.
We now have to complete some paperwork, such as the Food Chain Information form from BPEX (www.bpex-fci.org.uk) and animal movement forms from Defra (www.defra.gov.uk/animalhealth). You can also find out more about pig keeping from The British Pig Association www.britishpigs.org
Ros also has to let the butcher know what cuts we want. We haven’t done this before, so it appears to be a compromise on the type and quantity of meat you want. We are going to take advice from the butcher as this is our first go.We do want one ham, even though you have to hang it for a year.
Tomorrow the deed is done. Ros is taking them with her friends along for moral support. We will give you an update then…
We also had the hedge trimmed today. It’s once a year activity where local ace farm hand Will rocks up with his tractor to cut our hedge down to size. It’s helping thicken it up after a few years of neglect. It would take me a few days by hand and weekends are precious to keep the animals, vegetable plots and other projects going, so we gladly take this helping hand. A word of advice, stand well back because the wood flecks go flying.
Cheers, Steve & Ros Malkin, the boys and all at Field End