Friday, 14 March 2008

The heavy brigade

Listening to: Just When You're Thinking Things Over (The Charlatans)
Drinking: Brazilian lager
Just discovered: Shetland Soap Company hand cream (bliss!)
Pub?: Nope, quiet night in.

I heard a 'clunk' behind me as I walked towards the freight office at Stromness harbour and turned back to see my small, but perfectly formed Ifor Williams trailer at a 45 degree angle.

And everything had been going so smoothly.

The two Saddleback sows Molly and Kim were dropped off at Scrabster ferry terminal and seemed none the worse for the trip across the Pentland Firth and past the Old Man of Hoy to Orkney, in fact they seemed fast asleep when they were brought onto the quayside.

Presumably they woke up as I went to sign the forms and shifted their weight to the back of the single axle trailer, tipping it backwards onto the rear rim.

I hurried back and, with a little help from the stevedores, hitched the trailer to Sal's car and checked the pigs were OK. They seemed completely unworried.

That was about as exciting as things got as, just for once, everything went to plan, kicking off with the rain and wind dying down and glorious sunshine emerging for my flight from Westray to Kirkwall, right up to the point where the sows were unloaded back at home.

My neighbour Marcus had dashed away from a calving to help me unload, while Mr D and Mr Hotel Proprietor were also in attendance should crowd control become an issue.

It wasn't. Molly emerged first, strolling after the feed bucket that I had to keep putting under her nose to remind her where it was (Saddlebacks' vision is impaired by their floppy ears). Kim followed, even more slowly, but in about 10 minutes they were in the pen I'd spent a week preparing for them.

First reaction? Chuffing heck, they're bloody enormous. Kim, the three-year-old, stands almost waist height and is a good 6ft long and must weigh in at around 400 pounds. Molly is maybe a foot shorter and is considerably lighter, but she's still an impressive animal. Eric and Ernie are tiny by comparison.

Both are clearly in pig (pregnant), with Molly's bulge quite pronounced (she's due to farrow on April 8, a week before Kim).

Kim is obviously the boss. She gets best spot on the bed and first go at the feed trough. I unwisely got between them today when Kim snapped at Molly and caught my hand. For a moment I had visions of becoming the Abu Hamsa of pig farming.

I'll get around food fights by putting two-thirds of the feed in the trough, waiting a minute then guiding Molly to another part of the pen where I leave the rest, so one way or another she gets her share. As soon as I've built the second pen, she'll have her own space.

I've signed up with the British Saddleback Breeders Club, which officially makes ours the most northerly herd (if two can be called a herd) of Saddlebacks in the UK. Just watch some Shetlander spoil that for me.

* I read through the movement licence (all pigs have to have one for each trip they make) for the sows today and was particularly taken with paragraph 'd'.

"No cattle, sheep, goats or other ruminating animals or elephants have been moved onto the premises. . . since 21-02-08 except in accordance etc. . . ."

Elephants? Now that's what I call diversifying.


fiwa said...

Pictures, pictures!! Damn, those things sound big and scary. I'm officially impressed now.

Glad it all went well.

The Birdwatcher said...

Sanity!Impressive sounding pigs!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Go on get a couple of elephants as well...just for the hell of mystifying the jobsworth with the paperwork......they'd go x eyed!
Lovely picture of the beach ....Grobust ...gerrof you have made that up!!!

Dave said...

It would probably be the most northerly flock of elephants in the British Isles.

Ginni Dee said...

A flock of elephants? There you go. Now get busy with that enclosure! It should only take you a couple years.

Well, you belong to a breed association! That is definitely the way to go. I 'm with Fiwa, I'd love to see photos. Not sure what a "Saddleback" looks like. (I'm picturing a HUGE Oreo cookie!) And I'd love to see shots of the piggies when they are born. Baby pigs are just so darned cute.

Malc in a few short weeks you will non longer be just a trainee pig farmer...I think you'll be the real thing!

Reg Pither said...

Oh my dear fucking God!!! You've gone and named 'em already. Have you made up the spare bedroom for them yet?
I've been reading back. Adam the cockerel? This is getting out of hand.
I also notice you mentioned one of the chicken being destined for "the pot". Yeah, right! I can picture you testing the water temperature with your elbow before gently lowering said bird in and cooing "Is that all right for you Madge? Do you want your little rubber man to play with?"
I've said it before and I'll say it again - you're destined for the record books as the farmer with the oldest livestock in northern Europe. I'll visit and there'll be two 65-year-old sows on the settee reading the papers and watcing telly (and I'm not talking about Sue and Sally). You'll never kill anything - AND YOU KNOW IT!
As for your strap/photo comment - yup, TWO World Cup finals in a row!! We'll see, Pigman, we'll see. You got similarly over optimistic about the Easter Rising - and we whooped yer ass then!!

lettuce said...

the "ruminating" made me smile.


Anonymous said...

I love reading about all these animal adventures! Thanks!

Malc said...


My phone broke and I can't find the lead to connect the camera to the PC, so pix just as soon as I can drag myself into the 21st century.


Impressive is the word.


Not sure I want to be woken at 5am by elephants trumpeting. The cockerel's bad enough.


Or even the world.


The Oreo thing is close. And thanks for saying I'll be a real farmer - I fear I'm still a very long way from that.


The sows were already named and will be with us for some time, maybe years to come (as long as they keep producing piglets).
As for the rugby - fair enough, the Empire Strikes Back.


I like to ruminate occasionally, although I don't think that's what they mean.


Don't mention it, always a pleasure.

dinahmow said...

Just think of the manure you'd get from elephants! You could be a pile it. (sorry, should have left that to the Murph!)

Anonymous said...

Abu HAMsa hehehe

ziggi said...

catching up - bin busy doncha know