Pig tales

Pigs 1 rdA feed rep visiting the farm asks the worker hurrying across the yard where he can find the farmer. The worker replies with a grin “He‘s in the piggery. You can’t miss him, he’s the one with the hat on.” I am not sure if Steve, our pigman, has pulled this line. It is quite likely. I know if you slip and land on your backside in a particularly unpleasant black puddle, there is no point in looking round for Steve to give you a hand up as he will be doubled up in laughter. It highlights an important requirement in a pig worker – a sense of humour. You also need to like pigs to look after them.
These two characteristics are tested several times a day: when a 300 kg boar steps on your welly clad toes and does a little twist as he moves off; when a growing pig comes up behind you and gives a little nip on that tender bit of skin behind the knee just above the welly, and turning to remonstrate with the perpetrator, you are greeted by twenty innocent faces; when you are deemed too smelly to come in for lunch unless you sit and eat in your underpants (it used to happen to a neighbouring pig farmer, although not to me – yet).
Another requirement for someone working with pigs is to know when to be a ‘glass half empty’ person. You have to expect the worst when inspecting animals; to make sure you spot the lame pig at the back of the pen; to catch a sow with mastitis before she loses her milk; even noticing a different smell that could indicate scouring piglets. Then you have to be a ‘glass half full’ person when waiting to hear what price the supermarket is going to pay you for next week’s pigs.
I mentioned at the start that you have to like pigs to look after them. Some people see that as a contradiction for farmers. How can you love your animals and still send them off to be killed for food? All I can say is it is better that we do that (alongside treating it as a business), than if we saw our animals as purely a unit of production. I think British stock men and women are amongst the best in the world, and that is why we promote our meat as coming from animals kept with higher standards of welfare. Buy British and Steve will continue to keep us amused and give you a better bacon butty.

Mike Hartley

April – May 2017