I have always thought Northern Ireland was a full part of the UK but not as far as pigs are concerned! Pigs moving to Northern Ireland have to have export license papers, blood tests and be kept in isolation pre export. They even have to have an import license to enter Northern Ireland. Such complications to more to another part of the UK. Is this a sign of things to come with devolution and separate agricultural policies for Scotland and Wales?

Anyway, the vet came to blood test the two Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, a Mary sow running with an Alexander boar and a Clarence 13 month old boar. As you can imagine taking blood from a couple of large pigs is no mean feat. This is where the homemade pig crush proved invaluable and safe to snare the pigs to enable the vet to take bloods from the jugular vein (all these bits and pieces are fully explained and demonstrated on the monthly pig keeping courses.) The jugular would seem the sensible place to extract blood but some vets take from the veins in the ear or under the tail. Only quite a small amount of blood is needed but some pgs do not wish to be donors!

It takes a week for the blood results to come back and then the vet checks the pigs are fit to travel and issues the paperwork.

The pigs must have tags. Tattoos might be accepted but notches are not.

All being well the two pigs will be exported in February via a third country, Scotland, as they are catching the ferry at Cairnryan. Once in Ireland they will be blood tested again and spend another month in isolation.

Meanwhile the majority of my Oxford Sandy and Black herd are wintering outside with my Alexander boar. The first litters sired by this new boar, born in January are looking good with several already notched for potential pedigree pigs. I assess the growing pigs several times before the chosen few are registered with the BPA but the entire litter must first be birth notified with the BPA initially.

Our pig keeping courses enable you to see every size of pig from newly born piglets to my champion 4-year-old Saddleback boar. We will show you how the piglets are examined for breed quality, tagged and notched. You can then assess mature pigs for breeding and meat pigs for finishing.

I feel there may be a shortage of weaners and growing pigs this spring as many small scale pig keepers have either given up breeding or reduced their breeding herds. Already several regular customers have reserved Oxford Sandy and Black pigs to raise on to slaughter. They find the pork from these slow growing pigs so very tasty. Don’t forget not every pig born will make a pedigree breeding pig; the majority have to be eaten. ‘Eat them to keep them’ is the slogan to be kept at the forefront of pig keeper’s minds!

Both Carole and I will have a selection of young Lop, Saddleback, Hampshire and Oxfords available in the spring. To be guaranteed your pigs it is better to reserve these young pigs well in advance.

Shortly I’m off to Morocco for a 10 day cycling trip so please do not try to contact me from 8th to 20th of February– I wonder how they keep pigs out there? JOHN

All contact for the pig keeping courses should be addressed to Carole

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