I’ve just come in from examining Doris, one of our Berkshire pig herd’s foundation sows.
Doris failed to regain weight as fast as normal after her last litter of piglets were weaned, so we didn’t put her in with the boar. Instead, we opted to keep her back for a service timed to give us a litter at the end of February, ready for sale at the end of April.
Keeping Doris back would allow us time to build her condition to a suitable level again. Or so we thought.
Despite being given an additional ration, Doris’s progress continued to be slow so, as a precaution, we wormed her out of schedule . She was free of parasites.
We consulted the vet, who advised us to try a treatment of antibiotics in case Doris had a low-level but chronic bacterial infection. It had no effect.
In the past week Doris has shed the weight she’d put on, despite eating and drinking well. She was due to go in with Gus, our boar, last weekend but is too underweight.
After further consultations with the vet, we’re fairly certain Doris has either reached the end of her productive life—she’s seven years old—or has a growth that is consuming her energy intake faster than she can make use of it.
Doris will have to be culled.
I’m in the process of putting a fresh application in for a shotgun certificate in the hope that, after seven years living at the same address and 19 years living in the UK, I now have sufficient history to have it approved.
Of course, in the meantime I still don’t have the means to cull Doris myself.
First port of call will be the neighbouring farmers. After that, it will be the vet but that’s both expensive and not as humane as a bullet to the head.
With Doris unsuitable for breeding, we’ll be a litter down in spring and unable to cover more than half our winter costs. Given the existing problems with rising costs, downward pressure on prices and increasingly unreliable customers we have to consider whether it’s worth keeping the herd at all.
We need to decide soon, before we stock the feed and straw to see us through the worst three months of the winter. We’ll also need to decide what, if anything, will replace the pigs to pay the running costs of the croft and produce the bulk of our meat.
Oh, and before people rush to ask if we’ll be eating Doris, the answer is no. If she does have a growth, or indeed any other underlying condition, her carcass will not be suitable for human consumption.
- Goodbye to Doris (stoneheadcroft.com)
- New Arrivals (heatherhurstgrange.com)
- Fattening pigs on acorns (permacultureinbrittany.com)