These last few months waiting, getting excited about the new arrivals and now we discover that Octavia our pig is no longer pregnant. It seems likely that she was pregnant as she stopped coming into season after being served by a boar back in July. This would have made her due next week but because her mammary glands never developed, we have had to come to the conclusion that she lost her litter. From talking to Carole Barr, whose boar we borrowed to cover Octavia, she must have re-absorbed her pregnancy. This sounds quite gruesome but actually it makes sense for mammals that produce large numbers of offspring. If there's a problem with say just one embryo, rather than the whole litter being aborted, that one embryo can be reabsorbed into the body and the others can carry on to full-term.
From looking online, it doesn't seem that uncommon for a pig to lose her litter this way, but in proper pig business this translates financially as 'empty days' and the aim is to minimise empty days. This is done by either slaughtering the unproductive animal or taking it back to the boar as soon as the re-absorbtion is discovered. Fortunately we don't have to think in these terms as she's not our cash cow, so I think we will minimise her empty days by getting another grower in to keep her company. We'll take her to the boar soon and aim for a spring litter.
The pigs have done a brilliant job of turning over their original field. So much so that we have to fence another two fields for them to work over. This field that they expertly rotavated with their snouts will be planted in the next couple of weeks with a pig grazing mix from Woodhead Seeds. It's a mix of cocksfoot, chicory, timothy grass, white clover and rye grass. A very good supplement to their diet.
There's pork all over the place at the moment; brining in buckets, bubbling in pots, outside in the smoker, hanging in the porch and in the kitchen, in the fridge and in two freezers. We have made potted pork, five different kinds of sausages, ham, bacon, pate, tongue confit, lard, crackling, stock, plus all the other usual cuts like shoulder, ribs etc. The ears went to Alistair's mother-in-law who used them for a Chinese New Year dish, we've used it in a stew for a dinner for 22 school kids visiting from Gravesend and packs of bacon have been handed out as an alternative to Thank You cards. Anyway, we have used every bit of this lovely pig we reared and still have tons left which will feed a lot of visitors over the next six months. We have a new little grower in the field now, a boy called Collingwood, he's keeping Octavia Hill 'company'. He's a bit of a sex pest but as he's only a quarter of her size, I don't think she's noticed.