Christmas Day 4.15pm
The crows are just flying back to roost, calling to each other as they go, and the sky is pink. I have got to inspect the breeding herd and feed the sows and litters. First up are the farrowing pens where 32 sows are looking at me expectantly. Quick as I can I scoop in their food with a little extra because it’s Christmas. The piglets take the opportunity while mum is feeding to have a play fight in the pens and I check each water drinker as I go.
Next are the dry sows and boars; we have 140 sows loose-housed in one deep straw barn. I quietly scan the building, as I do not want to give them a fright. The odd one or two manage to open their eyes and watch me suspiciously, with no threat detected they go back to sleep.
Farrowing house next – 28 sows and piglets in crates, perfect. All sows stand to feed, most piglets are asleep on their heat pads with very shiny healthy pink unmarked coats, thanks to the iron injection and teeth grinding operations we have administered. The last sow this week farrowed today and 15 new piglets have arrived. I sprinkle some shredded paper and powdered disinfectant on all their pads to make them comfortable. Over 300 piglets – all good.
Growers and weaners now, I walk past their pens slowly listening and watching but no abnormal behaviour detected, no water leaks, no lame ones, no problems. The hospital pens are last; two small pens with eight weaners in each, all asleep under heat lamps, feed ok, water ok, job done, back by the fire by 5.30pm.
You know what? I’m a goddamned pig farmer. Is there any better job in the world?
Andrew Freemantle farms 300 sows on 28ha (70 acres) near Exeter, Devon. He sells 130 pigs a week with 85 going to abattoirs and the rest supplying their farm shop, pork wholesale business and catering trailers. Andrew was Farmers Weekly Pig farmer of the Year 2008.
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