Castration

Careful preparations ensure a stress-free castration, well almost

March got off to a bang with a visit from the vet – our calf, Billy, was due to be castrated.

We have been leading up to this point for several weeks as Pippa is quite strong-willed. She is quite happy to go along with us as long as she feels like it!

We started off by encouraging them both to leave their comfy paddock, and bit by bit we managed to get them into a shed (and shut the door). They stayed there for 3 or 4 days quite happily, and on the day, Pippa was helped out leaving Billy behind.

When the vet arrived, Billy was encouraged into the crush, and the work was done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

We did try to put Pippa with Billy back in the shed, but she decided otherwise and took a couple of fences with her…

After 24 hours of trying, we decided enough was enough, and put Billy back in the paddock instead. Understandably they are much more relaxed together.

Piglets galore

We are inundated with piglets

Pigalilli finally gave birth to 11 healthy piglets at the beginning of Feb. 6 boars and 5 gilts.

With the exception of some cold snaps, the weather has been very kind and the piglets have developed well. They are certainly very cheeky!

Mother’s appetite is growing in proportion to the piglets, and her meals are becoming bigger and bigger!

The plan is that by the time they are ready to wean, the weather should be warm enough not to pose too much risk.

A cosy sty awaits

Preparing for piglets

After some relatively good weather in December and early January, we are just starting to see the real winter hit. Mild but sunny days have finally given way to cold winds, rain, and now some short bursts of hail and snow.

Plenty more to come, no doubt.

We have moved our two pigs into fresh pens, separate ones as Pigalilli (left) is expecting piglets shortly and will need some space to nest. Plenty of bedding in her ark, and some strategically placed bales of hay to keep the draughts out. Cosy!

The ram has settled in and we are confident that the ewes have been ‘served’. Lambs expected in April.

A calf is born

Pippa finally delivers our first calf

Thankfully, after several weeks of waiting, Pippa finally gave birth to a bull calf on November 14th without any help from anyone.

Despite the chill in the weather, mother and calf continue to do well, albeit we are still keeping a good arm’s length away for the safety of everyone concerned.

We are also confident that our sow is in pig to our boar, and have just collected our ram lamb. He appears to be pleased with his new harem, and we sincerely hope he is as fertile as his predecessor! Only time will tell.

Plenty more work to do though. The polytunnel needs tidying, and the fruit garden is more weed than fruit bush at the moment. Fun times ahead…

Awaiting a new arrival

The weather proves a challenge whilst we await the birth of our first calf

The weather has certainly changed for us up here. No more sun for the last 2 or 3 weeks, but plenty of rain and some quite strong gales. We’ve had a relatively dry year all in all, but the result of that seems to be that the ground surface is quite hard and the torrential rain we are getting now has nowhere to go!

We’re also still waiting for Pippa, our Dexter cow, to give birth to her calf. It would have been nice for that to happen when everything was dry but that’s obviously not how it’s going to be. Still, provided we remain vigilant everything will be fine.

Our ewes are currently paddocked without so much grass at the moment, so they can thin up a little in time for the ram to arrive. Judging by our results last year this probably isn’t necessary, but we don’t want any complications.

A brief update

Busy times here on the croft

What with lambing, baling hay and planting crop, we haven’t had a lot of time to spare to write these updates (hence the time gap!). We have recently tasted the sweetest ever pork from our home reared pigs and the dogs were pleased to be presented with the trotters!

Serious snow

The snow challenges us but the dogs love it

Well, we don’t know about the weather where you are, but we’ve had some pretty serious snow up here in the northeast of Scotland over the last month.

The good news is that the dogs have absolutely LOVED it. They have been running and rolling about in the field going absolutely mad, and without coming in all covered in mud.

The bad news has been the effect it has had on our other animals. Thankfully we’ve muddled through without any really serious problems, but ensuring the wellbeing of our livestock was pretty challenging at times. Even the simple tasks like feeding and watering became a marathon when wading through 3 feet of snow in each direction!

Still, although we’ve continued to have a few short snow showers, things are looking up weather wise and with the dawn of spring we’re working hard in the polytunnel to ensure our crop of vegetables this year. We also have plans to plant an orchard/fruit garden as soon as the ground dries out a little. Hopefully soon…

Racing Amy

Amy, almost back to her old self after her surgery

Our piglets have grown quite a bit since our last update, and they are all weaned and living together without their mothers. Both the piglets AND their mothers recovered from the separation pretty quickly it seems – just one bucket of swill and it was all over. Most of the piglets will be sold but we’ll be keeping a couple for ourselves. We have also been asked to raise one or two by other people who love home reared pork but don’t have space. An ideal solution!

We’re also pleased to report that Amy is doing well after her cruciate ligament surgery and despite a few complications we’re told by the specialist that she should make a pretty full recovery. She certainly seems to have got her enthusiasm back, and it’s a struggle to keep her exercising calmly.

Even more pigs!

More piglets, but this time we are prepared

Well, since our last newsletter we’ve had some more new arrivals – another 12 piglets from our second expectant mother.

We are pleased to say that this birth was a lot more straightforward than our first one, not least because our first experience gave us a clue as to what we could expect. We also had the opportunity to segregate ‘mother’ from the others in advance of the labour this time, so she was much more comfortable and settled. In fact, it all took place overnight without any interference from us!

On a slightly more unpleasant note, one of our GSDs, Amy, is recovering from an operation to repair/reinforce a partially ruptured crutiate ligament 3 weeks ago. As you can imagine, the leg has been very tender and as a sensitive little thing she has found it quite stressful. The good news is that she is recovering well and is much more comfortable, and in line with our natural approach to feeding, we are using homeopathic treatment wherever possible. We’ve also become quite adept at packing parcels with her laying at our feet all day with her buster collar on. Quite tricky!