After buying our smallholding I was very keen to own some pigs. However, with a grant to maintain ancient grassland and the old orchards on our land, the traditional Gloucester Old Spot breed could not be contemplated. But we heard about Kune Kunes, a New Zealand breed kept by Maoris for meat and left free to scavenge around the houses. They are a small pig and have an excellent temperament. With long hair, they look like a Walt Disney cartoon version of a pig. Best of all, they graze the land and don’t plough it up, so we were cleared to keep a couple in the old cherry orchard.
Our first two, Sausage One and Sausage Two, were bought cheaply because they were the result of an incestuous relationship. We had to sign a form saying that we would not breed from them and that they would be slaughtered for meat. Piglets are the cutest things, so it was a hard document to sign, but having watched the bravado of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall we felt that we could match that and do the deed when they were fat enough.
They required very little looking after. Good fencing is essential, as are a supply of clean water and a straw-filled arc or makeshift shelter that does not let in the wet. The gap under our gate was too big when they were little, but a strand of electric fence deterred them from coming down to the kitchen to see what they could scrounge. They are clean animals, so changing the straw is an infrequent job. In the summer they only need grass and in the winter a daily scoop each of sow nuts. Our village shop gives us any rotting unsold vegetables to supplement their diets. We have never needed the vet through illness so, apart from the purchase price and feed, they have cost us nothing.
After these two ended up in the freezer — one as home-made sausages, the other jointed — we bought a pedigree sow (Sophie) to breed from. She had eleven multi-coloured piglets, which were born on the night England won the Ashes so they were named after the team. We kept the runt (Bell) and a brown girl (Flintoff) and they will be going in the freezer this summer. The others were sold easily and the proceeds bought me a stock trailer. Sophie had four more piglets last year which were bartered for some building work and strimming, and she has just come back from a month in Wales with Hector who seems to have come up with the goods. Due date is 4 July, so perhaps we’ll choose names like Bush, Kennedy and Reagan.
Dr Herriot is a GP in Malvern
For details on keeping pigs visit: www.britishkunekunepig society.co.uk for history, information and purchases.