Tim Tyne's Best Breeds
PUBLISHED: 12:03 03 April 2013 | UPDATED: 08:40 28 March 2014
Veteran CS writer and career smallholder Tim Tyne is writing about his favourite breeds each month. Here he writes about one of his favourite pig breeds - the Gloucestershire Old Spots
These were the first pedigree pigs we kept, in the mid 1980s. We’d raised several batches of weaners, and wanted to progress to keeping a sow. Traditional pig breeds didn’t enjoy the level of popularity that they do today, so the choice of what was available was limited. Besides, if you were a smallholder, and you kept pigs, it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would be Old Spots!
We sourced three gilts from a well known breeder – two to fatten for the freezer and the third for breeding. The meat was fantastic, and the one that we kept grew into a very docile, good natured sow. For mating we took her back to the farm we’d bought her from, but, despite an extended stay, and repeated attempts, she was eventually returned to us as a non- productive barrener. By this time she was enormous, and we didn’t know what to do with her! However, in return for half the pig, a friend offered to make all the necessary arrangements for converting her into salami. And very nice salami it was too, although consumed with a touch of regret.
Now, with nearly 30 years experience of pig keeping behind me, I understand what went wrong: Firstly, she was too fat. Secondly, she was running out in a large field with a group of mature sows and an inexperienced boar, and, thirdly, it was an extremely hot summer, and pigs are never at their most amorous when overheated.
We purchased another GOS in 1999. Alarm bells should have started ringing when the vendor couldn’t catch her, but I bought her anyway, in-pig to a Tamworth boar. She had lots of rings in her snout, which I removed. Revelling in the new-found freedom of her snout, she took to destroying everything in her path, and became a persistent escapologist. Her offspring inherited this behavioural characteristic. Initially it wasn’t a problem, but after weaning the situation became serious. Once, as I was driving home from somewhere, I got stuck behind a queue of stationary vehicles. Up ahead, I could see people running about on the road chasing – yes, you’ve guessed it – my pigs! I disowned them. Once the traffic had cleared I discreetly doubled back and ushered the pigs into the garden of a weekend holiday cottage. Luckily it was a weekday. Behind the house they were building an extension, in which I penned them up.
Needless to say, those pigs were hurried off to the abattoir without delay, and we sold the sow with her next litter.
However, don’t let my experiences dissuade you from keeping this lovely breed! I think, had we been successful with our first sow, we’d have stuck with them all along.
Gloucestershire Old Spots
* The oldest recorded breed of spotted pig.
* Also known as the 'Orchard Pig', with local folklore claiming that the spots evolved from bruises caused by falling apples!
* Easy to handle.
* Good for outdoor rearing.
* Ideal for crossbreeding to produce commercial type offspring.
* Visit: www.oldspots.org.uk