This week we hear from our Somerset regional rep Tania Whittick and how she found the passion for the Oxford Sandy and Black.
And then there were pigs on Broadway with a passion!
It was always a tradition for my husband and children to get me some new hens on mother’s day. Three years ago for mother’s day 2015, I said I would like some pigs instead. A mission of research began to find the right breed of pig. I wanted something special, something pretty and easy for a first timer. I came across the Oxford Sandy and Black and was smitten. I found the Society website and contacted a list of breeders and eventually got lucky and found a litter available. I was invited along to meet Maureen and Andy Case in Dorset. With father in law in tow had a full guided tour of their lovely pigs.
A few weeks later we collected two lovely gilt weaners from the Sybil sow bloodline. One was pedigree registered and the other non-registered Sybil we called Mabel as a joke, “maybe or maybe not we will eat her”.
So now what do I do? No clue? A horse stable deep of straw feed and water and armed with a book written by Andy, we set about getting to know our two Sybil’s. Handling them each day and learning each day. The weeks went on and we introduced them to outdoor space fencing off paddocks and investing in a few pig arcs. They grew into adorable friendly girls and at 6 months the breeder decided to register the second. They grew to 14 months old and was time to introduce a boar. For the first time, I used a Tamworth who was locally available.
Four months later two litters arrived on the same night. The passion then really started. We were totally overwhelmed with our adorable piglets. It was at this point I discovered the Oxford Sandy and Black pig group on Facebook that has become my bible. I had no clue about pig bloodlines and their numbers and how rare or indeed what I had become part of. The support I have received from the OSBPG has been amazing. I’ve learnt about ID worming regimes, feeding, and transporting, handling, and husbandry, along with so much advice to get me started on my breeding path with bloodlines breed standard and choosing suitable stock.
“Tania, you have two Sybils” someone said. I had no clue how few breeding pigs were in the country and that was it. Bit between the teeth. I’m going to do this. I hired in an OSB Jack boar and off we go again two more litters of which one Gilt was registered.
At this point, I joined Oxford Sandy and Black Society and the BPA and got my herd prefix “Broadways” this was so exciting. Meanwhile, I was looking for a young boar to be my first owned, to rear from young as I did my original two girls. After lots of advice from other breeders I had become in touch with, I found a suitable young weaner. Located 4hrs away we collected Basil and he joined us and our Sybil’s. Here he was reared and turned into a gentle giant teddy bear.
At maturity, I started to work Basil. After months passing by and many seasons later, we were unable to get either of our sows in pig. Basil also had a holiday romance in Dorset with no success. On his return, he was certainly more confident so we kept trying.
Dec 2017 an opportunity came up to purchase a Lady sow named “Strawberry” and she was in pig to a Clarence boar in South Wales. After lots of advice from Kim Brook and Andrew O’Shea, I was so excited to give her a home in Somerset. She joined my herd and an adorable litter was born in January. I’m delighted that one gilt is eligible to register and I’m hoping to enter her into the rare breed show and sale in Cirencester in August.
At weaning, it was time to try Basil again. We were excited again to try another new sow with him. Disappointingly again without success, Strawberry had two seasons. The pressures and costs of keeping 3 sows and a boar not producing any offspring were taking its toll. After seeking lots of advice I had to make the hardest decision so far since keeping pigs. Heart-breaking as it was I was unable to keep Basil in my herd. I am currently enjoying the pleasure of another visiting boar again sourced to spread the gene pool. He is a Clarence Boar kindly on hire from Dennis Ballard and I’m hoping for three litters in the coming months.
I’ve currently reared almost 60 pigs. I sell meat weaners for people to rear themselves and sent 25 in the last year for meat, which I have reared myself. The meat sales have been a huge success and I registered last summer as a business. I mainly sell the meat locally. The feedback has been amazing with lovely compliments about the flavour the colour and taste. Along with many compliments about how the pigs are reared and the lovely long life they have living outdoors. I have lots of regular returning customers and I am currently rearing 12 meat pigs for orders through to September. In the last few months, I have been supplying my first pub/restaurant which has been really popular with great feedback from the head chef.
I am incredibly proud of how much I have achieved in just a few years. I have built up my herd from two weaners and produced five lovely litters (so far). I have introduced the Oxford Sandy and Black pig to so many people who are in support of our conservation efforts. I have sponsored charity events to promote our breed for fundraisers. I have also become one of the Somerset coordinators for the OSBPG and have recently presented to the Wells and Glastonbury Young Farmers, provided information to schools, welcomed on-site visits to new people interested in pigs and our breed. I have supplied pigs for a community project. I have also registered as a small business and have sold lots of meat that has been very supported by my local butcher. I am also now signed up to the Pedigree Pork Scheme with the BPA. My husband has also written an App for ear notching for Android phones and soon to be iPhones.
Most of all I am incredibly proud to be a part of the OSB community. After giving up my full-time employment in Health and Social Care a few years before pigs I cannot believe I have found something so rewarding on my smallholding. To be a part of such a special conservation project to save such an amazing animal and breed. I have met some wonderful people along the way truly dedicated to their passion who have welcomed and supported me with their experience and knowledge. Just 3 years in its early days for me but I’m so overwhelmed at my journey so far with this wonderful breed. With love passion and immense pride, I’m looking forward to the future.
We have some events coming up in Somerset over May that Dave Reynolds and I will be attending;
- Young farmers County Rally Taunton … Venue to be confirmed.
- Royal Bath and west show we will have a stall so please come and see us.
Thank you for reading from my Broadways herd with passion and mud, but much love xx