Michelle Anderson-Carroll is kicking off our group members stories with how she found and fell in love with the Oxford Sandy and Black on her Croft in the Scottish highland. Michelle tells her story.. “A pigs Tale”..
Writing this in the spring sunshine, after the successful farrowing of our latest litter, it would be easy to pop on the rose-tinted glasses and think this pig breeding is all about happiness and joy… If only!
It was just over 2 years ago the first Oxford Sandy & Black pigs arrived on River Croft, our first ever venture into pig keeping. Our original intention was to get 2 weaners instead of a tractor to plough 3 acres, however, we were let down by the seller so looked further afield and what transpired next may well have been written in my destiny.
My bloody-minded determination told me that I WAS getting my own Oxford Sandy & Black’s. The first internet search I did came up with an advert at the top of the page for a small pedigree herd – 2 sows (1 in pig, the other with 7, 4-week old piglets at foot) and a boar and they were only 3 hours away. Was this fate? Should we or shouldn’t we take on this responsibly armed with the pig keeping knowledge found on the pages of one small pig keeping book? You guessed right, we bought them! Foolhardy as it was, I have not one single regret.
We made every rookie mistake out there and probably some extra ones too. I quickly learned that you cannot herd a pig, Elliot still tries much to my amusement. We had calls from neighbours that pigs were in various locations they weren’t supposed to be, a panic call to the vet to find out if it was normal for a pig to sneeze (thankfully it is and panic or culling an entire herd is not required, phew!), we sent 11 weaners to new homes with mange that I didn’t notice despite hand rearing them, lost an entire litter to hypothermia during a winter storm, our first porkers came out with around 3 inches of back fat, the list goes on… and on!
I thanked my lucky stars when I stumbled across the Oxford Sandy & Black Pig Group on facebook – informative, friendly and accessible. It is my favourite place to share the highs and lows of my life with this special breed of pigs.
Now here we are only 2 years on, Elliot and I have achieved so much with and on behalf of our beloved breed. It was a career change I never envisaged, hard work without a doubt, fabulous fun and desperate despair in equal measure, in short, an emotional rollercoaster. I am a generally a shy person that has spent a lot of my adult life battling with anxiety and depression but I think my I am tenacious and will not let these define my life. The passion I have found for keeping Oxford Sandy & Blacks has given me drive and courage to go out and promote their conservation.
Through the group, I have made contacts and friends. We expanded our herd; concentrating on diversifying the blood pool in the north of Scotland we already had 2 Elsie sows so travelled to Somerset for our Alexander boar (he was star of the BBC County Showdown), to Wales for our 2 Clarissa gilts (now on their 2nd litters) and most recently have acquired a Duchess from central Scotland (about to have her 2nd litter). Our herd is complete… well until more fencing is done. Can you have too many pigs?
This year we have so far secured contracts with restaurants, caterers, all of our livestock customers are repeat (with the exception of the girls I sold many pigs to..), we have been in the Sunday post, local press and radio, got pigs into two independent school farms, been on Countryfile. And to look forward to we have a visit from agricultural undergraduates from Iowa State University (this will be an annual visit), an article in Scottish Field (a glossy country lifestyle publication), I will be attending various shows along with the RBST to talk and promote our breed, Open Farm Sunday, helping a newcomer to the breed set up his own breeding herd here in the Highlands and a few other things I need to keep under wraps for now. Stay tuned to the Facebook page for announcements as and when I can.
I aim to have the first proof of our recipe book with me at Oxfest on the 5th of May so you can have a sneak peek and critique. I am very excited to be travelling south, hoping for warm weather, some sunshine and very much looking forward to meeting you.
Today the sun is shining! Life is good on River Croft! I am off outside to enjoy!