Charlie Dodd – Inspiring the Next Generation

Merrist Wood College is based in Guildford, Surrey on a 400 acre estate with 340 animal management students. Our aim is to inspire the next generation of animal keepers, we do this by teaching theory as well as practicals on a range of different species. In May 2018 the college achieved their zoo license allowing us to keep a more varied selection of species. This allows students to study farm, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and small mammals, it is hoped that over the next few years the zoo collection will evolve further.

In 2017 the farm opened its doors to hold private birthday parties for the public, where children get a personal experience with the animals. During school holidays the farm also open for keeper for a day where children aged 6-16 years old take part in a variety of animal husbandry tasks.

Additionally the college holds three public open events, with our largest being the annual Fleecy Frolics event which this year bought 6500 visitors across the weekend. We also plan for Oxford Sandy and Black piglets to be born over the Easter holiday, this year was the first year we didn’t have them on site for our event. Excitingly one sow named Edwina was at Whipsnade zoo to farrow and the other Whippy went to Chobham Adventure Park a new farm collection. They stayed at these establishments for the busy Summer months advertising the need for conserving rare breeds.

The college has a long history with keeping Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, with the first arriving in 2008 when the cohort of degree students clubbed together to buy two Cynthia gilts as a thank you for their time at the college. This was a very exciting time for the college as it started our passion for keeping the breed and showing our students how great the breed was. Soon after this we started running ‘Introduction to Smallholding’ courses and were able to see just how prolific this breed could be, with both gilts breeding 12 piglets we used our smallholding course to sell the offspring. We still continue to do this and in addition run on 3 to 4 males for meat, with the perfect sale conditions of students and staff the meat flies out the door before we’ve even had a chance to unpack it.

Over the next few months we plan on getting two Oxford Sandy and Black registered gilts, hopefully of the duchess bloodline as there doesn’t appear to be that bloodline in our county. We are also applying to be an RBST approved centre in 2020 which we will hope to eventually become an open farm at weekends. In the future we will be continuing to use Oxford Sandy and Black pigs to help teach our students pig husbandry and hopefully help our pledge of supporting rare breeds of livestock.

Mat Nobes Answers – “Are my pigs too fat?”

This question seems to get asked quite a lot, especially among the less experienced rare breed pig keepers. It’s fairly easy to rear a couple of pigs but slaughter day inevitably comes and we often find ourselves without a clear idea as to how we’re going to cut them up. We might not be aware of all the options and all too often we just rely on the butchers advice.

They’re the expert right?

Well, yes they are but they are ‘generally’ experts in cutting traditional commercial joints from low fat commercial pigs and may rarely, if ever, come across ‘real pork’. They’ll happily (mostly or at least through gritted teeth) cut your carcass into roasting joints and chops, a few steaks, maybe cure you some bacon and convert the trim pile into a few dozen sausages. The trouble is they will leave that 2 inch layer of fat that you might not have been expecting on your joints and chops. The reason they do that is because you probably didn’t tell them not to. That’s not your fault (you may not have known it was there) or even the butchers fault (he’s just doing what’s asked of him/her) but it does result in less attractive joints and people won’t pay for a joint that’s 40% fat – Can’t say I blame them.

So, Yes! Maybe your pigs are too fat but only too fat for traditional cuts and joints.

That’s where you need to start thinking a bit more creatively.

If you find yourself disappointingly surprised by the amount of fat on your carcasses and your butcher just confirmed your suspicions you might think you have failed to produce the results that all that hard work and expense was supposed to be about. Maybe you were hoping to emulate the ‘commercial’ pork seen on supermarket shelves and had promised something like it but ‘better’ to your friends and family. If that’s the case I’m afraid you may have chosen the wrong breed and possibly the wrong customers. Slow grown, free range heritage and rare breeds are wonderfully designed to put down some beautifully flavoured fat and then as if by magic, you turn your back for 5 seconds and they put down some more. It is more than possible to consistently produce retail-able wonderful pork from rare breeds but it takes experience and knowledge and even then there will still be variations in fat from pig to pig.

I only grow a few pigs a year. They’re for my benefit and for friends and family to enjoy (although I am looking to release my Salami into the wild fairly soon). I’m not a commercial producer and as such I get big variations in the amount of fat my pigs put down. Sometimes they go off to slaughter a bit late and sometimes one is just greedier than the others. I’m not disappointed if my pigs come back a bit overweight…………It can only mean one thing.

Charcuterie!

You can only make top quality Salami, Pancetta, Guanciale and Chorica with top quality ingredients. Get your butcher to trim the excess fat off the joints and bag it up for you. You can always tie the skin back onto a joint for crackling. You’ll have attractive chops and joints with just the right amount of fat and a whacking great bag of white gold for the good stuff.

I definitely don’t see it as a failure if I get a pig back with 2 inches of back fat, wobbly great jowls and a belly that’s 70/30 fat to lean. I just butcher them slightly differently and make even more from the carcass. I’m not going to mince the jowls into a breakfast sausage, that’s for the rest of the trim. I’ll make Guanciale. It is simple to make and is delicious. Overly fat pieces of belly don’t lend themselves too well to traditional bacon or roasting so make Air Dried Pancetta. Salami in all its forms is a little more complicated but nonetheless achievable with a bit of research and some good fortune.

Pancetta Tesa, by the way, is probably the easiest to make of cured whole muscles. It requires little more than some salt, herbs and spices and a fridge and keeps almost indefinitely, improving with age.

Most of the world rejoices in the fat pig. The Chinese go mad for fat belly, the Italians make 100’s of different cured products that only work because of the fat. The Portuguese Porco Preto (Black Alentenjano Pig) is a monster of a pig and their amazing spicy Chorica are only as good as they are because of the fat. There’s a good reason Iberico Hams are so delicious and expensive. Pata Negra pigs will not win ‘Slimmer Of The Year’. There’s 1000’s of cured, dried, fermented, smoked, boiled, steamed and raw sausages in this world and they all need good quality fat to make them as good as they are.

Turning a heavyweight carcass into some fat chops and lardy roasting joints that need to be served with a side of Statins is one way of doing things but for me it’s definitely not the way forward. Fat pigs lend themselves to so much more than just the normal roasts, chops, a bit of bacon and pork n leek snags. We’ve got to have those things of course. They’re a traditional part of life in Great Britain and we love them but with some creative thinking and a bit of research you can get the best of both worlds from a fat pig.

Commercially attractive rare breed pork AND amazing Charcuterie.

I’m not sure there’s such a thing as too much fat, just a little more work to make the very best of it.

What else is there to pork? with Deborah Nisbet

Pork chops.
A cooked breakfast with sausages and bacon.
A leg joint for Sunday Dinner.
What else is there to pork?

We have been raising OSB weaners now for just over a year and our freezer has been full of pork in various guises all that time. All the recognisable cuts: roasting joints, sausages, gammon, chops. They’re easy to cook with little thought and little effort, all the effort having been done to get them into the freezer in the first place. So, our first freezer-full was used quickly but possibly with not as much enthusiasm as it deserved!

At this stage, I must point out that we are a family of four with not a chef amongst us! There is no particular culinary expertise between my husband and I and if we find something which suits the whole family, it tends to be done to death! So, treating our very first much-loved happy pork with very little imagination was, as we have since pondered, sacrilege!

Having said that, in spite of our lack of kitchen skills, the very fact that we had slow grown, high welfare, rare breed pork at our disposal meant that any meal made with or out of it was absolutely delicious. The slightly higher fat content than we had been previously used to was a delight and our meat portion sizes became smaller and smaller, the more we experienced meat that actually tasted of something in its plainest form! Those who tasted our wares soon became converts and we were persuaded to take on more weaners the next time to provide the same experience to those other families!

With our next freezer-full, I was determined to put my meat to better use and I was encouraged and enthused by the LovePork website. On our facebook site, Gorstage Park Porkers, our customers posted pictures of their own culinary journeys and we have all encouraged each other to try new and exciting meals that certainly I wouldn’t have thought of using pork for in the past!

A good Sunday Roast still can’t really be beaten as my favourite meal of the week but at a recent family celebration, we fed 35 over two sittings with the vast majority of the meat being from our very own Oxford Sandy and Black, Stephen!

From bland beginnings, we can, amongst many other dishes add to our family menu:-
Swineherd’s Pie (the piggy version of shepherd’s pie)
Marinated Pork Ribs on the BBQ (honey, soya sauce, white wine vinegar)
Pork Fillet Stroganoff
Pork Souvlaki with flatbreads
Belly Pork in the fondue (very 70’s!)
Bacon & Chocolate Chip Cookies (don’t knock them ‘til you’ve tried them!)
Meatballs (made from squeezed out sausages so no need to season or add anything else!)
Sausage rolls (just add garlic and blitz sausage meat!)
All dishes easily and quickly prepared and all have caused a stir both within our home and when shared with others!

Here’s wishing you all lots of fun with your well-loved pork! I hope you’re as proud of what you’ve achieved as we are!

Kim Brook Speaks to Marco Pierre White, Our Patron

Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Aden Foster asks: How do you match up wine to the salami? Which type is best? I’m sure different types alter the flavour but some are more acidic than others

I don’t believe in matching up drinks to food, it is what you fancy that counts it is your choice. It does not have to be expensive. I go for a simple château

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Mick Larkin asks, what is the ‘in thing’ at the momen with Pork i.e. what cuts are they all looking for? Is Pork still popular around the world and here in the UK?

There is no “in thing” with pork. It is how well you serve, cook and present your food that makes people come back for more. My favourite is roast belly pork on the bone. Also i like to cook a rack of pork and this should be cooked medium and not very well done. I travel a lot in Asia where pork is very popular and exquisitely cooked. It is more fatty cuts.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Dave Reynolds asks, when cooking a joint of pork, do you use an internal temperature probe and, if so, at what internal temperature would you take the pork out to rest?

Depending on what cut of pork you are using. Yes I do rest pork but only for as long as it takes to sort the accompaniments. What is the most important part is the crackling.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Andy Lawrence asks I’d also like to know how long he hangs his pork for. I believe some chefs like it hung for up to 3 weeks. Also, would he like to share any of his recipes for pork? What’s his favourite pork cut and pork dish.

Hanging pork for a week is sufficient. I also salt my pork for 24 hours and then wash off before cooking. As i mentioned i do like all cuts of pork. But having a good apple sauce is important, many chefs are now using eating apples but it must come from coooking apples because of good acidity.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Deborah Phillips Nisbet asks, I’d be really interested to know how long he keeps his OSB’s before slaughter, his feeding regime and his results. I’m guessing commercially he needs to get the most out of his piggies and not have excessive fat so if he’s using OSB’s in his restaurants, he must be doing something right

I keep two lots 6 months and nearly a year. For meat and charcuterie. Some are kept in the woods and on grass land but currently they are away from my home as i am resting the land. I have someone to feed them twice a day but Kim knows these details so i will leave it to her to tell you. Fat is the best bit and important for flavour. Again, it is important how and what you produce with your pork to make it a success. Be experimental. I experiment all the time.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Wowie Dunnings says, Remember my mother Polly to him.

Is that Polly Buckham. Please remember me to her and send her my good wishes. I remember I was invited by a friend to stay with him at Hampshire, I turned up at this house after a walk and knocked on the door greeted by Polly it was a lovely day. Please remember me to her. Was there a Sophie there too?

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Nelle Rolyat asks Would a quarterly recipe from him be a possibility? I know these things are being done anyway on the page but he would maybe draw more attention form outside the group and potential customers.

I have promised to do this but i have been travelling extensively since Kim and I met last June. Kim keeps me up to date monthly and we chat regularly. I know that Michelle Anderson Carroll has been working on the OSBPG Recipe Book and is now having finishes touches with Andrew O’Shea The Group is doing a fantastic job in both support and promotional work with the Pork and yes anything i can do i will.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White
Kim Brook
Kim Brook

Lorraine Jones asks for Just a picture of him cooking OSB pork

a chuckle…I have my OSB Apron and i will make sure that happens. If you are interested you can see me on you tube Great British Feast where i am cooking pork. Yes it was taken awhile ago but it will show you me cooking some belly pork.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White

My Final comments, Id like to say that I do admire the OSB for their meat and they are the best pig for pork. i have also tried various breeds of pigs but the Oxfords win. Saddlebacks he described as a pretty pig and was also good pork pig.

Marco Pierre-White
Marco Pierre-White

Organic OSB’s – Andy & Rachel Rivers

We are quite often asked what the main differences between keeping conventional and organic livestock are. Some who asked are surprised that in my opinion there is little difference between organic and any other high welfare system. Access to drugs is , of course, limited to a proven need and some of the more critical antibiotics would need a derogation to be used. This sometimes has to be applied for retrospectively as livestock have an annoying habit of getting sick outside of office hours.

Wormers and other medication given to conventional livestock routinely are not allowed although a derogation may be available if exceptional circumstances can be proved.

We started to keep pigs with just one large white gilt, she did us very well but was not ideally suited to our organic system. We experimented with Gloucester old spots but found they tended to get fat quickly. We purchased an Oxford Sandy and Black boar and were very pleased with the cross, after a couple of litters of crosses we purchased 2 Oxford Sandy and Black gilts from Cirencester OSB rare breed show and sale the resulting litters have been very promising and we have decided to concentrate on pedigree pigs.

Finding organic breeding stock, more so with less common breeds can be impossible but the soil association have no problem with conventional animals being converted. Converted breeding stock will never be organic but can produce organic offspring after a 3 month conversation period.
Feeding pigs organically is only difficult because food to soil association standards is hugely expensive, bagged nuts can be as much as £1000 a tonne, so our pigs never see any. We were fortunate to find a 30 year old roller mill for little more than scrap price and now mill our own cereals. The pigs get a kilo a day each, barley is favourite and they will happily eat wheat. Rye however seems to be one of the few things pigs won’t eat it just gets pushed around the trough and you get really discontented stares.

We have not yet been brave enough to farrow outside and the girls come in a couple of days before they are due. They farrow in loose boxes, the first few litters we restricted the amount of straw and set up creeps. The sows piled all the available straw over the piglets and they never used the creeps so now we let them nest with more straw and have discarded the creeps. Piglet mortality is very low.

Even after three years we do not always get the finished pigs right although the fat is never too extreme. We sell most on line or through word of mouth, either as jointed half pigs or sausages. We are lucky that the butcher we use will take as many surplus pigs as we can produce at a good premium.

Dermot Allen – Hog Roasts

Nine years ago my youngest had her 21st and as she was inviting around 300 people to her party she suggested having a Hog Roast with one our own fatteners to feed the masses. We sourced a spit roaster machine and the day was magic with the pork going down a treat. A few of Georgia’s (my youngest) friends asked could we do their 21st and a new business was born. We sat down with an engineer and designed a Spit Roaster with a few tweaks and a few practices on family and friends we were up and running. We got our Environmental Health Officer on board from the start and completed our food courses etc.

One of our first Hog Roasts.

We made mistakes and learnt from them and have grown every year since. We have catered for a Stag party for 14 lads canoeing down a river with our Hog Roast waiting for them, to feeding 3000 people at a Dept of Agriculture Open Day. My family are on board now and we do the whole event with bread, sauces, knives, forks, plates, napkins and salads made fresh on the day.

Six years ago we sourced Oxford Sandy and Black gilts and a boar from Maureen and Andy Case after spending time with them on their farm in Wiltshire. My aim was to get the 13 female bloodlines and 4 male bloodlines and as of writing this, we have purchased the final remaining bloodline, an Alison due in Ireland soon.

Six years ago I attended a meeting of a group of 6 people interested in pigs with a view to setting up an all Ireland group interested in all aspects of pigs and The Irish Pig Society was born. We formed a committee and attended shows promoting pigs, held Open Days, working closely with the Irish Department of Agriculture concerning people obtaining herd numbers and making people aware of the approaching threat of ASF.  We have a tent at the All Ireland Ploughing Championships where 300000 people attend and the pig tent is full from 7am till nightfall answering the public’s questions.

We have started showing our pigs at the All Ireland Agriculture Show in Tullamore with the likes of Brian Merry and Tom Alty coming over to judge and I have been lucky enough to win two of the last three years with a Dandy Gilt and a young Alexander Boar.

With Brexit and ASF in the near future, the Society has a lot of work ahead of us and I’m halfway through a three-year term of being Chairman of the Society.
As of March 2018 I am now full time at pigs, breeding, cooking, TV work and it is the Chinese Year of the Pig and only yesterday we attended a photo shoot and had a photo with one of our OSB and the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland on the front of most of today’s national newspapers.  I feel the future for both all aspects of pigs and Oxford Sandy and Black pedigrees is bright but it’s on ongoing labour of love and when you wake every morning and jump out of bed knowing the Oxfords are waiting for you, you know you have the best job in the world……

Then and Now – by Philip Langley

This photo was my first Christmas after my father passed away earlier that year, what memories, although I had been working in the shop for 4 years buying stock for Christmas was a completely different aspect from the normal weekly sales. I had some of Dads old contacts, and had placed my order for most of the Poultry especially the Turkeys , so going from previous records that I could find , Dad didn’t write much down , but he had a very good memory , I ordered 100 Turkeys, 50 Capons, 6 Geese and 12 Ducks, as I didn’t have a game licence, so no Pheasant, Venison etc. With regards to the Pork, leg of Pork was very popular, not like today I’m afraid and I don’t really know why? Perhaps the famous Chefs on the telly don’t promote it enough order to get enough legs of Pork for the festive season, around the middle of October we saved some each week, scored them covered up well, and put them in the old Tea Chests and took them to the local Freezer Rooms , we usually stored around 60, always off our own pigs to get the right size, not off the larger Cutter pigs. Lots of people wanted the centre cut, my mother in law included!

So you had to ensure you sold the Knuckle ends first or put the centre cuts back in the chiller for customers who had previously ordered them, Traditional Sausage meat was made but not in the plastic sleeves, just put on a large tray and cut it off. All the Poultry had to be prepared in the shop, and all the Sinews were pulled out , god help you if you snapped any off, you were not very popular with the head butcher who trussed the birds up using long wooden Skewers , putting them through the wings, and tying up the rear . When gutting them you had to make sure you didn’t break his bum hole as this was used to put over the Parsons nose to close the body cavity, and you had to ensure you removed the lungs or no brownie points there. When you had to get the Sinews out of the big Stag birds , the foot was placed in a claw hook and it was pull and twist till they all came out, at the end of the day your chest and arms really ached, lotsof warm water to keep your hands warm and clean, and a nice piece of Muslin to dry out the Cavity. If you had one that was just coming out of moult you had to get a pair of Pliers to pull especially the wing feathers out. Going back to the Pork it was all sold on the bone, even the Shoulder , the blade bone was left in, in my opinion, that’s why all meat tasted better on the bone, not very convenient for the Electric Carving Knives I suppose, but then they didn’t exist then. Very little Lamb sold , it wasn’t in fashion in those days , mainly the Poultry , Pork, Beef, and some Gammon which also was sold on the bone except perhaps the Slipper,(that’s the muscle of the leg usually with the Knee cap attached ) there was no such thing as Horseshoe Gammons in those days , just whole legs, I feel I’ve probably written enough for now as Kim has remarked I should write a book on my exploits of being a butcher for 57 years

When I very first started full time at Dads stall, he employed three full-time butchers and me of course, my turn always to scrub the large block in the Summer, it was so hot, but not so much in the winter as it helped the butchers to keep warm. The secret of getting the wooden block nice and clean and white was, first of all, get some very hot water, just to get the surface wet, not sloshing it around, dry it off and get some Sawdust and rub it into the surface to absorb the grease and any staining. Get your wire brush and with a sweeping motion pressing down hard on the brush, you soon got a sweat on, you continued this until you reached the other end, this block was 9 ft by 3ft so plenty to clean. This should show nice and white and dry, you then you did the rails around the block, got reprimanded if you chopped or caught your handsaw on this part as it was softwood. This part acts like a clamp holding all the individual blocks usually maple together, next time you look at a traditional block you may notice small wooden discs on the side and the ends, behind them, are iron Bars with nuts on the end that go from end to end and sideways as well. Due to the length of this particular block, there were two bars running lengthways and three bars sideways. Every now and again as the surface wore you turned the block completely over if it was too badly worn in several places you would get it to the local Sawmills for them to skim it off as best they could.

Meat Consumption was quite large in those days, no McDonalds, no Pizzas, no ready meals, just good old fashioned fish and chips, Ona Monday morning our delivery was 10 forequarters of beef, 6 Hindquarters of Argentine Chilled Beef, it was the best in those days, lovely Angus / Hereford Beef, shipped in the holds hanging for six weeks from the River Plate, some of it through the Vesty Group as they had plants there and there own Shipping line, 20 NZ lambs to start the week, had 20 more on Wednesday. The Lambs were hung up to soften up a little and were all chopped up with a cleaver, which is a long-handled version of a chopper and a much heavier blade. The butcher was so strong he would really swing it right from the top, no electric bandsaws in those days. 6 pigs on a Tuesday only porkers, if they were much over 100 lbs dad, would send them back too big he would say, such a difference to the weights nowadays,I always tried to get Gilts around 55 to 60 kilos, all the Pork was sold on the bone even with the shoulder blade in , and the hand was sold with the hough on ,took the small foot off though , they were popular at times when people made there own pork pies to boil and get the Gelatine out of them to pour into the tiny hole they made in the top of the pie to fill it out . There was a cut called the hand and Spring which was the shoulder with some belly attached, also a blade of Pork which is the blade out of the shoulder taken out from underneath leaving the meat and the crackling on the top. This leaves you with Sparerib Chops, they are delicious roasted with some stuffing and such a lovely sweet taste, as the saying says , nearer the head sweeter the meat, lots of the beef was sold on the bone and the forequarter cuts were very popular , Brisket and the flank end on the bone delicious, the eye of the Chuck was skewered up with the metal skewers, not much string used in those days, some weeks we sold more steel than the Steel Company of Wales! The blackstrap was removed from the Chuck, sold these days as your dog Chews ,it is these that have been Roasted, when raw a slap with one of those and by golly you felt it, the Jacobs Ladder was put in a casserole, nowadays people put them on there BBQ it is the end off the top of the ribs of beef , then there is the leg of mutton cut ,so named as it’s in the shape of the leg, originally it was called also the Bread and butter cut, because there was a layer of fat in between the bone on the inside and the muscle on the top, this cut is in the lower shoulder opposite to the Chuck . Always remember all lean meat Is muscle, hence the legs(shin)or the neck carrying a large head has to be very strong. The Fillet Steak is inside the animal or tenderloin in a pig is always tender as there’s not much strain on there.instead of having to say 2 kilo of Chuck Steak in slices they would have it in a piece often on the bone and put it in the oven and slow roasted with perhaps a few whole onions, the gravy from this was to die for ,so tasty just like the Brisket only the Brisket was more flakey. Have you ever tried a bit of skirt!! It’s beef don’t sweat it’s not porno. Cornish people will know as they say it’s best for Cornish Pasties, especially what is known as the goose skirt, this is a muscle found inside the hind legs of the animal usually triangular in shape , the heart skirt or feather skirt this is to be found next to the heart and when sliced lengthwise looks like a feather , the other one also inside the body cavity is called the body skirt ,it is just below the ribs on a pig , skirting is the general term and it shreds apart ,just pulls apart it is quite lean. One more tip for tonight if you like liver at all, if you wish to get rid of the strong flavour leave the liver soaking in milk overnight, butchers used to put Ox liver in overnight and said it tasted like Calves liver.

A Very Happy Christmas to you all and good health for the New Year Philip

The Barr Family – Gary, Sonya, Maisie and Lewis

Two and a half years ago Gary and I set out to create a whole new life for our family. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a small holding to help us get started. We moved into the Farm and after a few weeks Gary announced he wanted to keep pigs to provide meat for our own hog roast company to cover events and special occasions.

After weeks and weeks of Gary reading, studying he found the perfect breed for ourselves a great starter pig, fabulous meat and great mams to their offspring, so off we went on the hunt for our very own OXFORD SANDY AND BLACK PIGS. None of us had a clue what we were doing to be fair I had mucked pigs out on our school farm in my teenage years but keep our own ha ha this could go drastically wrong.

We then joined the OSB page on Facebook better known as the BIBLE!!!

We searched and searched for OSB in the County Durham area and really struggled, until one day I came across some for sale in Cumbria so off Gary set to collect our very first pigs, The fun was about to begin. We started with 2 gilts Dotty and Eleanor registered for us to breed from and 2 unregistered boars for us to fatten for meat to try it out this tasty pork Gary had read about a million times over (Gary is a perfectionist and takes his time with everything). The meat was exactly as promised, melt in the mouth fat, the tastiest pork we had ever had and THE BEST crackling ever.

We then needed to expand the business and we bought a hog roast machine and Gary wanted a jiffy van to use for events to sell hog roast sandwiches from. We managed to locate both quite local and had them stickered up with our company logo did what we needed to do with councils, insurances etc. and FROM FIELD TO FORK was born.

Next problem we needed to have enough meat to supply the business. We were struggling on the breeding side of it, we had a litter out of a gilt we bought in pig but it didn’t all go to plan as can sometimes happen in this game and we felt so deflated. I ended up hand rearing one of the piglets from the litter who ended up in the house with us until she became boisterous and sliding round the floors thinking she was a small dog ha ha.

Hope is still our favourite pig well mine anyway Gary wouldn’t agree he just shakes his head at her as she resembles nothing of an OSB looks more like Chewbacca and thinks she is a dog however she has by surprise and not planned got herself pregnant and had a wonderful litter of 6 good piglets and she has proved to be a great mam, eat your words Gary Barr who always said she was only good for sausage.

The OSB soon took a hold of us and we got the pig keeping bug. We needed a boar to complete our team, luckily because of the Facebook page we found Zander who we bought from Tom Wentworth Waite’s. Advice for everyone DO NOT try to transport a fully grown 4 year old boar in a horsebox, as Gary found out when Zander made his way from the back of the horsebox through the door to the living area (smashed it clean in half) and tried to climb through the open cab into the passenger seat to keep Gary company on his journey home. We still laugh about this now and a good story for the grandkids in many years to come.

We finally were on track we have had mixed litters some large (13) some small (2), some straight forward some not, however one thing is for certain every time we are farrowing we get the butterflies and excited nervous tummy and every time it’s over and we know our gilt/sow is fine and her babies start tootling around the smile is infectious we find ourselves standing for ages watching them with this ridiculous smile on our faces.

The support of the OSB group and the wonderful Kim Brook has made a lot of this possible. We were doing great and then the farm we were renting went up for sale, it was far too much money for us to consider buying it so we managed to buy some land in a neighbouring village to continue with our dream and passion. We had wanted to live on the land in a caravan and possibly build a log cabin in the future however our local planning department have other ideas and are making it all quite difficult and very frustrating. However we will sort it we don’t give up very easily does the Barr’s.

So now what do we have well, we have 2 boars 1 registered 1 not registered, 11 gilts/sows for breeding and around 21 for fattening to supply the hog roast and sausage side of things.

The hog roast side of things is going great and lots of events for 2018 and 2019, people always comment just how good it is the best pork they have ever had this gives us such pride and makes what we do even more worthwhile.

Maisie our daughter is 7 and she loves it she helps with all aspects feeding, bedding up, moving them, doing their waters, taking them to the abattoir and most importantly piglet cuddles ha ha everyone always comments on what a wonderful thing for her to be a part of and I would have to agree much better than an Xbox or Ipad if you ask me. She has work ethic, she shows compassion and love for animals, and most importantly she appreciates were her food comes from!!.

Lewis is 16 and not so fussed but will always help if needed and also loves to sneak in for cuddles when farrowing. We are a long way from where we want to be, but we will get there with hard work and determination to keep doing what we do and love. The Oxford sandy and Black pig will always be a part of the Barr Family.

I hope you all enjoyed reading I could of gone on for days with stories of the things we have done every day is a laugh with pigs even on the hardest of days there is one of them that will do something to make you laugh.

OSB’s in the Netherlands with Pipie Smits van Oyen

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Slide Show from Pipie Smits van Oyen

 

Two years ago we decided to keep some pigs as addition to our organic farm in the Netherlands to be
able to offer pig meat as well as our grass-fed Aberdeen Angus meat. Although outdoor pigs are
almost unknown in our country, we decided to take the plunge and looked to British pig keeping for
inspiration. After much looking around on the Internet and in books, we somewhat undecidedly chose
for the Oxford Sandy and Black breed, primarily because of its good outdoor qualities, meat quality
and inclination not to put on too much fat, and last but not least, its pretty looks. Since then, we have
fallen in love with the breed and the pigs have become a favourite on the farm, amongst ourselves,
employees and visitors alike.

With luck, we were able to purchase our first pigs (two gilts and two boars) from Taco van der Louw,
who had just imported them from Britain. We kept them over the summer and come winter, sent the
boars off to slaughter. We were stunned by the meat’s taste, from mincemeat to roasts, and have since
not gone back to buying other pork again. We fed those first pigs a finisher diet in their last few
months, which led to a substantial layer of fat, but this has not been a problem since we have been
finishing on a normal sow diet. We held on to the two sows for breeding, and they are now the basis of
our small herd.

The herd was expanded last year by the boar Luke, who was again imported from Wales with the help
of Kim Brook. After a shy start, he is now feeling very at home and has been doing his job
successfully while enjoying the grass and mud! The number of OSB keepers has been slowly growing
in the Netherlands, but with such a small population it is important to watch out for inbreeding so the
import of stock from other countries remains essential.

At the moment we are keeping the two sows and boar, with 20-30 piglets and finishers. We bring the
pigs to a abattoir, who butcher and package the meat, after which we sell it ourselves directly to
customers or to small retail or restaurants. The meat has proven very popular, with our customers
praising the full, “old-fashioned” taste. With an increasing number of pigs in the future, it will prove a
challenge to widen our customer base to be able to sell the extra meat. However, if no one else, the
pigs have made us happy from the first day they arrived. They are social, clever and beautiful animals,
and a minute spent with the pigs is never wasted!