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.