All of our breeding sows are Wessex Saddleback, the native West Country breed with the distinctive white saddle across her shoulders, and we cross these with a Welsh boar, another traditional slow-growing native breed. The result is old-fashioned pigs, pink with blue patches on them, and, like their parents, their ears over their eyes.
The sows live outside and farrow in arks. They are intelligent animals and it is wonderful to see them exhibit their strong natural instincts. One of these is to build a nest before farrowing, which might take a couple of days. They do this using straw and clumps of earth and grass. The nest guides the piglets as they are born onto the teats – totally natural, and so different from the way sows are kept in industrial pig systems.
Space to roam freely
Unlike industrial systems, we do not clip the piglets' teeth or dock their tails – it is unnecessary when pigs are reared outside for their entire lives, with plenty of space to roam, living under natural conditions without stress.
We leave the piglets on their mother for 8 weeks, to get the full benefit of their mother's milk, and as well as rooting outside from only a few days old it ensures they build a strong natural immunity, which means that we only use medication when it is absolutely necessary.
We feed our Saddleback pigs a simple cereal diet, in addition, they forage on herb-rich grass, acorns, apples and leftover root veg all grown on the farm they call home.
Once weaned, the growing pigs live outside, in family groups, ranging freely and display all of their natural instincts, digging for roots and wallowing in mud, Mother Nature's brilliant sunblock. They provide the most sustainable way of managing a mixed farm, ploughing and fertilising the ground in the most natural way, preparing the ground for the next crop, minimising the use of machinery and inorganic fertilizers.
We take our pigs a short distance to our local, small farm-based abattoir. This is very important to us - it means that the animals are not stressed, the small team are highly skilled craftsmen, and importantly, the carcasses are in perfect condition to be hung on the bone, in the traditional way for 3 weeks. It is most unusual to hang pork – it helps to develop the award-winning sweet, melting flavour that has won us so many awards over the years.