As I drove down a pot-holed road, around bends, up hill and dale it never occurred to me what a commitment to a disease free piggery would turn out to be. Why disease free you ask, well a disease free pig is one bred by a quarantined breeder from foundation stock born by Cesarean means, were the newly born piglet never comes into contact with the mother or any other pigs that have not started life in a similar manner. The reason being that the piglets carry over no illness or bugs from the parent. I know this doesn't sound very nice , but the result is stock that grows into strong healthy animals.
On arrival at the outskirts of the piggery, some five miles or so from the highway gate, I was greeted by a high cyclone fence surmounted with barb wire topping. At first I thought I had stumbled onto some movie set were they were making another concentration camp film. A loud voice boomed out instructing me to first turn off the alarm by pushing a button and make contact with the inmates inside via the telephone near by. T I was then instructed to put on clean overalls provided in the cupboard, remove my shoes and replace them with gum boots also in the cupboard. Then walk through a trough filled with heavens knows what and press a further button and wait.
Eventually someone appeared and escorted me through a few more decontamination units until we arrived at the piggery proper.This establishment breed what is called the " Super Pig". The owner claimed his animals grew into bacon pigs in 30 weeks. The Super pig has been developed from foundation stock of one half Large White, a very hardy pig with white bristles, apparently the public doesn't like blacks hairs on their bacon! Then there is one quarter Wessex Saddle Back [great mothers], they are the sows with a white strip around their tummies. Finally their is the Landrace, that long lean animal so much loved in Denmark. When you put these three breeds together you have one of the most productive pigs in the world. Mind you they are not cheap, but I had decided that after my experience in vegetable growing only the best would do.
Naturally I was not able to drive up to the piggery in my truck, so the stock of ten gilts and one boar were brought out to me. I decided to call the boar Romeo after a rather amorous settler in our district. I set off feeling very pleased with myself for the two hundred mile trip back home. The pig seemed contented sleeping on their pile of straw in the back. These pigs were going to have to pay for the vineyard development [see Pioneering in Australia blogs]. My research had suggested that the best results were obtained by mixing my own feed rather than purchasing commercial brands. Our farm was in a grain growing belt, so I had obtained a hammer mill to crack the wheat which I would mix in a big bath with rice bran, meat and fish meal with any recommended vitamins, this was to be done with a shovel. This was fine at first for a few animals, but as numbers grew the task became a major problem.
A month or so earlier I had obtained some portable pig pens from a farm clearance sale which I had set up on a five acre paddock at the far end of the property [pig can have an unfortunate bouquet at times]. The breeding stock would free range. The paddock had plenty of trees for shade as pigs suffer from sunburn which is why they like to roll in the mud, I had even provide a dam for them to swim in, pigs do swim you know.
The first task was to unload them off the truck, as this was the first time I had ever had anything to do with livestock, I attempted to encourage them down the rough log ramp I had built with food with little success. It was only then that I appreciated the true meaning of the expression pig headed, trying to push or pull a solid animal like a pig any where it does not want to go is no laughing matter. Several hours later after much sweat and cursing ,I finally got them to leave their warm straw beds for their new home. As they had not been out in an open paddock before I decided to clematises them firstly in the pens for a day or two. Finally they were released out into the open and I would just have to wait and hope for a population
|The pig paddock.|