Last year we kept pigs for the first time. It was a great success and hugely enjoyable. Whilst dispatching them bought a lump to our throats we had always treated them as a practical exercise - we looked after and fed them and in due course they would return the favour.
The meat is excellent. I now know that I had forgotten what flavour in meat was. When we were getting low on sausages (they went quickly!) I bought some from the supermarket and mixed them in with our own without telling anyone. Ralph guessed with the first mouthful what I had done and I was duly reprimanded; but the fact remains, there is no comparison.
We still have plenty of pork in the freezer but it is going down fast. As we don't go away in the summer it works best for us to collect the young piglets in the spring and raise them through the summer. They are then slaughtered in the autumn which is also better as it is cooler by then. So at the end of last year I contacted a breeder and ordered two more piglets - this time they are Gloucester Old Spot/British Lop and again they are lovely.
They are very different in character to the Berkshires - less gentle and more demanding when they see us in the veggie plot which is just next to their field, especially if we are picking strawberries which they love. They dig much more too - we couldn't believe that in just two weeks they had turned most of the field. Every few weeks we extend their pen so that they have a new patch of grass and they love it. They run up and down the grass, they roll in it and occasionally they stop to eat it. The next day it will look as though someone's been over it with a lawn mower. By day four it's a muddy patch with perhaps just a thistle showing.
Our friends no longer look astonished and tell us we are mad when they see the pigs for the first time. They are too busy enjoying the rewards.