THE difficulty in writing a chapter on feeding is that a year or two after it is written the situation may have brought an unsuspected food supply on the market.

Since I claim to be an authority because I have kept pigs, rather than keeping pigs to prove my authority, I have done little experimenting with strange foods. I have never even used Tottenham pudding or waste dates. However, there are main principles, and this I would lay down with a heavy hand. A new food will never hurt a pig unless you force or entice him to eat it by mixing it with something that he likes. I think it is a wise plan never to mix foods but to let the pig balance his own ration. Take meat and bone-meal, for example. They will tell you in college that meat and bone-meal should be eliminated in the final stages of fattening as it tends to make salt bacon or yellow pork or something equally obtuse. But give a pig his food in separate troughs and he will give up his meat and bone-meal, which he does not like as well as cereals, as soon as the growth urge abates. Neither should a pig be starved into eating what he naturally rejects. I should never recommend this on the open-air system, apart from the folly of trying to fatten a pig by starving. Because if you try to starve an electrically fenced pig, he will walk into your neighbour's growing potatoes, and with a bunch of growing pigs that might prove expensive.

Given a variety of foods and no mixing, 1 do not think one can go wrong in pig feeding, especially on open-air work with fresh ground and a modicum of grazing. The beginner would be wise to give a wider variety than is usual. Barley meal is, of course, the stock feed for pigs, but if oatmeal and ground wheat are available, well, try them and note which is popular and which rejected. Then there is millers' offal, middlings or sharps, call it what you will. These are included in every proprietary pig food, and there is no food that it will pay better to feed on the self-choice system. I shall be most surprised if your pigs having meal and protein pay more than the smallest attention to millers' offal, provided the grazing which is an alternative form of roughage is reasonably good: 10 per cent is all they will eat, and I am talking of the best you can buy, not imported Plate sharps. Nevertheless, do not reject them as utterly useless: the very fact of their uninteresting nature may be a help and guidance. If, for example, one wishes to make the most of potatoes or roots in fattening, wheat offal, which one knows is safe and contains minerals and some protein, may be a good staple feed to use in dry feeders ad lib. If one is feeding proprietary balanced ration it is advisable to use two different makes. This gives inside information: one is apt to rate a food by the illustrated advertisement and it is a good plan to get the pig's opinion. Personally, I should recommend the beginner to use straight foods unmixed. He can if he likes put a proprietary food in one trough and he can then determine the pig's opinion. I have heard it said that if left to his own devices a pig will eat too much meal and become overfat. Provided the growing pig has access to animal protein, this is not so. If a pig is becoming overfat, limit his food so that he eats more grass, and do not include in his ration millers' offal, which does the same job as the grass at considerable expense. In my edict on mixed foods I would make one exception. I have always found nuts a very useful feed for in-pig sows. Spread on the ground, there is opportunity for each sow to take her ration, and I know of no better way of getting batches of pigs from field to field than leading them with a bucket of nuts.

Roughly speaking, pigs will begin to look for food for themselves at three weeks old. If before that they are nibbling at nuts thrown into their house it is good training. The younger you can get pigs to feed the better, but there is no need to strain for effect. It is important to have a creep reasonably adjacent to the pigling sleeping quarters and to have in that creep plenty of room. Little pigs are like little boys. They often have a nasty streak of bully. It is not when you are there and have just put down the food that it occurs, but in between whiles, and last thing at night, when perhaps the troughs are getting rather empty. I like dry feeders for young pigs, the sort where the pigs lift a hatch with their noses which protects the food from weather and rooks, but do be sure that you have ample room and have a few open troughs as well. You will find that the pigs prefer these, and I have a suspicion that the bullies come up behind a 'new chum' at the dry feeders and nip his leg, and if the 'new chum' is of a nervous disposition he rather avoids the dry feeders. I find that a dry feeder with seven feeding hatches is sufficient for twenty-eight piglings. This is important. One is apt to conclude that because for the matter of an hour or two the dry feeders are unused, one feeder will do thirty-five or forty pigs. But if you look, one or two pigs will be doing less well than the others.

The creep should contain the best straight foods you can buy. If the price is right, flake maize should be there as well as barley meal, and fish meal as well as meat and bone-meal. Don't forget the drink: creeped pigs drink a lot; a bucket to a bucket of meal in the winter is a fair ration, and in the summer more. There are other growth stimulants which I like, notably skim milk powder and cod liver oil. Both these foods give pigs a bloom. They help the skin to act, and they are available summer and winter. They should be used only from the ages of six to twelve weeks old, the period when the pig is growing faster than he can consume food to keep up his constitution, and when they have stopped they should be stopped over a period of fourteen days.

Now we come to the subject of dairy by-products, notably whey and skim milk. My advice to open-air pig-men in regard to whey is to proceed with caution. A gallon of whey, provided it is good whey (and who is to decide that, since there is no legal standard for whey?), is of the same feeding value as a pound of barley meal and is ten times as heavy. This is an important matter when food has to be hauled along tracks and headlands. The less pigs are encouraged to drink beyond their requirements the better. I think probably whey has a value of its own when fed in the sty which is not apparent under fresh air and fresh grazing conditions. I have never known pigs miss their whey under these conditions, provided other food was ample, and if I have got to buy I would prefer the food that the pigs liked to the one that was cheaper. These remarks naturally do not refer to the cheese-maker who has the whey to use. Under these circumstances I should reduce the meal and pour the whey on the dry meal in the troughs. I should use the dry feeders for high-protein food.

With regard to skim milk, there is no doubt that home-produced skim milk from unpasteurized milk is the finest animal protein obtainable. Probably it is the best young pig food one can possibly get. It is worth while any pig-man with his own dairy exploring the possibilities of a cream market. I must admit I have not used factory skim milk since the war, but I am told it has a constipating effect on pigs, sour though it is. This would seem to show that it has lost much of its merit with the various heat processes, and I can only recommend caution again. Do not for pity's sake undertake to use so many hundred gallons per week. Better far to begin by hauling small quantities yourself until you know how the pigs are going to absorb it. This is where money is lost in pig feeding. One buys large quantities of apparently cheap food, for one must take the quantity to get the cheapness. It is perishable and by the time it is used has lost much of its merit and may possibly be harmful.

These remarks apply also to the use of swill. Early in the war I instituted a swill round in one or two villages, but I found that it worked out at 80 per cent of cabbage stumps and potato peelings. However, if swill is available from army camps, hotels or restaurants on reasonable terms, do not neglect it. Remember the haulage of swill weighs very heavy, and the preparation is another snag, for one is obliged by law to cook it. Also do not forget that it is probably short of protein, so give the pigs their normal access to this. At the first pig farm I worked on, the swill used to come from some high-class London hotel, and always contained broken glass, sardine-tin openers and a spoon and fork or two. Never did I hear of a pig suffering from swallowing these; pigs are very careful what they allow into their mouths.

The normal foods which the farm can find for pigs are grass roots and grain. If grass is long enough for a cow to graze it is of little use to a pig. A pig will nibble off the clover leaves and the bottom grass, but cocksfoot and stalky ryegrass are anathema. With good grazing, sows will do with a couple of pounds of concentrates per day, but younger pigs cannot replace more than a pound of their concentrates with grass. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, on grass they must be, to keep them clear of mud, and when they go they will leave unsurpassable cattle keep.

I think roots are excellent food for pigs, provided they have adequate proteins. Dry sows will make a splendid job folding swedes and kale, but smaller pigs must have the roots hauled to them. Fodder beet, of course, is admirable for all pigs at all times, provided they have protein supplement and provided their dung keeps normal. If they become too loose, give additional meal; probably in this case 'sharps' would fill the bill. Use your eyes and your common sense and forget what your neighbour or his pig-man told you; there are no 'cans' or 'can'ts' in pig feeding, except what the pig tells you, and he must have good alternatives other than starvation. The normal and the best way to feed roots is to haul a load outside their pen and throw in so many shovelfuls per day. Hauling in a load at a time is possible after the middle of March when the roots have finished ripening and provided the pens are not too muddy. Mangold, of course, should not be fed until the end of January. Raw potatoes are an admirable pig food. In 1946 when the Ministry of Food had large stocks to dispose of I had five trucks delivered in one week. I dumped them loose in two-ton heaps and let the pigs help themselves. The pigs fouled them hardly at all and there was certainly far less wastage than if I had stored them at the farm and hauled a ration out each day. Normally, however, the right way to feed pigs potatoes is in the ground where they grow. Keep the pigs close behind the potato digger as they do not like green potatoes. They will clear what they see first and then will see what will turn up. So far I have never had to feed potatoes undug. If a crop is completely unmarketable I should advise moving the ground with the spinner, or a plough, so as to ease the pig's work a little. He will eat more potatoes and use less time and energy in their consumption which will in the end save you money.

Whole grain is not to be despised as a pig food but it needs careful feeding. It must always be scattered as one would poultry corn, on fresh ground every day. The corn that the pigs miss then takes root and grows, and a few weeks later they eat it in the form of a green shoot. It is worth while to throw a few sheaves of oats or wheat into your pig pens and next morning see how much has come through them whole. I will wager this will be little or none. The pig has to deal with each grain individually to get it out of the husk. You will notice I have made no mention of barley, because barley has awns which are apt to get into a pig's throat and inconvenience him. Anyone who has swallowed an awn while harvesting barley will know what I mean. Beans and peas are the best grain I know to allow pigs to combine. They miss absolutely nothing and if barley meal is on hand in dry feeders it will be found that while doing at top rate their consumption of barley meal is just about half normal. Last year I turned the pigs in to harvest some flat dredge corn. I gave them normal dry feeding and protein as I did not want to induce pigs, by hunger, to go burrowing into wet corn. I found I cut their meal consumption by half and this year there is no sign of self-sown corn.

In view of the fact that water is the heaviest haul I feed all pigs dry. This saves the labour entailed in mixing food. In summer or windy weather pigs appreciate a bucket of water poured on each bucket of meal. One trough should be reserved for water alone and it should be noted if at the next meal this is drunk dry and, if so, rather more water should be given. Taken by and large, a bucket of water to a bucket of meal is a fair ration for pigs except in summer, when they will probably drink twice that amount. Sows should be allowed to drink their fill twice per day and will probably drink five to six gallons in hot weather. The exception to this is when the sows are feeding potatoes and getting no meal at all, when the moisture from the potatoes will be sufficient for them. It is a waste of time to water pigs in the heat of a summer day. They will fight a lot and waste a lot. A better plan is to throw half a dozen buckets of water over them as they lie in the shade.

If one's pigs have reasonable grazing or roots to nibble at, it is not necessary to space one's feeding out to near-equal intervals. Pigs are wise animals and are not enthusiastic early risers. In hot weather the pigs want to be fed and settled down comfortably before the sun gets powerful. In normal weather the second feed may be reasonably early – about 3 p.m. – but it is a wise pig-man who slips back about six o'clock to look his pigs over. If pigs are going to break fences it will be in the evening, and the most usual cause is, I find, lack of water. On a really filthy morning don't go near your pigs until nine or ten; and then, if perhaps it has stopped raining and blowing for a little, give the pigs all they will eat and a bit more. If the weather has come back in the afternoon, then out in your sou'wester for a look and a listen but do not call the pigs out to feed: they are better where they are. Personally, I should half-fill the troughs before departing noiselessly. It is small points of this sort that make pigs do and which are very difficult to make part of a routine for an employee. That is why I recommend self-contained work in charge of one man, preferably a partner.

There is one natural food which I have not mentioned – acorns. If you have oaks in your wood, or your neighbour oaks in his park, don't forget the acorns. Your pigs certainly will not. Pigs like acorns as much as beans or maize, and if, in the autumn, you are worried by fence-breaking it is probably acorns the pigs are after. The only way to harvest acorns is to turn the pigs under the oak trees; do not for a moment consider getting your wife and children to pick them up, or the village children on a Saturday morning. While your pigs are grazing good acorns I should advise that you give them plain sharps as an additional food. If they are hungry they will eat it, but if the acorn crop is good, it may reduce your feeding bill considerably while it lasts.

Before finishing this chapter it might be wise to consider briefly the main principles of pig feeding in times of national emergency. At these times there is a hubbub of foolish talking so that cool thinking and wise action is necessary. There are two sorts of emergency – a slump and a war. Immediately a war is declared, feeding-stuffs disappear in a matter of days, and everyone tells everyone else to kill their pigs. The impulse that absorbs the feeding-stuffs also raises the price of pig-meat, so that it is wise to pack off everything that is saleable and concentrate on the sows and litters and new-weaned pigs. The national 'flap' will have made everyone almost uncomfortably conscious of their duties as citizens, and the wise man will start collecting kitchen waste from hotels, schools, boarding houses, etc., whilst everybody else is dithering. The one feeding pipe which must not choke is the high-protein one. There should not be much difficulty in assuring this if one visits the production point personally. Remember one must be less choosey. There is a prejudice against meat and bone-meal, so that it is probably the best line to pursue.

It is also well to remember that cows can and do produce reasonably on hay, especially if high-protein grass is stimulated with artificials, so that if cows are kept their concentrates allocation may be diverted to the pigs. Pigs do very nicely on dairy cubes. The long-term policy is to plan to step up one's own cereal production, and this the pioneer can do without having to worry as to the hows of harvesting. The pigs can and will harvest it themselves but, remember, go slow on barley: the awns have a choking effect. And when I say cereals, remember the home-grown protein beans and peas (winter beans in the autumn), and get them in early, in September if possible. Lime the land by hook or by crook if you suspect its acidity, but do not let this delay your sowing. If necessary, lime after sowing before the beans are up. Spring beans or peas in the spring. Beans stand up best and keep out of trouble. Peas are apt to rot in a weedy field, but peas can be sown up to the end of May.

A last look round

Don't worry much about roots and remember, particularly fodder beet, if it is not singled, is virtually useless. There will be plenty of breadcrumbs and potato peelings and probably surplus potatoes for six months in the year. Remember, by the by, that by statute kitchen waste must be boiled, and make arrangements for this to be carried out before the official mind has caught up with the flap, but don't leave your pigs starving until the boiler comes.

The second emergency is a slump, which many wiser men than me believe is just around the corner. In my opinion this slump is certain to come and the more eager the planning to avoid it the more severe it will be in the long run. The slump at any rate will knock the feeding-stuffs trade silly, and merchants will be anxious to serve men who keep their heads and have the situation under control. In my opinion the wise man will keep to his normal sales, being careful that everything be sells is top quality. Every week he sells pigs he will be wise to buy the same approximate number, provided, of course, that the stores market has slumped too. He is thus doing his individual best to steady the market and he is buying cheap stores to offset possible loss on his home-grown pigs. During a slump, opportunity should be taken of overhauling one's breeding stock and selling the elderly or the disappointing. Overhaul your methods and make sure that every pig is doing all the time and that the cultivation and manuring are giving their full value. Do not reduce your stock or activities; with minimum overheads and maximum returns for manure and cultivation, your production cost is bound to be lower than the sty-men.

Managing a Pioneer Herd

IT IS a human failing, I fear, this joy we all take in giving other people advice. The motive is usually good but the advice often deplorable. I therefore counsel pig pioneers to discourage cronies. People who tell you what you can and cannot do, what pigs will and will not eat – I have said elsewhere, and I repeat it, that nothing a pig eats voluntarily will ever harm him. See your pigs have the materials to give themselves a meat and veg. dinner and they will thrive. You alone know what the pigs are eating, what they were eating last week, what their dung was like yesterday, and you are the safest person to advise on how your own pigs are, so do not funk the responsibility. There are three things you should watch: the dung, the coats and the habits of your pigs. The dung is infinitely the most important. A pig's dung should be not unlike human dung, a pyramid need not worry you, a scour should be traced if possible to the individual pig, and undue constipation, producing dung like a race-horse, should act as a danger light. If all pigs in a batch are very loose I should advise you to give them meat and bone-meal fed in a separate trough. Meat and bone-meal has a costive effect. If constipation is general, introduce roots or apples into the ration. If these are not readily available, add a dessertspoonful of Epsom salts per pig to the drinking water. If all the pigs are normal but you suddenly find one very bad case of constipation, watch each pig with your eye until you find him. He will be slow out of the house, tend to isolate himself and come to the trough last. Probably he is running a high temperature.

My advice in such cases is to catch him and isolate him immediately, but give him two friends to share his house. This is most important. One must take the risk of its being something infectious. With properly-run open-air pigs it seldom is: a lone pig that is a sick pig quickly becomes a dead pig. He frets for his mates, he is nearly always cold, no one but the pig ever understands that a bunch of five or eight pigs can keep themselves ten times as warm as one pig. So remove three pigs, the sick one and two others, into a house filled almost from floor to roof with clean straw and leave them unfed for at least twenty-four hours. Next morning when you appear with some appetizing slops with a basis of milk and linseed oil, your invalid will feed. If he does not, it is because he has been ailing for a day or two longer and you have not noticed it.

I am now going to say a shocking thing: for goodness' sake don't send for the vet. Pigs are the worst possible patients for a vet. They cannot easily have their temperatures taken or be given medicine. The management routine of pigs is nothing like as standardized as that, for instance, of cows: so the vet is working in the dark and tends to fall back on his theoretical knowledge, hand out a fancy name and a box of pills and also, of course, a bill which, if the pig dies, as it probably will, will make it an expensive day for you, particularly as you are still completely in the dark as to why this thing has come upon you – or rather your pig.

The beginner will be wise to repeat to himself several times a day: there is no such thing as disease in pigs, there is only mismanagement. The statement needs qualification. I know all about swine fever and erysipelas, but both these diseases are, first and foremost, diseases of mismanagement. Personally, I think that inoculation against swine fever is wrong in principle as it gives the owner an unwarranted feeling of security, and whilst he may escape swine fever, there are the other diseases of mismanagement which his pigs may catch. Swine fever almost always makes its first appearance among newly-weaned pigs that have had a setback. First one dies and two more both look rather seedy. By the time the second two have died and the rest of the batch are on the sick list the disease has got a good hold and will probably end when the old boar dies. If pigs start dying after a day or two's sickness, send for the vet and arrange to send every pig that is healthy for slaughter at once. Inoculation at this stage is quite useless. There may be a danger in waiting until a report comes back from the Ministry. They have been known to return a negative report in spite of swine fever being present. Don't be dissuaded from your purpose. Remember, pound notes don't die from swine fever and turn all the pigs you can into pound notes.

Expensive mistakes

I must add one more point to this. Never sell ailing pigs or runts. If you sell them you may be making trouble for yourself and other people. If they go away and do well you would have done better to keep them; if they die you will certainly hear about it. A bad pig should always live or die with you. Then you get the experience and do not make the same mistake again. On a well-run pig farm no pig will die after it is four days old and the vet's bill will be under one pound per month.

The second point an owner should watch is the pig's coat. If pigs come out in the morning with muddy coats or, worse still, with steaming coats, something is seriously wrong. A heavy lack-lustre coat is usually a sign of scour, and dry scurfy coats mean constipation. Muddy coats in the morning, and steaming coats, invariably mean damp and cramped houses and insufficient bedding and the cure is obvious: extra straw and housing at once, please, before the midday siesta!

Watch your pigs for odd habits. If they dung around the edge of the pen it means that they are cramped in their pen and need more room. Watch where they graze and what they graze. Listen at feeding time. When pigs start to squeak at the first rattle of a bucket I am worried. They should not be as hungry as that. It means more food or more grazing. The sound of unrest in the pig pens after dark always requires investigation and action. It may mean hunger, but more probably insufficient housing and bedding in bad weather.

xii. The normal farm. Sows and litters get their noses with the couch (see plate I)

xiii. The normal farm. Winter oats following the couch

xiv. Swedes and kale. Another first crop on derelict land

xv. The normal farm. Dry sows folding off swedes and kale

Pigs grow so fast that they have a much larger than usual amount of respiration from the skin and are always getting rid of waste tissue. This causes the rubbing for which pigs are famous and which should be encouraged by the provision of a rubbing centre, such as an old mowing machine or horse hoe. At the same time there are skin diseases going the rounds of the pig farms which, from time to time – as, for instance, by the importation of a boar – may worry even the pioneer on his virgin ground. I am in favour of curing all skin troubles internally. It is well known, for instance, that cod liver oil and milk powder give newly-weaned pigs a lovely coat. These are the pigs that will suffer, and cod liver oil and milk powder are the best cure.

Pigs have a name for mischief. They certainly show humour and originality in their games, and I have known them rip a Willesdon canvas sheet in shreds because I believe they liked the tearing noise. But what most people mean by mischief is rooting with their noses, and here I contend the pig is far too wise to waste his time unnecessarily. A bunch of pigs may sometimes do a little nuzzling near a fence when they are planning an escapade and are wondering whether the wire is alive – a kind of council-of-war nuzzling. This is not deep or widespread. They will root if they require grit or dry earth. They will root (but only if they are very hungry) to get the nitrogen nodules from the roots of clover in winter. But, mainly, pigs root because the digestible vegetation is below the surface of the ground. Couch, for example, which is quite useless as stock food for cattle or sheep, is nuzzled out by pigs. Docks, again: pigs will literally go mining to get out an old dock, digging the earth away a foot around and going down a foot deep. This is about the cheapest method there is of cleaning an old pasture foul with these weeds.

I was taught and have always found that January and July are the best months for farrowing sows. Farrowed in January the piglings are weaned sometime in March when the weather is becoming springlike, and in July the piglings get a good start before the winter. On the other hand, I am inclined to think that June and December – which, with its rain and cold, is hard on the piglings – are the most profitable months. Hard stores are then available for the cheese-makers in April and, farrowing again in May and June, they are not really full value until there is an E in the month and pork butchers are interested. I know one farmer who farrows sixty or seventy sows in a period of a month or six weeks as others lamb their ewes. Every night he goes round with a torch and evens out the litters born that day. This he does with amazing success, using huts made of sisalcraft paper laid on strong wire netting. I must admit that I would never have the nerve to carry out such an experiment and prefer to have my sows coming in batches of four or five. This gives me an ideal batch of young pigs to run together.

When you wean, always move the sow and leave the little pigs in their home. As Stanley Welkin used to say, which of us children would not have done far better if, when schooldays came, our parents had been sent away and we had been left to absorb knowledge at home! Seriously, though, one has only to try the opposite plan and move the little pigs to realize the mistake. The piglings gallop around calling for their mother, refusing to be comforted and it only needs a cold storm or two to lay the foundations for pneumonia. When you wean the sows move them out of earshot of the piglings. Otherwise at feeding times the sows will call the piglings, and they will go through your careful fencing like bullets through cheese!

We have spent so many pages seeing pigs into the world, and watching them grow and thrive, that I think we may contemplate the art of selling them. First of all, you have got to select the pigs to sell. Make no mistake about it, I have found only too often drafting pigs requires time and planning. First of all, you must make a pen using eight or ten 7-ft. by 2 ft. 6 in. hurdles, nailed together in your spare time. The wood will cost you 3s. and it will take you twenty minutes to make one. If you buy them ready made they will cost 12s. each. Secondly, you must get your pigs used to the pen by feeding them or watering them in it for a day or two; and, best of all, by shutting them in it and handling them quietly in it. Range pigs sometimes get panic-stricken when first they find themselves close penned, and if this is twenty-four hours or so before you pen them for drafting so much the easier for the drafting. It is wise to move pigs when they are hungry and lead them with a bucket and some nuts, dropping a few every ten or twenty yards. An assistant following the pigs can keep them moving forward.

So we come to the 'when' and the 'how' to sell pigs. If you have black pigs you must either turn them into bacon weight and send them to the factory yourself, or else sell them at pork weight at a time when both pork and bacon men may want that class of pig, roughly speaking when there is an E in the month. I prefer to sell pigs at auction where quality plays its part rather than measurements only, but if this is done it is wise to arrange with the auctioneer to weigh the pigs on arrival so that you may be quite sure what you are being offered for them. If prices are bad and money is needed, it is no bad plan to reinvest a third of the selling price in more young pigs; which, of course, will be isolated and treated as potential sources of trouble. In this way you get some of the advantages as well as the disadvantages of a disappointing market.

One final word in this chapter. Pay great attention to your water supply and perpetually consider how you can get the greatest quantity at the lowest cost. I am thinking, for instance, of a hundred-gallon tank filling from a tap while the driver finds a job close by. He probably has to leave his job three or four times to see how his tank is filling, otherwise he returns at the end of an hour to find that the pipe has fallen out of the tank, which is still virtually empty. This sort of thing goes on where the boss is manager and not working – and do not let it enmesh you. Water troubles are at their minimum in winter, so winter is the time to plan for the following summer. If the only supply is from a tap, then for pity's sake instal a two- or three-hundred-gallon tank – an old oil tank will do – fitted with a two- or three-inch tap. Your supply tank can fill all night if necessary, but when you run your water cart into position in the morning it fills in a matter of minutes from the large taps. During the First World War I had the good fortune whilst stationed in Burma to go on a strategic march to the frontier of China. All our transport was on elephants and pack-ponies. We marched fifteen miles per day, and when we were in practice put up camp in fifteen minutes. That is the management idea I want to leave with you. As you drive a nail, or tie a string, say to yourself this has all to come down in a month; all is secure, but all is easily packed and moved. Comfortable enough for you to sleep there yourself. Mobility so that one man can move the pig camp, and two men can do it with enjoyment.

Pioneer Pigs on a Normal Holding

WE must admit, I think, that the pig has one besetting sin: complacency; and this can be, and often is, quite maddening. He knows what he likes, he knows where he would like to sleep and he is particularly partial to what one would call a family walk. On these occasions he finds a convenient fence-hole at about five or six o'clock on a Saturday or Sunday evenings and he and his cronies set off exactly in the spirit of a clique of boys. Provided they have been reasonably fed they will do little damage: rooting up potatoes and eating them is too much like hard work. They may nibble the leaves off mangold and fodder beet if they are young and succulent, but they will not go into standing corn, not on the first escape at any rate: they are afraid of losing themselves. They will pay great attention to banks and hedges as the pig is rather akin to the badger in his likes and dislikes. If no one reports them they will be at home waiting to be fed in the morning, and unless you find the fence current dead, or spot the hole, you may never realize they have been out at all. However, sooner or later you will hear, and the sooner the better. If you are confident that your pigs are not hungry, often the simplest plan is to leave them to their walk and be out early the next morning to mend the fence. Pigs always like to go home to sleep and they always like to return exactly the way they got out. To try and hunt them home your way is only courting hot tempers and wet shirts. In passing, it is possible to be insured against damage by one's stock when breaking fences. The premium is very reasonable, and it puts one in a delightful position as enraged neighbours are quite unable to bully one. They are paid fairly for the damage, not what they can twist with harsh words from a beginner!

One can understand that this trait of adventuring does not make the pig popular with the various farm departments, and the usual practice is to make one or two fields pig-proof and for the next fifty or hundred years the pig is allowed nowhere else. I remember the pig orchard on my uncle's farm, which was too rank to grow anything but ox-eye daisies and, of course, quantities of cider apples, which upset the pigs and were even in those days of little commercial value. My uncle was in the puritan tradition and was never quite easy in his conscience about cider-making. Nor would he allow it to become, as it was on most farms, the basis of farm co-operation and good fellowship. In those bad old days, if the weather should suddenly become perfect for haymaking on a Sunday, a barrel of cider moved with ceremony into the field solved all labour problems.

Besides the pig orchard, which secured all weaned pigs until they were shut up to fatten, there was a two-acre paddock with a shed in one corner for the dry sows. Under no circumstances were pigs allowed in any other field of the four-hundred-acre farm. Arable ground was equally sacrosanct – a few acres of one-year ley provided clover hay for the horses and ground on which one lambed the ewes. Ploughing up grass was as reprehensible as cashing the family heirlooms.

My uncle was the acknowledged leader of farming practice and etiquette in the 'nineties, but he had a rival famous for his epigrams, as well as being the terror of the boys of the village. One of his phobias was tidy farming. Whilst his ricks had to be just so, and his wood-pile tidy, he hated a yard without manure heaps, and he knew the value of an old cart or implement as a spare-part replacement supply. Benjamin H– was a shrewd old codger, and he was probably right: 'Tidy farming is a sure way to the bankruptcy court,' he used to say. At any rate it is certain that arable pig farming must aim more at the tidiness of the active-service camp than of the peace-time barracks. That old wagon, for instance, may be wanted one day to house a sow and litter or as a shelter for creep feeding. In any case the pigs will appreciate it as a rubbing centre. Rubbing centres are as important to pigs as hairdressers are for ladies, as is shown by the enthusiasm in finding the right point to rub a certain spot in a certain way. It is certainly a tidier proposition to dose your early grass acreage with artificials, but if a hundred stores are rung with pinch-in rings and moved carefully over the area, houses as well as troughs will make a more lasting job.

That spare wagon

One pedigree Jersey-herd owner who sells Devonshire cream and feeds the skim to his pigs, which is an ideal combination, considers that no ley should be fed by one type of stock only. Nothing but cattle is as bad as just one potato crop after another, in his opinion, and pigs follow the cows around the farm. He feeds whole oats with the concentrates to his cattle. These pass through them whole and the pigs snout for them in the dung and spread it free, thus preventing the coarse patches of so much pasture. Land grazed by horses for too long, as in studs and riding stables, gets tufty and full of docks – and again the pig is the answer.

This is, in fact, where I am striking out on a line completely my own. The manurial residue and cultivation value of a fifteen-sow unit, which means a population of one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty pigs all the time, is in the neighbourhood of £500 per annum. Sows are splendid scavengers and cultivators, but the stores are the boys to produce the goods. For their own good the stores must be fairly closely penned. A quarter to half an acre for thirty pigs is my rule. In this small area it is essential that they should be on grass so as to keep as clean and comfortable as possible. The heavy manure dressing that they will give can only be properly used as a preparation for roots or grazing. By all means put them on stubble, perhaps carrying some ryegrass, and prepare for a bumper root crop without any other dressing. But if you have yard or cow-stall manure, then I should let your sows, and sows and litters, prepare the root break and put your manure on in addition. Pigs have rather an affinity for horse or cow manure, and it can be put out before the pigs go on the ground, if that suits your book. If you can manage this you can then concentrate your store pigs on your pastures.

In January and February put your stores, carefully rung as I have said, on the fields scheduled for early grass. It depends on the size of the pigs, of course, but in regard to number I should run three or four pigs for every cow in your dairy herd that will be there in the spring. It is a good plan to build a hurdle race, as I have described elsewhere, not only for drafting pigs for sale, but also for catching and re-ringing any rooting offender. If you want your pastures to be well done you must expect to give your pig-man help at this time, just as the shepherd is helped out at lambing. All houses should be moved at least fortnightly, troughs usually daily. After the early pastures come the dud pastures that, under normal farming practice, would be ploughed and reseeded. I do not wish to be dogmatic, but I believe you will find that a bunch of stores – fifty pigs per acre per month, unrung this time, please – will save you the cost of ploughing and cultivation and probably half the cost of seed. If there is a possible lime deficiency I should advise liming in February before the pigs take possession, and when the growing weather comes, in March and early April, I should act on my observations. I expect you will find that where the pigs have grazed rather than rooted there is good grass. I should put the harrows or chain harrows over the whole field and reseed the rooted portion as you or you and your seedsman think wise.

By this time your stores can go back to the early pastures. Much has been written on the technique of modern grassland management, strip grazing, never allowing grass to get tough, and the like. I am inclined to think that the only party that has not been consulted is the grass, and that the grass is not at all happy. Especially is this so if the grazing is by an outstanding dairy herd. When the grass is at its most succulent it is probably at its weakest. Young people or young animals at their pre-maturity stage are notoriously 'brittle', especially if they have been forced, and this grass has been forced. All that is returned to the soil is what the cow can spare when she has manufactured a hundredweight of milk and kept her body and soul together. Is it surprising that these leys are not yielding or recovering after grazing as they should? The pasture has no bottom. It has an unhealthy yellow tinge when the cows leave it, set off by almost ominous dark patches where there has been a small concentration of dung. The old 'uns used to say: 'To make a pasture breaks a man', and it seems unlikely that a seeds mixture and the manure bag have altered this completely. On the other hand, I believe the pig with his rich and abundant manure is the right partner for the dairy cow. The partnership is the happier by the fact that cows graze with enthusiasm after the pigs. Finally, there is nothing that promotes clover and bottom to pasture like the pig.

For a simple, satisfying job, give me the care of in-pig sows. They can and will find a lot of their own keep for six months of the year. They will lie happily on a heap of straw with no roof over their heads, and their fencing is simple. So far as feeding is concerned, if there are potatoes either for the finding or tipped raw in a heap, or fodder-beet tops, the sows can be trusted to take their ration without making pigs of themselves, provided – and this is an important provision – they have a dry feeder containing meat and bone-meal or some other meat or fish-meal preparation. I put meat and bone-meal first because pigs will seldom take more than the requirements of their health and that of the family inside, but fish-meal might eat rather a hole in your pocket. One point to guard against in meat and bone-meal is that it should not be too salt, and if possible avoid m & b from a bacon factory. Fed in this way, sows are active, litters are strong, and the sow enjoys her cereal ration which she gets when suckling. I am inclined to think that fodder beet is better rationed as the sows would get too fat if fed ad lib. Dry sows will make a capital job of swedes or kale, and again, in this case, a dry feeder with meat and bone-meal is all the outside help they need.

One more point: sows fed on an abundance of roots require no water to drink, but in a hot August, when clearing potatoes, they like a mud bath.

It sometimes happens that a sow farrows unexpectedly when running with the dry sows, and it is neither convenient nor wise to move her for a few days. It is certainly unfair to expect her to rustle for potatoes, and the problem is how to feed her by herself. It is a good plan to run a double live wire around her with an opening a yard wide at one corner. Feed her and give her a drink at the furthest corner from the opening. The dry sows will all gather around this end, envying her and daring one another to gate-crash, but they will not think of walking around and looking for an opening. The mother when she has finished her meal will walk around methodically until she finds an opening. Care must be taken that the other sows do not follow the mother into the feeding pen. If they do this the position of the opening must be changed. In fencing large fields, especially for sows and litters, it is often unnecessary to fence the whole perimeter of the field. The entrance gate and the entrance side and corners should have close attention. Other gates or gaps should be ostentatiously blocked, but the electric fencing may wait until the sows err.

Sows and litters are a kind of half-way house between dry sows and stores. They are particularly suitable for stubbling, because for the first fourteen days they will wander very little, and the grain on the ground is tempting even for piglings. For such a job old wagons drawn up in the shelter of a hedge – and be sure that it shelters from the S.W. – are invaluable. The house and the rubbing post are combined, sows prefer them to any other sort of hut. Apart from stubbling, do not let your sows have too much roaming room in their paddock. Piglings should not be expected or encouraged to be out in the rain long, and if they are caught by a storm at the far end of a four-acre paddock it is a long way home. I should expect to find sows and litters in the winter on the root break, either stubble or a ley due to be ploughed. On these one may be fairly sure of dry lying and also there is less moving about than the stores are subjected to. Piglings are like children, they hate moving house.

One last point about water. I used to think that water-hauling was to be reduced to a minimum and planning that would avoid water-hauling was bound to be good. However, I think the facts are these. In hot weather if pigs have insufficient water, both to drink and to play with, they will break fences and look for it. In hot weather, then, it is paramount. In normal weather small pigs will drink far more than you expect – a gallon twice daily is not too high an estimate. Once the water is loaded it takes little time to get it to the pigs. I find that fifty-gallon oil drums, with one end cut out and used as a movable top, lined with old bags, are admirable, and a good measure to ensure how much water you are leaving at each pen. The problem is to get those drums filled. It is your problem, but away down at the bottom of the list of possibilities is a pond and a bucket to dip out with.

You Like Pigs?

OF COURSE you like pigs if you have waded all through this book. You will have done so either because you will be trying to catch me out, or because you have captured my enthusiasm. I am by nature obstinate and haphazard: more kindly, these failings may be termed tenacity and a love of adventure. If I had followed other people's advice I should have conformed to the accepted rules of farming, or climbed out on the bank with my finances unimpaired years ago. Instead, I have kept my nose to the grindstone so that often I have been unable to see money slipping away to right and left, but what I have learnt about pigs has been drilled into me mostly in mud and wind and rain, and I have proved it true. True in the main principle that the pig is naturally healthy, wise and thrifty, give him his chance!

Personally, I have an inherent mistrust of costings. It is stated, for example, that the Danes can produce bacon far cheaper than we can, but who exactly are 'we'? Is it perhaps that a few leading farmers who have long been producing pigs by the thousand have forgotten the word economy and know, incidentally, that it is unwise to appear prosperous? It seems to me to be reasonable to argue that if one's housing costs are reduced from £10 per pig to 10s. [£0.5], and if the manure instead of being a liability for infection becomes a priceless asset, one may expect to be producing pig-meat profitably when others are gasping.

At any rate, let us have a little play with figures. One must start somewhere, and I suggest a reasonable depreciation charge to place on a sow per litter is £1. Her food for 112 days at 1s. per day will be £5 12s., or in rough figures the cost of a new-born pigling is £1 3s. Cost of food for the suckling sow at 3d. per lb. (she is only rearing six pigs, so 6 lb. is sufficient); 1s. 6d. per day for eight weeks is £4 4s., or 14s. per pigling; add 14 lb. for creep feeding, 3s. 6d., making 17s. 6d. in all. Cut out the sixpence, which is a nuisance, and add that to the £1 3s., and the cost of an eight-weeks-old pig in food alone is £2. It may be argued that 3d. a lb. is too low, but barley meal costs considerably less, and the high-protein supplement, even if fed as I suggest, ad lib, will not bring the cost appreciably above 3d. per lb.

Cost of weaned pig is
4 weeks at 2-1/2lb. per day at 3d. per lb.
4 weeks at 3-1/2lb. per day at 3d. per lb.
4 weeks at 4-1/2lb. per day at 3d. per lb.
8 weeks at 5lb. per day at 3d. per lb.
Cost of pig at 7 months old, in food
Add 7 bales of straw at 2s. 6d.

Seven bales of straw works out at a bale of straw nearly every day for a family of twenty-eight pigs. That is to say, the present cost of a seven-months' pig in feeding-stuffs is a shade off £10. Your capital equipment, such as I have outlined, would not be more than £500, depreciation at 10 per cent, say 10s. per pig. There remains your labour cost – your own labour. It was an old-established costing practice to put the cost of labour against the value of the manure, but in this case the manure is the most valuable known to man, quite double that of cattle manure, and at least one-third of the labour time will be spent not in tending the pigs, but in improving the capital value of the holding: making houses or pig troughs (strong wooden troughs will be found serviceable and the pig will not gnaw them to pieces).

These figures, like all figures, are going to vary, and get me into trouble with people who know differently and have not kept pigs this way. By keeping his pigs rooting and grunting and growing, instead of clocking up interest on loans and depreciation in expensive buildings and gadgets, the pioneer pig keeper is going to make money for himself, whatever happens to markets, especially if he has an eye on them and buys weaners when they are cheap. He has no worry as to where he can put them, he can knock up a house and pen in a couple of hours. His overheads are low, his pig vitality is high, and with the unseen bonus of capital gain on reclaimed land, he is on an easy wicket, provided his management is sound – that is the big proviso.

You young enthusiasts teeming out of the agricultural colleges with a great big longing to farm: this may sound good to you, and it can be good for you, provided you have the guts. If you have, there are probably a handful of industries who would buy you with good money, comfort and ease, and you will indeed be exceptional if you still desire to make your own farm. Are you weatherproof? Do you instinctively agree with everyone who growls about the weather? If you do, put pig pioneering out of your mind.

To be a successful pig pioneer you must either laugh at the weather, even at its vilest – because in spite of it your pigs are warm and comfortable – or else you must smile with it because it is not raining or freezing, and you can get on with the work. Then you must have horse sense. Take any farm periodical and observe what you are recommended to buy for your pigs and what it would cost you. Be very interested in foods and medicines, be suspicious of everyone who offers you profits from buying something – it is what you do not buy that counts. The golden rule is ask the pig. Usually you will find that the pig prefers the home-made and the home-grown to the factory product. If he does not, it will be economical to improve your home production. Lastly, you must be chore-minded. On the whole, you must prefer messing about with the car or breaking a colt or making a chicken house to going to the flicks, sipping beer or attending a lecture. Mind you, I am all for fun occasionally, and pigs are certainly less punctilious in their demands than dairy cattle. No doubt you have attended youth rallies, pony club do's, and the like. Have you ever been to a steeplechase meeting? Saturday afternoon show jumping simply won't do in this pig pioneering racket. It is a steeplechase in which you sweep on, taking your jumps as they come, and your reward at the end is to find yourself ten years younger in mind and physique than your contemporaries clothed in gloves and overcoats.

On the whole, I think the most likely people to find success are ex-service men in their forties and early fifties. Especially if they have been grounded in the tradition that the comfort of the troops comes first. I find youth, in this scientific age, on the whole, shockingly flabby. I base this observation on their behaviour with the electric fence. In the old days, when public-school tradition demanded that the day started with cold baths, at any rate for the fags, it might have been easier to persuade a lad to 'take the plunge' of testing the fence. Now the bulk of them do it once or twice and after that they lie about it, but they look so sheepish I seldom have the heart to bring them to book. Older men are tougher, and – I say it in all seriousness – if you are not prepared to get the same satisfaction from a hot fence that you might expect from a cold bath, don't experiment in pioneering with pigs.

More exciting than picking locks

I have laid it down in an earlier chapter that this is not the kind of show for big finance, and in the main that is true. I can think of no surer road to the bankruptcy court than trying to reclaim a thousand acres with three hundred sows and a staff of fifteen or twenty. But there is an alternative: that big business should start a chain of small pig projects on a derelict estate, taking their profit mainly from the value of the land reclamation and providing capital on generous terms to the various projects. In this way the risk of disease would be minimized and a wastrel would soon be spotted and moved before he had lost much money, whilst the value of companionship and mutual help would be great. Personally, I believe that the man with sufficient capital to start on his own would be well advised to have in his mind as a goal a fifty-acre holding growing good grass equipped with a house, a garage, and a shed or two.

This is exactly what a great many people are looking for in the Home Counties, and as there are so few farms of this size it has a scarcity value and no lack of buyers. The cash difference between the original cost of waste land and the sale price is going to vary, but it is going to be enough to give you a good start on the land where you want to go. The cost of the new land should bear a close relation to your sale price.

The reward you get for hard work and living like a pioneer with your pigs depends on a number of considerations, all of which need to be considered in choosing your site. Electricity, water mains, sewage mains, all in the road, put up land values. Get your land cheap because it is derelict woodland, but with these facilities, and it is worth money even without a house on it. As soon as you get a house on your land, up goes the value with a bound. The wise man would see an architect and get his plans passed before he saw a tractor salesman, for the house puts up the value of the whole fifty acres. As we saw earlier, £10 per acre and a two-roomed shack, add £1,500 worth of a house, via building society mortgage, and the whole area becomes a farm selling at the current price. Let the next man lash out into pig palaces and milking parlours; take your reward in having carved good land for England out of a wilderness. Take your time and think ahead; put a two-room shack on it yourself, and it limits the market, so don't go in for the makeshift. You will be surprised how easily you can get a house started up, when you can count on selling to clear the debt. Of course, you may get so attached to your holding that fifty acres will become a hundred, and a hundred three hundred, and the pigs will save your artificial bill, and you will own one of the cleanest and most fertile farms of the neighbourhood.

How, then, do you cash the increased value as capital gain: for example, to build yourself up a dairy herd? Go and see the bank manager who by now should be an old friend. Either you can raise a mortgage on the land, if you have not piled too much on already, which with hard work and spending little you should not, or you might sell to someone for an investment and become a tenant farmer with all the protection of the law which prevented you from taking a tenancy in the first place. The universities who never have to pay death duties are sometimes willing to become landlords.

Let us give the banks, our banks, our country banks, good advice. It will be a nice change. Have you got one or two farms whose mortgages you hold? The farmers are under-capitalized and rather dumb or lazy and the farms are going downhill. Cannot you find from the agricultural colleges or the retired officer association a candidate or two for pig pioneering? Could you not cover his feeding-stuffs bill until he begins to sell pigs? It would pay you, and the value of the land would increase out of all knowledge – virtually your land!

When my father went to the Falkland Isles back in 1870 there were still to be found wild-pig descendants of pigs imported by the Spaniards a hundred and fifty years before. These pigs had existed on these windy, wet and unsuitable isles mainly on sheep carcasses. They used to make themselves huge heaps of tussocky grass as shelters. The Spaniards were no fools, where colonization was concerned, and one wonders whether our own Colonial Office would not find it more effective, and far cheaper, to let pigs sometimes prospect and prescribe instead of sending out royal commissions. Africa is a case in point, beset as it is by problems such as locusts and tsetse fly. It is usually the case that at some particular stage in their development these scourges are easily destroyed by birds or some other animal. I would like to see attached to agricultural institutes and mission schools teams of natives with their packs of thirty or forty pigs distributed in different environments just watching what they ate, and what they enjoyed, and reporting. This would be science and not profit-making, and I should not expect the pigs to subsist on just what they picked up, but I cannot see why we should assume that only Africans who can attain distinction educationally are worth noting or trying to work with when we know among our own people there is a wisdom quite distinct from book learning.

Russia, China and India are all countries with ill-fed, rapidly increasing masses, where the promotion of the pig might play as important a part as the introduction of the potato did in the West four hundred years ago. It is true that the pig inclines to compete with the human in the consumption of cereals, but the jungles might well provide other things besides fruit, upon which the pig would thrive. Russia with its pioneer spirit, demonstrated in the lead given in artificial insemination, is most likely to give the lead here.

However, we are not going pig farming in Russia or Africa, but in England, and it is well to note that all prices drop the farther we get from London. As I said before, cattle at Reading usually sell better than cattle at Yeovil, and at Yeovil we usually make higher prices than at Exeter. Therefore, you will be well advised to start your farms in the Home Counties. Sell your pigs as well as you can, when you can, but all the time remember: failure, if it comes, will come from your incompetence and not from price debacles. The ball is yours!

The man is mad, you see

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