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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Performance Review: the Tamworth Two


One collar stays on Lacey, Cagney gives her collar the slip on a weekly basis ... says she's working undercover

So, Cagney and Lacey, the mother and daughter Tamworth pig team, have been on the job for 3 months now and I have to say, they seem to be loving it. They are sleeker, and consequently faster, than when they first arrived. I am guessing that having to seriously forage for their own food has meant that they are exercising more than they have ever done before. And my goodness, they dig up a lot of ground in search of food! I recruited Tamworth pigs as they are the closest old breed to wild boar, known for being hardy and good at finding food in the wild.


Before they arrived, I walked the boundary fence and identified areas of weakness which were then fixed by Richard, a local contractor. Still concerned, I also got Richard to create a one hectare “home” patch from them, securely fenced and including pasture, woodland and, of course, a source of water (in fact two … a spring produces a flow which is backed up with a trough). This was meant as a back-up in case my vision of them roaming more freely on the land proved escape prone.


A few weeks after arrival I took the Tamworths out to the west of the farm and gave them the run of three (now extended to five) fields and a water trough. I also found an electronic tracker to use, from www.digitanimal.co.uk. The NoFence collars I use with the cattle (which acts as a tracker and virtual electric fence ... see blog 8 October 2021 No fences? Tracking and collars for the Galloways (cefngarthenor.co.uk)) are not licenced for use on pigs, so I had to find an alternative. Pigs are not the best of shapes for a collar as their necks size is not so different from their head size. Cagney’s collar just won’t stay on, but Lacey’s seems OK and as they stick together it kind of works.


Why do I need to track them? Well, I’d like to let them have a fair bit of freedom so that they tackle the land in as natural a way as possible. However, Judi, Sasha or one of the team from my neighbouring pig sanctuary need to find them to check them daily when I’m not around. The tracker saves a lot of time and, if there is an escape, will make finding them much easier. And, like NoFence, all on a phone app.

In theory the app gives a position every 30 minutes, but in reality it is more patchy and only accurate to 150m

The result? Two successful escapes … but they are reasonable and only use the gates. The first was straight forward … I think vigorous scratching resulted in the bailer twine securing the gate giving way. The second was cunning and not obvious. I saw on the app that they’d got into the next field. Judi and Sasha went to retrieve them but could not work out how they’d done it … the gate was shut and tied securely, and the fences were all good. Only when Judi climbed the gate for a better view did the method become clear. Cagney and Lacey had created a pig flap … see video for demonstration.



Putting the escapes to one side, what have they actually achieved in terms of work? Well, they have ploughed up a fair bit. But not in a trash and muddy up the whole field kind of a way. This is what of course you see when you look at outdoor reared pigs destined for the abattoir and is what happens if you put a lot of pigs in a limited space. But at Cefn Garthenor they have the luxury of space and this seems to make them more selective. They will get very excited about a particular patch and give it a good going over, presumably having found a rich seam of tasty roots and invertebrate nibbles. Other areas get an exploratory root, exposing a bit of bare earth, but that is it. This creates a mosaic in a field, with plenty of grass, rush etc remaining, but also disturbed soil and bare earth which will give lots of opportunity for other plants and insects to thrive.


The red dashed area is where the pigs have been working ... you can see what they have ploughed up
Looking directly down on an area (right more zoomed in) you can see they are selective in their rootling

The pigs have created bare earth giving buried seeds and new plants a chance, as well small pools bringing new insect life

I’ll be very excited to see what develops in these areas they have dealt with over time. It was a bit of a guess as to how many pigs to get. Two allows for company without going over the top. The view at Knepp is that a Tamworth can plough about 40 acres a year. Cefn Garthenor has 210 acres, so on that basis I’m hoping I’ve got a decent balance … time will tell!

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1 Comment


juliearichard
Jan 17, 2023

Smashing pigs, I love them and hopefully will meet them in February.

julie

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