The Great Pig Experience

Today I have a guest post from Chris! He went on a pig-keeping course at the weekend and here’s what he has to say about it.

As visitors to our gite and fishing lakes will be aware, we are building up an old style farm with a selection of animals. OK, they didn’t have llamas on an old fashioned farm but that is another story). Currently we have llamas, alpacas, sheep, turkeys and  chickens and pets such as a dog, some cats and guinea pigs. Now we are planning to expand into old breed pigs. In preparation for this I attended a pig experience day held in Poitou-Charente by David  and Lorraine at Le Logis old breeds farm ( Before this course I hadn’t been closer to a pig than the supermarket meat counter!

Berkshire pigs

It was an old fashioned drive across France. I say old fashioned because the centre of France has no east-west motorways, so it was a case of travelling from town to town like England in the 1960s. It took 3 ½ hours to drive 150Km west to Poitiers and then 30 minutes to drive the last 60km south on the motorway to arrive at the pretty Charentais farm. After coffee and introductions we went out to get hands-on experience, starting with feeding and maintenance. We tiptoed past one of the farrowing stalls where one of the sows had given birth to a litter the previous night. Lorraine explained how critical the first 24 hours were to the welfare of the new litter and Mum can be very touchy.

We first met the Berkshire pigs that Le Logis is becoming famous for and it was immediately obvious that these animals were a cut above any farm animals I’d met up to now.  The pig is rated the 4th most intelligent in the animal kingdom, only behind chimps, dolphins and elephants. The Berkshires trotted over to greet us, vocalizing amiably (it would be an understatement to just say grunting like in a childrens story). They tucked into their food and played around with the buckets afterwards. Lorraine explained that they loved to play with toys and that an overweight pig could be slimmed down with a toy that had some treats concealed within.

We topped up their shelters with straw and I was amazed at how clean and tidy they kept their sleeping quarters. I know some teenagers who could learn a thing or two from them (mentioning no names).

Gloucester Old Spots

Lorraine talked us through the various breeds that they have at the farm, not just Berkshires but Gloucester old spots and the rather fetching Oxford Sandy and Black, also known as the Plum Pudding pig!

All too soon it was time to drive back to Notaire’s but with plenty of time for planning where to raise the pigs; in the wooded section below the house lake where they could have a very naturalized life or should we use them to turn over the cereal field next to house where we could spend more time with them. Watch this space and I will keep you posted on our progress.


Rounding up an escapee

0 Replies to “The Great Pig Experience”

  1. This sounds like a lovely project. A friend of mine here in the Dominican Republic raises pigs and it is always lovely to see all the little piglets. The main issue she has though is with the cost of food which is very expensive. Apparently there is a root vegetable here called a yautia (which has no translation) and there is a pig variety you can grow which they love and keeps the cost of feeding down. Am looking forward to hearing your progress reports.

  2. Thanks for writing about the pig-keeping course, Chris. I was intrigued when Steph mentioned it and am happy that we got to hear about it from you.

    Not that I get a vote in the matter, but I would be tempted to keep the pigs close to the house so that you can interact with them more. It reminds me of George Clooney who had a pot-bellied pig as a pet for 18 years.

    I love that first photo of the Berkshire pigs.

    1. Yes, we’ve decided on keeping the pigs in the closest field. Chris said how friendly they were, and came over for a chat as soon as they see you. We’re hoping to get Berkshires, and maybe some Gloucesters, but it will depend on what we can get hold of fairly close by.

  3. I’ll go along with it … the pig is 4th brightest after chimps, dolphins and elephants. As another member of the animal kingdom, I can’t begin to guess how far down the list we are!

    1. 🙂
      The rest of my animals are right at the bottom of the list. Llamas and alpacas are great but definitely not bright. The goats and sheep are even thicker, and as for the rabbits and guinea pigs … not even on the scale! We have a border collie but she’s never got beyond sit or stay, let alone close to rounding up sheep through gates!
      The chickens are the brightest critters here!

    1. The ones Chris saw were happy free range pigs, and so will ours be. Obviously intensive rearing calls for different measures, such as sow stalls, but you have to hope that animal welfare is taken into consideration.

  4. You are going to raise more animals? For food? I am naive when it comes to doing what you’re doing. As you know I lived in Paris and now that I’m older, I feel like returning to my roots. Just watched a program about houses in Normandy and I said, “I speak fluent French, why don’t we get a small house in Normandy.” My husband likes the idea.

    1. It isn’t cheaper to grow your own pork but it’s better for the pigs and for the meat if they’re not intensively reared. We’re really looking forward to getting our pigs.

  5. It’s not as cheap as the intensively reared pork that you find at the supermarket but I don’t think that it will cost out as a luxury item either.

    Sonia; part of our reasoning for moving to the center of France was to avoid England-sur-mer!

  6. Interesting post, Chris. Some people round here have been reviving old breeds of French pig and I’m told – although I haven’t tried the meat yet – that it is excellent. A far cry from the shrink-wrapped stuff tasting vaguely of fish that you find in the supermarket.

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