Saturday, August 20, 2011

The valley the sun forgot.

I have a confession to make; I lied on my census form. When coming to the religion question, I ticked no religion but that is no longer true; after the last four weeks I have discovered that I am a devotee of Ra the sun god. 

The weather has been cloudy and foggy with lots of rain, cloudy and foggy with a little rain or cloudy and foggy with no rain. Everything is wet, the pigs walk through four inches of mud as they come and go from the stables, the chooks and geese have puddled the ground where they stand and wait for us every evening and the garage is full of wet clothes.  The days are getting longer, spring is coming but the sun stays hidden. Some days seem to hold a glimmer of hope for the sun to break through but they come to naught. When I got up this morning I was stunned –light high cloud and no fog. Was the sun to reappear today? No such luck, by eight o’clock the fog had descended like a wet blanket over the valley.
I have heard that some historical evidence points to the suspicion that some time in the distant past the sun may have illuminated the valley and the people basked in the warmth. Doesn’t seem likely.
Must go now. I have to build a temple and make a sacrifice to Ra the Sun God and coax him into appearance.

A thousand feet down we are lost in the fog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tamworth Pigs

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” 
Winston Churchill.

We have just picked up some more pigs, four registered Tamworths, three sows and a boar. They travelled over from Victoria and these will form the nucleus of our second breeding herd. We met the truck at Sulphur Creek and bought them home in our trailer. It was not a great introduction to Tasmania; the wind was strong enough to blow the fleas off a dog’s arse, and cold driving rain. These pigs were originally due to arrive six or seven weeks ago but a combination of bad weather, difficulties with transport and me disappearing back to Australia for work put them on hold for a little while. They are about 9 months old and in pig so we should have our first piglets ready for Christmas dinner. Suckling pig. Yummy - should go well with goose. (just kidding)

Cold and wet

In comparison to our robust boisterous Saddlebacks, the Tamworths could almost be described as delicate. They have a very long straight snout and narrow head with a lean body.  They are an orange-gold colour and like most original breeds they are excellent foragers and really require an outdoor environment. The boar is “Fergal”, a good Irish name befitting a pig with Irish ancestry, and I have no doubt the sows will be named in turn. Comes back to the unwritten law – you can’t eat any animal that has a name.

Leven River Farm must be a bit of a culture shock for these pigs, they have been raised indoors in a shed, drinking from a nipple, feeding from an automatic chute, never wallowing in the mud or rooting through the grass. They have taken to their new life with gusto, lying in the grass, ripping up paddock and generally having a good time. They are very quiet and reserved, nowhere near as vocal or boisterous as our Saddlebacks but I am sure that will change as they settle in and feel more at home. 


I have noticed that people who keep rare breeds have a real passion for their animals and their welfare. I think this comes from the fact that the prime motivation for keeping rare breeds is never money; these breeds are rare because they failed that critical test of highest possible economic returns. There are plenty of animals that grow quicker, breed more prolifically and have better feed conversion ratios. I think people persist because they appreciate the intrinsic value of these old breeds. Me - I just like pigs.

Getting to know the neighbours.

The Tamworth pig breed originated in Sir Robert Peel's Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire, after the existing herd was interbred with pigs from Ireland known as 'Irish Grazers', that Peel had seen in Ireland in 1809. The breed appears among the least interbred with non-European breeds, and therefore one of the closest to the original European forest swine. They are a baconer pig and have a much leaner carcass than the Wessex Saddleback. They typically have small litters of six to ten piglets, which limits their appeal to commercial producers. They are very good mothers with a very high piglet survival rate.

We have had some difficulty in locating an unrelated boar for our saddleback sows, which is compounded by the fact that the bloodlines of our sows are clouded in some mystery. They are Dominator sired with some conjecture on the dam. I was thinking of joining them with the Tamworth boar but have been offered a suitably unrelated registered Wessex Saddleback boar in Victoria.
The new boar is of a Pilot- Beatrice bloodline and we have already christened him Horatio. I don’t know why but it just seems a fitting name for a saddleback boar.   He was going to travel over with the Tamworths but heavy rain around Gippsland has delayed his arrival for a couple of weeks.  Next a couple of registered Wessex Saddleback sows and our pig herd will be complete. Or maybe not; did I just hear a whisper about some Large Blacks that may be looking for a new home?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wallaby Fencing

We have completed wallaby fencing our top boundary. Our farm was the final link in a fence stretching for many kilometres that separates valuable pasture from the bush and forestry that occupies the high country to our west.
Wallaby Fencing. The final link.

The wallabies had been pouring in from the bush at night and stripping large areas of our top paddock bare. The case for wallaby fencing was overwhelming. Trials in four areas of Tasmania have defined the losses of farm animal productivity due to competing native animals. These trials showed that properly installed wallaby proof fencing is effective and over 35% more livestock can be carried.
The loss of productivity on unfenced pastures was again confirmed in a recent University of Tasmania study. It concluded that wildlife were taking 40% of available grazing on the 2100-hectare property. Exclusion fencing trials with wallaby wire again proved to be very effective in keeping wallabies from pasture.

Wallaby fencing is not a silver bullet; it requires regular inspections and maintenance to prevent wallabies coming through under the fence. One only has to look at the bush side of our fence to appreciate the number of wallabies coming out at night looking for an easy feed.

Wallabies are churning the soil to slush as they try to get an easy feed.

Of course Tasmania has a dark side, another option to control native animals, an option that is outlawed in the rest of Australia and the entire civilised world.
1080 poison.
Supporters of 1080 continually regurgitate the oft-quoted myth about the cost of wallaby fencing being prohibitively expensive for Tasmanian producers. This is a nonsense argument. The high carrying capacity of Tasmanian pastoral land with stocking rates sometimes in excess of one beast to the acre means that the cost of fencing per livestock unit is some of the cheapest in Australia. Lazy incompetent property management is instead propped up with publicly subsidised 1080 poison.

That anyone could still support the use of 1080 poison to control native animals such as the Bennett's Wallaby, Pademelons and Possums given the effective alternatives defies belief. The fact that this practice is still legal is proof enough that Tasmanian politicians are morally and ethically bankrupt.
Nothing that Tasmanians don’t already know.