Stuart started pig breeding six years ago after attending a show and selecting the pedigree Saddleback as his breed of choice. Stuart comments: ‘They have a very striking look with their distinctive black body and white saddle which includes both fore legs. I knew this was the breed for me and I now have six sows producing around 140 piglets a year.’
Stuart and his son Elliott select the best examples of the breed from their litters each year which they then put forward to show. ‘Faith’ is this year’s star GILT having recently been crowned class champion at both the Royal Isle of Wight County Show and in the January class at the Bath and West. And for the first time, Stuart entered one of his Sows with ‘Eve’ being crowned Champion Sow at the Royal Isle of Wight County Show.
Commenting on how he starts preparing for shows, Stuart explains: “Show preparation gets underway from when the piglets are born, and nutrition is the most important factor. We start our piglets on the Farmgate Pig Rearer diet which is mixed into the sows feed until they are around a month old. This gets them used to the feed, so they are ready for weaning then when they are about 4½ months old and are a good size, then they take the Farmgate Sow and Weaner range. We never have any problems with weaning - our pigs thrive on these diets.”
High-quality nutrition is only effective when supported by environmental factors encouraging happy, healthy and show-ready pigs. Stuart continues: “My pigs love their mud wallow, it keeps them stimulated, entertained and cool in the heat. We are lucky to have a shady area with lots of trees so they can take shelter. Fresh water is also crucial to maintain a healthy environment – they love having their trough water changed and will bury their heads in it!”
Supporting your pig’s health, growth and wellbeing will stand them in the best stead when they reach show day. Depending on the breed of pigs, judges will be looking for different attributes. An award-winning Saddleback should have good legs to spread and hold their weight; a good top line; a well-placed udder (nicely spaced for their piglets to feed properly); ears that face forwards, almost touching; and a good ham to hock.
When asked what advice he would give to someone starting out with pig showing, Stuart says: “If you are interested in showing pigs I would always say go to a few shows and speak to people that are currently doing it, they will give you the best advice. Selecting a breed is personal preference but when you see them in the flesh one will really stand out to you.”