Thursday 19 September 2019

Goodbye Ermine

Ermine was the eldest of our breeding sow’s, a pedigree British Saddleback with a long back. She gave us one litter but then subsequently failed to get pregnant. We concluded she must have become infertile. With pigs this will almost certainly be the case if there is too long a gap since their last pregnancy. An annual litter is perhaps the most you might get away with.

Keeping an adult pig with no return is an expensive business (none of our livestock are kept as pets) so, alas, it was time for her to go. 

Our usual abattoir, small and friendly, has closed down, an all too frequent fate of small, local abattoirs who find the slaughter business increasingly uneconomic to remain viable. The one we used is also a locally acclaimed butcher so they are still otherwise in business. The irony is that small abattoirs find the animal welfare regulations too costly to keep up with and implement, especially if they have been long established and the buildings ageing. But one consequence of their diminishing numbers is that livestock have to be transported far longer distances and often to larger operators that maybe have a less personal touch.

For Ermine this meant a trip to Eye in mid-Suffolk. This is an abattoir we have been quite happy with so far, but they don’t do the butchering. Her carcass was then delivered to Bramfield in East Suffolk from where we picked up the finished meat. She was too old for pork joints so we now have significant quantities of sausages, mince, sausage meat and diced pork from the best bits. 

Ermine with nephew and hen


  1. I am sad to discover that the small abattoirs are closing (OK, so I admit that I first heard this on The Archers) As you say, the 'personal touch' is lost, and pethaps worse, the beasts have to undergo a longer journey. Then there is the whole issue of butchering. But Ermine was well cared for, and she had a good life. I know there's an old saying about every part of a pig can be used except the squeak. But tell me, what happened to her skin? Is someone able to make something with it?

    1. Generally the skin stays with the pig joints for crackling etc. But not in this case of course. I know some more craft orientated smallholders who have got back sheep skins, and in one case sheep horns Angela, but not pig skin.

    2. Not sure I'd be up to Crafting with a sheep's horn! My OH would enjoy eating the crackling though

  2. That's a heck of a lot of sausages!

    It's ironic that one of the reasons we gave up sheep keeping was because of the huge distance from the smallholding to anywhere they could be slaughtered, when all the small abattoirs closed and now I live just a few miles from Eye, although I think even they have stopped doing sheep.

  3. Luckily we have a handful of folk who are taking bulk quantities off us but we won’t be short of sausages for a while. Yes, Sue, the one in Eye has stopped taking sheep so we are looking at options for some that are due to go off this autumn.

  4. There should be licensed slaughter people who are allowed to send the animal to Heaven while they eat on the smallholding like they dis in John Seymour's times when he wrote his self sufficiency books/bibles.