The Great Escape
A-J Monro is a respected Partner of the firm, manages two of our offices and is a star of the agricultural valuer’s scene – but he’s being put to the test by his runaway pigs
In 2018, my family and I purchased our ‘forever home’ at Affpuddle. The property had a gently sloping lawn which appeared to be mainly formed of moss, weed and ivy. It was evident that drastic action was required to bring it back to life. My wife bravely suggested pigs were the answer; our lives have never been the same.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by arable farms and horses – thereby hands-on experience with livestock was quite limited. Having undertaken what we thought was an adequate job of fencing the front lawn with old equine electric tape, we purchased our first five pigs – rare breed Mangalitsa, a Hungarian pig which is part boar and resembles a cross between a sheep and a pig with a coarse but very curly coat.
Within 10 minutes of arriving, our five little pigs proved that old equine electric tape was ineffective against their strong will and thick coats. Passing traffic would have seen my wife, myself, our two children and Duncan Joynt (a local contractor and farmer) dashing about trying to herd these speedy woollen tanks back into their makeshift paddock. New electric fencing tape was required.
Not content with just five Mangalitsa pigs, we then acquired three Oxford Sandy and Blacks to join the team, who settled in relatively quickly once the pecking order was established.
After two months, the moss-covered lawn was more akin to a very badly ploughed field. As a result, a portion of one of the fields was professionally fenced out to provide a permanent pig paddock. This seemed ideal; “no getting out of there” we naively said.
Unfortunately, it appears the paddock was not sufficiently stockproof, as a message from one of my colleagues proved: “A-J, we’ve had a call from your neighbour to say pigs are currently running around his garden.”
A frantic dash home revealed that the pigs had done the limbo under part of an old fence. My neighbour politely pointed out that pigs particularly liked rose bushes! We have endured a further two or three escape attempts by these fluffy bullets. They appear to have speed and stamina to put a serious runner to shame. Sadly, I do not! As a result, four of the chief troublemakers are now in piggy heaven.
We have now taken on five Tangalitsas. This is a cross between Mangalitsa and Tamworth and gives a very attractive ginger pig which appears to be even more determined to escape. Ours can extract themselves from a field through an apparently non-existent hole.
Having now reached the end of our first summer at Affpuddle, we are branching out further as my wife kindly gave me three Ruby Red Devon cows which will bring the sum total of animals (including chickens, dogs, pigs and cattle) on the holding to roughly 130 legs.
In January 2020 one of our Mangalitsa’s gave birth to four piglets, the father being our Tangalitsa boar, so this number will continue to rise, I am sure.
There is one particular phrase that Duncan Joynt said to me when we were discussing breeds of cattle and pigs: “There’s a reason they are rare breeds.”
This article is taken from Symonds & Sampson's award-winning lifestyle magazine 'Country Matters'. Read the magazine here, or collect a copy from your nearest office.