Many people have heard of "Februdairy" and "Arable April". Well there is now the "Hogtober" initiative which is a celebration of all things pigs for the month of October.
Hogtober 2020 is a virtual event which is driven by the Irish Pigs Society to promote the high-welfare work of small pig keepers in Ireland, during the month of October.
The society is an umbrella organisation which supports and promotes Irish pig farmers and pig enthusiasts.
Irish Pigs Society
Lucy Murphy of the Irish Pigs Society explained: "We are an organisation which represents small holders and non-intensive pig keepers of all kinds. We can give guidance on all areas of pig keeping from getting set up, general husbandry to pork production and breeding."
"We have a vast network of members able to share tips and advice. We also work in partnership with the Department of Agriculture to ensure pig owners obtain a herd number; that they are aware of disease and biosecurity risks and how in general we can improve pig welfare throughout Ireland."
Dairy farming and pig keeping
The event, which was thought up by members of the society, has taken to social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, where a different member takes over each day to showcase their pig keeping.
Pig keeper and Cork dairy farmer Peter Twoomey got involed with the Irish Pig Society in 2018 when he wandered into their tent at the National Ploughing Championships, having bought four sows out of his wedding present money in 2017.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Peter said: " I just strolled into the tent at the Ploughing match. I heard people having the same conversations I was having to myself, questioning the price of feed, how much to feed them, people were having the same conversations I would have loved to have with someone and that’s how it started.
"I became a member and joined a WhatsApp group which is like a support group. As a society it promotes the non-intensive side of pig farming which is all free-range, high-welfare pig farming. The society is a support network and it’s a great help."
A balancing act
After starting off with just four sows, Peter now keeps 11 breeding sows and supplies his weaners to Ballymaloe Hotel and Resturaunt in Cork and also supplies freezer pigs to clients, which works quiet well alongside his dairy enterprise.
"There were 30 Bonhams born in 36 hours last week. The thing with dairy farming is you are on the farm seven days a week anyway. The cows have to be milked twice a day, so there isn’t that much work when you set up the pigs properly.
"The pigs are really about 20 minutes work each day. They are in a paddock that I am always passing while I am bringing the cows in from milking which allows me to check them in the morning and the evening. It is not a huge workload. The ground keeps them healthy and they are fed every day. It is not a lot of extra labour. When they are set up well, they are easy to manage," he explained.
Peter explained how the idea of Hogtober came into his head while he was out working on the farm: "I was scraping the yard one day and I sent a message into the WhatsApp group to have an event called ‘Pigtober’ and someone else suggested ‘Hogtober’ so we decided on that.
"With COVID-19 restrictions, we decided to have a virtual event. We have an Instagram page where we get a member to take over each day.
"Hogtober is a virtual event to promote non-intensive, high-welfare pig farming. Mother nature dictates the litters of the pigs. It's just smallholders going back to the traditional way when everyone had a pig in their back yard."
"It is like the love for pigs. They are addictive once you have them. They are an incredible animal. When you have pigs you are just trying to find the best way to keep them. A lot of the group members would have their pigs routing away in forests or paddocks."
Follow the event online
Anyone who is interesting in learning more about pigs can follow the event on Instagram @theirishpigsociety or Facebook by looking up The Irish Pigs Society.