Owner gets style tips from champion Welsh pig
Sep 22 2010 by Carys Jones, South Wales Echo
WHEN Blodwen the Rhondda pig travelled to take on the premier porkers in the country she had the strongest support imaginable.
Owner’s wife Rhianwen Williams dyed her own hair in the same colours as the eight-month-old Oxford Sandy & Black pig when she travelled to Berkshire.
And it certainly paid off, with Blodwen being crowned Champion of Champions by the Oxford Sandy & Black Pig Society.
Showing the pigs is a real family affair for Neil Williams, 52, Rhianwen 40, and children, nine-year-old Nathan and Grace, seven.
Mr Williams, who combines pig breeding with his full-time job with a company growing Christmas trees, took Blodwen to the Royal County of Berkshire Show following success at the Royal Welsh Show.
Blodwen is classed as a rare breed after Oxford Sandy & Blacks (OSBs) almost became extinct 20 years ago as consumers opted for leaner, cheaper meat.
Neil won the smallholders category at the Builth Wells competition, which guaranteed them a place at last weekend’s show in Newbury.
But the family were stunned when Blod one of five pigs Neil keeps at a smallholding near his home in Cwm Hyfryd, Thomastown was crowned the best OSB in the UK.
“Qualifying for the competition in the first place after winning the smallholders category was obviously fantastic, but actually winning the champion of champions award when I was competing against breeders from across the UK some of whom do it full-time does feel like quite an achievement.
“I really enjoy competing, and the good thing about agricultural shows is the camaraderie, and being able to engage the public in the world of breeding and what it involves.
“The children take a great deal of enjoyment from the whole process. They see the pigs as their pets and love going to the shows to see them compete,” he added.
“There’s quite a lot of effort involved in getting them ready and groomed for the shows, and they both help out.
“They were ecstatic when we were awarded the champions rosette; they couldn’t wait to take it to school to show their friends.”
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Breeders fight to save Welsh pig
Pig breeders are joining forces to rejuvenate the popularity of the traditional Welsh pig.
Around 50 years ago, the Welsh was one of the most popular breeds in the UK, but it is now on the "at risk" list.
Owners are planning a get-together at the St Mellons Agricultural Show next week, which will see the biggest gathering of Welsh pigs for decades.
They hope to form a club to increase interest, give support to breeders, and help them find outlets for their meat. For the first time, the St Mellons show - held at Tredegar House, Newport, featuredc a "champion of champions" contest. It will be run under British Pig Association rules and the top Welsh pigs from across the UK will be competing.
The Welsh - a traditional-looking pink pig - was once widely used in commercial herds and in cross-breeding programmes, but its popularity waned as health-conscious consumers began demanding leaner meat. Experts say numbers are now worryingly low, with just 405 pedigree breeding females in the whole of the UK. There are only 20 or so breeders left in Wales. Members of the Wales & Border Counties Pig Breeders' Association have been working hard to increase numbers and raise awareness of the breed. Helen Tongue, who is vice-chair of the association, and rears Welsh pigs at her farm in Devauden, Chepstow, said the show would be an important showcase for the breed. "There are not many shows in Wales where pigs are given the prominence they deserve these days, so to have something like this at St Mellons is excellent," she said. "We want to show people just how good the Welsh pig really is, and to persuade breeders that it is such an acceptable pig for the meat market. "Unlike many of the other traditional breeds, the Welsh has a heck of a good butcher's carcase. The flesh is unbelievable, and it has just the right amount of fat." Helen has been a farmer for 36 years and also breeds saddlebacks. She became involved with the revival of the Welsh three years ago when the British Pig Association became concerned about dwindling numbers.She already kept a Welsh boar to cross with her saddlebacks, but bought in some good stock and began breeding. Now she and business partner John Flay have 30 sows. They travel Wales with their hog-roast business, using only Welsh pigs."Once people have tasted the Welsh, they don't want anything else," Helen said. "It has the most wonderful flavour, it is really tender, and the crackling is just marvellous. The more people who taste it, the more demand will grow, and that will hopefully get more breeders involved."No-one is absolutely sure just how many Welsh pigs there are in Wales or the UK as a whole, as many have not been registered by breeders. Although some may say they have Welsh pigs, only registered pedigree animals can be counted.Helen is hopeful that the St Mellons meeting will help boost interest in the breed and encourage more people to come forward."I am totally committed to bringing back the Welsh pig," she said. "This is the traditional pig of Wales, and we just can't afford to lose it."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/31 13:53:56 GMT
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