Sara had no experience of working with pigs when she came to Dourie, but that is precisely what Gregor Christie was looking for!
In fact, Sara was more used to working with horses than any other animals and went to equestrian college in Hertfordshire. She runs a smallholding with her mum and looks after other people’s horses but was working on a nearby farm when a chance conversation with a vet led to an unexpected job offer…
“I told the vet that I wanted to do something different and they said that Gregor was looking for someone. We spoke on the phone and all of a sudden Gregor was there at the house!” Sara recalls.
It transpired that Gregor was looking for someone who had not done pig work before so that he could train them according to his specific system. “I’ve been at Dourie for just over two years now and it’s probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” says Sara, “It’s so rewarding watching the progress from AI-ing a pig to seeing the piglets born.”
Sara works at Gregor’s side - in her words - “checking, checking and checking” all day. “I make sure that everyone is on their feet and OK. When the piglets are born, I’m the first port of call to check them, to ensure the mothers are milking and that the smaller ones are getting fed and drinking from their mothers. I also make sure that the sows are up and OK after giving birth.”
A huge amount of monitoring takes place on the pig unit, recording litter numbers and weights. Sara also moves weaned pigs into new pens, pregnant sows into the farrowing shed to give birth and checks others to see if they’re coming into heat. “I check everything all the time!” says Sara.
Sara’s favourite place to work is the farrowing room: “It’s like a maternity ward for pigs,” Sara says. “I like watching them grow and progress and seeing the piglets in the first bit of life. It’s very rewarding.”
Sara is particularly enjoying learning about the herd’s genetics, which come from Denmark and are a cross-breed of Landrace and Yorkshire. A recent group had an average litter size of 18 live piglets, one of the top results in the UK and a standard that Dourie are keen to maintain at least and even improve.
Career-wise, the plan is to recruit another member of staff so that Sara is able to do most of Gregor’s work and Gregor can step back. “When I started out I had no idea,” Sara says, “A pig was a pig and that was that, but Gregor has been a fantastic teacher. If ever I need any help he is there, no matter what; even if it’s a stupid question he would rather I ask. Now I’ve learned everything that there is to know about a pig!”