Farmers John and Susan Childs breed incredible rare breed pork and beef at Cowshill Farm in Coleford
It's hard not to laugh at the antics of the piglets that career around cosy straw- bedded sheds at Cowshill Farm.
For John and Susan Childs, watching these tiny bundles of energy can be a happy diversion from the hard work and long hours that farming demands.
At the same time, each piglet and calf is a symbol of hope; both for their family's future in agriculture and for the continuation of native breeds that have come perilously close to extinction.
Today the lives of John and Susan, together with their son, Robert, revolve around rare breed Berkshire, British Lop and Mangalitsa pigs and Old Gloucester Cattle.
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The way they're farming now is very different from the days when they looked after 4,000 hybrid pigs and ran a successful agricultural building business from Hewelsfield, near Coleford.
All this was to change in 2001, when foot and mouth arrived Gloucestershire, leading to the destruction of thousands of animals. and a halt in demand for new farm units.
While John and Susan's pigs remained free from the disease, they still had to be slaughtered due to restrictions that prevented them from being moved.
For a couple who had spent a lifetime in agriculture, the loss of these healthy animals was harrowing.
"We saw these beautiful pigs being killed on the farm and were left with what seemed like a sea of dead animals," recalls Susan. "It was a horrible sight and one we'll never forget."
The events of 2001 were enough to force many farmers to give up on an industry that was already marked by increasing bureaucracy and falling prices.
For John and Susan, however, leaving a farm that had been in the family since 1947 was unthinkable.
"My parents, John and Iris Childs, started this farm after the war," says John. "They started with one cow and built it up. My dad wasn't one for pigs, but I had wanted to keep them since I was 14 and he bought me two gilts: that was the start of my pig-keeping."
John still has his first receipt from the local slaughterhouse, which came with a note complimenting him on the quality of his pigs. Buoyed by this encouraging start, he built up a herd of pedigree Large Whites.
Gradually, however, he moved over to contract farming.
"It became a numbers game," says John. "Over the years more and more hybrid pigs were creeping in. The hybrid pigs became more aggressive and they weren't the animals I wanted to keep.
"At the same time, we were having to compete with European imports; the prices we were getting were continually decreasing."
For John and Susan, foot and mouth marked a watershed for their farm.
Their response was to start again and in 2003 they began keeping pedigree rare breed animals selected for the quality of their meat.
They started with Berkshires, one of the original pork breeds, of which there were just 350 registered females remaining.
In time these were joined by British Lops, a deep bodied pig well suited to slow fattening for bacon and, with just 200 sows remaining, another breed that was in danger of disappearing.
"We already had black pigs with the Berkshires, so we chose to keep British Lops for bacon because they're white," laughs John.
The Childs' Mangalitsa pigs, which are thought to be related to the extinct Lincolnshire Curly Coat, produce wonderfully soft meat and are descended from just 16 animals imported from Europe in 2006.
Meanwhile, their Old Gloucester Cattle are a local breed that's been steadily increasing in numbers since a low point in 1972 when there were just 66 cows left.
"Over the years we realised that we couldn't compete with supermarkets and concluded that if we were going to survive on our size and scale of farming, we had to offer the consumer something different and better," says John, who went on to learn butchery skills so that he could set up a licensed cutting room.
"It's all very well for us to say our rare breeds meat is different and better, but once people taste it they keep coming back."
John and Susan's decision to change the way they farm has meant they can now see a future for their family business and for the rare breeds they look after.
At the same time they've added geese, ducks and chickens to the mix, together with heavy horses and Shetland ponies, and say their quality of life has never been better.
"Looking back on what happened, we would say it was fate," says Susan.
"We're so much happier now – the way we're farming now is a much happier job to do and we're thrilled that the farm is in good shape for the next generation."