Pannage is an ancient practice that is still used today by New Forest Commoners, who turn out their pigs into the Forest during the season. The pannage season usually lasts around 60 days from the end of September until late December.
Pigs do a vital job of eating many of the acorns that fall at this time of year. Acorns are tasty for them, but poisonous for the ponies and cattle that roam the area freely.
This autumn is a bumper year for acorns in the New Forest. Oak trees have produced more acorns than usual, one of nature’s mysterious events known as ‘masting’. This is a natural phenomenon where some tree species produce very large crops of seeds in some years, compared to almost none in others.
It’s not known exactly why mast years occur, however they have been linked to various causes over the years, including weather and climatic.
Weather and climate can certainly affect fruit and seed production, and as we had such a mild winter and a warm spring it made the crop rather early this year. However, certain trees do go through cycles of mast years, beech for example produces a mast year every five to ten years.
Although the piglets may look cute, their mothers won’t be happy if you get too close and we ask visitors to keep their distance. Under no circumstances should people try to stroke them or give them food.
- Keep your distance from the pigs
- Please do not feed the pigs
A few hundred pigs trot around the New Forest each autumn, hoovering up the acorns - It’s vital that people don’t feed the pigs or drop human food. There is a risk of African Swine Fever reaching the UK and it can be spread to pigs in infected meat.