A struggling pig farmer in Northern Ireland has spoken of how the TV series Game of Thrones saved his bacon after the credit crunch nearly ruined his business.

Kenny Gracey, 57, supplies rare breeds of sheep, goats, deer and other animals to the makers of the popular TV show set in a medieval fantasy.

Gracey has been providing animals to the show since the series was first broadcast in 2011.

Susie, an Irish goat, has featured in all five seasons, while Yanna, a roe deer, has appeared in two. Meanwhile two Irish wolfhound-deerhound cross dogs Murphy and Hennessy made their screen debut last Sunday.

Dubbed the "Doctor Doolittle" of Northern Ireland's film industry, Gracey specially bred Iron Age pigs – a cross between a wild boar and a domestic pig – for the series.

Much of the ancient farm equipment featured in the show – the rusty chains, horse collars, anvils, mangers and troughs – has been salvaged from piles of scrap in his junk-filled near Tandragee in County Armagh, the Daily Mail reported.

Gracey spends up to 20 hours a day on set with his animals and occasionally gets into costume and appears on the show if the animals need any help.

Since Gracey has supplied animals to the set of Game of Thrones, other productions, including The Frankenstein Chronicles and Robot Overlords, have used his animals in their productions.

"It's helped me pay the bills. We would have been really struggling without it," Gracey said to the Times.

The fifth season of Game of Thrones premiered on 12 April on the US cable channel HBO. It immediately became one of the most-pirated TV shows of the moment.