• Farm Update
  • Thinking Environmental: Planning for Wood Pellets

    I’ve been thinking about the environment lately and what more we can do help it.

    Although the well-being of the pigs that live on our land is always our number one priority, we also have a responsibility to look after the planet as a whole.

    I’ve had arguments with many an embittered vegan over the environmental pros and cons of raising animals on an industrial scale.

    I firmly hold the belief that an animal can enjoy a rich and satisfying life before going to slaughter, but I do still have to concede the vegan’s point regarding waste and gas emissions. UK farms are constantly reminded to keep environmental best practices at the heart of their day-to-day activities. We’re no different here – recyclable materials are meticulously collected and the animals’ waste is collected to be used for manure.

    However, I always have the nagging feeling that there’s something more that we could be doing.

    During the winter months, our overheads often end up rising significantly, due to the cost of heating our workshops and offices. Not only do we currently use oil, which is terrible for the environment, it’s also costing us a fortune. As we are a relatively large organisation, with a lot of buildings to heat, I’ve decided that we should take the plunge and invest in renewable energy. By ploughing a large amount of money into the initial setup costs, we may well lose in the short term, but within 20 years we should hopefully start seeing the returns.

    Although we have the space to install a small wind farm, I don’t like to think about the disturbance the installation would bring to our pigs, who would be sheltering beneath them. Instead, I’m electing to put some money into Bio mass fuel, more specifically, wood pellets. In addition to installing wood pellet burners throughout the farming estate, I’m also going to be planting my own coppice of Willow. In 5 years times or so, we’ll be able to heat our buildings with completely sustainable energy.

    To begin with we’re going to have to make do with simply purchasing wood fuel pellets online. They’re relatively cheap and at least we’ll no longer have to pay more money for gallons of oil to be delivered every few weeks.

    We own around 20 acres, here in Essex, although we only keep pigs on half of the land at any one time. The meadows are rich and unspoiled, just begging for a more diverse batch of plants to be introduced to the ecosystem.

    Part of our plans for 2017 is to introduce around 20 new types of wild flower, shrubs and bulbs to our meadow land. Before we think of planting anything, we’ll need to consider the effect that these myriad new organisms will have on our local ecology and ensure that there aren’t any plants that might be poisonous to our pigs. Hopefully, within a few ears time, we’ll be able to encourage more natural wild life to share the pastures with our few hundred pigs.

    We’re yet to fully understand the impact that our farm has on the environment, but hopefully we can aim to put more work into pushing towards a greener future nonetheless.

  • Farm Update
  • Wild Boars – Worth Farming?

    With the ongoing success of our farm here in Essex, I’ve recently been considering the idea of diversification.

    Although I don’t much like the idea of opening up the farm as a tourist attraction, I have always wondered what it would be like to raise Wild Boars.

    We get so many enquiries at Farmers’ Markets, as to whether we stock Wild Boar Steaks, I’m now considering buying my own small herd.

    The Wild Boar was a native dweller of England, before it was hunted to extinction around 300 years ago. Boars usually grow to around a metre in height (taller than the average farmed pig) but usually weigh in a little lighter, at around 90kg the heaviest. Their meat is a rich red colour and carries a gamey flavour that cannot be found in standard pork. It’s meat is also lean, offering a healthier alternative to the fatty meat of the pig.

    Although most people have grown accustomed to seeing wild boar on menus at novelty wild burger stands (alongside crocodile and ostrich), many are unaware that the UK has it’s own truly Wild Boar population. In the mid-90s, a mass escape from a farm led to a small herd of wild boars escaping into woodlands near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. For 10 years this small population went about it’s business, slowly growing until an illegal release of 60 farm-reared boars broke onto the scene, bolstering the numbers significantly.

    Over the ten years following the return of the Wild Boar to the UK, the numbers have swelled significantly. Recent attempts to number them, using thermal imaging technology, have put their numbers above 1000, with some going as high as over 1500. This had implications on the local environment. There have been reports of dog walkers being attacked and dogs being injured. Farmers have also reported that their lands have been decimated by boars who forage for food late at night.

    Regardless of the mixed reputation that the feral population has had amongst the British public, their popularity as a breeding animal has risen in recent years. There are a few pros and cons to breeding Boars. One of the biggest draw backs of farming them is their classification as ‘dangerous wild animals’ by the UK Government. This means that you have to apply for an additional license to keep your animals, as well as pay an increased insurance bill.

    Wild Boar are also notoriously good at escaping. If they’re not sufficiently fed, they are known to uproot fence posts and bend wire, in order to search for more food. As such, an electric fence has been recommended to me, by a number of helpful farmers. The Wild Farm are based in Glenlivet, raise Deer, Belted Galloway Cow and Wild Boar, to name a few. They praised the animal as easy to look after, only needing to be fed once a day and being able to live quite happily in the coldest of Scottish Wintrers.

    After conducting this brief research, I feel ready to jump in and purchase some boars. However, I don’t much fancy paying that Dangerous Animal License, so I might simply hire a Boar stud and create some cross-breeds instead. Watch this space!<z/h3>

  • Farm Update
  • December Pig Farming Update

    Our Farm is moving, Pork prices are falling, but our sales are on the up!

    Reports show that we may well have a challenging new year ahead of us…

    A report published on the Pig World website suggests that next year could be a tough one for UK pig farms.

    Global meat consumption has been steadily increasing year on year. The eating habits of developing countries, such as China and India, has led to the development of a supply-driven market – where producers are constantly forced to push their prices down, in order to remain competitive.

    Despite harbouring a frosty political relationship for decades, the United States is one of the largest exporters of Pork to China. With the rising strength of the dollar (and uncertainty over the future stability of trade deals with China and other countries), the pig farms of America are expected to scale up their efforts all the more, to take advantage of this increase in demand. This, in turn, will put more pressure on UK farms. After a tricky year, following the effects of Russia’s sanctions on EU pork, it looks like things won’t be getting any easier for us in the coming year!

    Packing up the pigs and equipment is going to be a big challenge…

    As far as news on our farm goes, we’re finally making the move, 10 miles down the road, to a larger site.

    Despite some tricky financial setbacks, the farm’s been doing well, with our focus on animal welfare helping us sell more products at farmer’s markets as well as butchers. This is the first time that I’ve organised such a large migration of livestock and equipment, so it looks like I’ll have my work cut out for me leading up to Christmas.

    Luckily, I’ve got a group of old Union buddies who co-own some great vehicles to transport the pigs in. As far as the equipment goes, I’m looking to invest in a large amount of timber crates to move the gates, feeding units and troughs. I’ll be able to pack them down, once they’ve been used, and store them for deliveries of products at a later date. I’m calling in some extra hands with the heavy lifting – wouldn’t want to put my back out so close to the holidays…

    Pop the champers, our Christmas sales are bigger than ever!

    Although most people associate Christmas time with turkey eating, more and more people seem to be moving towards pork as an alternative Christmas Dinner centre piece.

    Christmas sales of both our roast joints, as well as our sausages and bacon, are at an all time high. This has been a tough year for us. We’ve had to withstand plummeting industry prices as well as stiff competition from outside the EU.

    Thankfully we’ve had the Great British public to rely on as faithful consumers of our products.

    Thanks to the promotion of our products through Food Festivals and Farmers’ Markets, we’ve been able to share our passion of ethically raised pork with the people of Essex and this has, in turn, had a positive impact on our sales!