• 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>

  • Pig Talk
  • 5 of the World’s Most Popular Pigs

    Pork consumption is growing across the World!


    To celebrate Pork getting more popular, lets run through a few of the World’s most iconic pigs, to get to grips with just why Pork is starting to become the planet’s favourite food.

    There are millions of pigs farmed across the world, here are the World’s Favourite 5:

    The Large White

    When most people think of Pigs their mind goes to a baby pink, lightly furry creature with a curly tail. They think of little pink creatures trapped in straw and brick houses, or children’s Film characters. In short, they think of the Large White. One of the most exported pigs and, arguably, the World’s Number One choice of breed.

    Made famous by movies such as 1995’s Babe, the Large White is a hugely versatile creature, able to cross with and improve many other breeds.


    The Mangalitza

    This furry porker created some minor headlines back in 2014, when it was discovered that it provided the world’s most expensive ham. A hardy, woollen creature – the Mangalitza’s meat is famed for it’s rich marbling.

    An extremely high fat content makes it’s meat perfect for curing. However, you might want to save up before investing, a 15-pound leg joint of this wonderful creature could set you back nearly £2000!


    The Hampshire

    One of the most recorded breed of pigs in America, this chap is easy to recognise from the white band that runs around his middle and over his legs. Known for being particularly well-muscled, this pig has an exceptional carcass quality.

    Hampshire sows can breed for much longer than other pigs, although they don’t grow as fast as competing cross breeds, they still give most other English breeds a run for their money!


    British Saddleback

    A pig emblematic of Modern day life. The first British Saddleback was created back in 1967, making this versatile breed not yet 50 years old! Large and deep bodied, this pig is a cross-breed of the Essex and Wessex, simultaneously bred for it’s pork and bacon.

    A typically hardy British pig, the Saddleback is known for it’s ability to graze and can survive all kinds of climates – they’ve even been exported to the extremes of Africa!


    Tamworth

    Finally, the oldest of all the English pure breeds, the Tamworth is instantly recognisable by it’s bright red hair. The meat from this old breed of pig is particularly gamey, making it a common choice for crossing with the Wild Boar.

    Although this pig’s meat is highly prized, it has more endearing features that explain why it’s one of England’s most iconic breeds. Along with having excellent excavation skills, this noble pig is now prized for it’s heritage more than it’s meat.


    British Pork is only getting more popular – thanks to these noble breeds of pigs we can hopefully look forward to several more decades of pork dominance!

  • Pig Talk
  • Is The Sow Stall Ban Being Adhered To?

    Sow Stalls may still be in use in EU farms.

    Although the use of farrowing crates may well have been banned throughout the EU in 2008, there are some worrying reports that their use is being continued in up to 13 of the 28 member states.

    In 2007, global discussion regarding the banning of sow stalls reached the forefront, when American professor Temple Grandin stated that keeping pigs in gestation was akin to ‘asking a sow to live in an airline seat’.

    This caused outrage in the industrial pork keeping market. They argued that the use of sow stalls was integral to the welfare of the pigs. After a sow has been inseminated, she enters a more aggressive mode of behaviour begins competing for food. This occurs more frequently amongst pigs from different litters and can often lead to increased aggression and fighting. The leaders of the pork industry maintained that keeping the animals in separate cages eliminated the risk of them harming each other and allowed them to gain as much nutrition as they needed.

    Initially, anti-sow stall lobbyists had a difficult time convincing the world that the use of farrow cages were detrimental to the health of pigs. Contradictory reports were written during the 00s. Whilst academics, such as Gradin, effectively put forward an argument of practicality, the American Veterinary Medical Association disagreed, promoting “gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy”. This backed up previous research undertaken by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, taken in 2001.

    Off the back of these reports, the United States have lagged behind in Animal Welfare for a number of years now. To this day there are roughly 5.3 million breeding sows kept in the US, with the majority of them being kept in ‘gestation crates’. Despite significant research into the psychological effects of sow stalls, only 9 states within the US have made the move to ban their use. Several studies have identified certain groups of stereotypical behaviours that suggest boredom and trauma. Bar-biting, tongue rolling and head-weaving are all behaviours that exist in ‘factory farmed’ pigs alone. These repetitive actions cause the animal harm, in the form of sores and skin lesions.

    In addition to this, pigs kept in confined conditions also exhibited behaviour that points towards a development of ‘learned helplessness’. Pigs that had been kept in sow-stalls for their gestation period were reported to no longer react to physical stimuli (such as prodding or splashing with water), suggesting that they had psychologically ‘given in’ to their surroundings.

    Successful campaigning has led to many major food companies across the world, including corporate giant McDonald and Smithfield Foods (owner of 187 piggeries in the US), phasing out the use of sow-stalls – yet there is still more work that needs to be done in Europe.

    Despite pressure from the EU there are many farms within Europe that resist changing their farming methods. Although the legal fight has been won, it’s important that the ethical pig farmers of the world should unite and put pressure on those who still refuse to conform.