From famine to feast and back again

One of the most difficult things to manage on the farm is the inventory of the stock and the produce. Our small free range farm is very new and we haven’t yet been able to stagger the growth of our pigs to match the sales of our products. What this means is that we may have a long period of feeding pigs and not having any product to take to market, a potential cash flow nightmare.

When we started the farm in November 2013 we had just nine pigs, after 7 months we now have 59. Each pig will eat from 0.5 to 1kg of feed per feed and will get fed twice a day. For those of you interested in the maths, each day we currently feed the pigs about 80kg of commercial grain based pig feed and each kilo costs about $0.91, that’s $72.80 per day or $509 per week. All of that would be fine if they didn’t take 6 or 7 months to get to a weight suitable for the table. And the bigger problem is that they will all reach that weight at a similar time. So, for six months we had no produce, now we have produce and a massive feed bill. In another month we will have run out of produce and still have a massive feed bill. But all is not lost.

Over the past few months I have met some  like minded companies that are more than happy to help, one such company is The Garage Project, a small brewery in Te Aro, Wellington. The amazing thing about beer is that its by-products are just as valuable to me as the beer itself. Both brewers grain and brewers yeast are high protein feeds suitable for pigs, especially piglets and weaners, and when mixed with traditional grain based pig pellets and the freedom to graze on grass the pigs are thriving with their new diet.

It is perhaps a shame that a true free range farm has to rely on free supplemental food in order to produce a product that consumers are able/willing to pay for. With grain prices rising and food prices driven down by cheap supermarket imports it has become increasingly difficult for farmers of non-ruminant animals to produce a great quality product at an acceptable price, and because of this consumers have been pushed to eat substandard products with little to no flavour.

I am really proud of what we are achieving here on Woody’s Farm. We feed our pigs good quality grains full of nutrients and protein and allow them large grassy paddocks to graze on, we then supplement their feed with high quality barley from The Garage Project. I am even more pleased to see our efforts have been rewarded by the feedback from our customers. Its really nice to hear that our pork tastes really different to the bland, watery pork they have been buying from supermarkets (many of whom had gone off pork because of this lack of flavour) and that our bacon is “like bacon used to be.”

We are producing the best quality product we can and we are maintaining the bloodlines of two rare breeds at the same time, what more can you ask for?

Pork and beer as perfect together as a brewery and a pig farm

Pork and beer as perfect together as a brewery and a pig farm