Farming pigs in Australia presents many unique challenges, but, also many opportunities. Our climate allows us to range our pigs outdoors all year round and the demand for pastured pork grown in a clean and green environment is growing all the time.
The pages of this website are full of useful information about farming free range pastured pigs and chickens so take a few moment and look through the menu to your right. We are sure you will find the information you need to get you started.
Right now we want to discuss a couple of important points about farming free range pigs in Australia.
The Nitty Gritty of Free Range Descriptions
When it comes to official guidelines for free range pastured pork there are a couple of generic descriptors but unfortunately they are a bit fuzzy and make it hard for the consumer to figure out. From the producer's point of view we will discuss a couple that you will come across.
This is how many free range producers believe they should be able to describe their production system. Unfortunately current guidelines and codes of practice, and some planning instruments, have not caught up with modern farming practices and this means that you could get caught out. It times past, extensive did mean that the pigs were kept outdoors or at least in outdoor runs. Now the term relates to how much food is brought into the farm to feed the animals.
Time and time again we hear of producers that have made contact with their local council and had someone at the front desk tell them that they should be ok if they are extensive and perhaps not need council permission to set up a piggery. If someone at council tells you this, get it in writing before you proceed!
Pasture does form an important part of the pigs diet but, it would be extremely difficult to raise marketable pigs this way as a pig's nutritional requirements are very specific if the pork you produce is to meet market specifications for fat scores and tenderness. Poor nutrition will slow a pigs growth and impact greatly on the quality of the meat and it will be excessively fat in most cases and the pig's welfare may suffer.
Rotational Outdoor Piggeries
This is another descriptor from the Environmental Guidelines which states:
Most free range producers will fit into this category - even some of the very large commercial piggeries. This type of piggery usually means that you will need to talk to your local council to see if you need to lodge a Development Application. This will also depend on how many pigs you keep and the zoning of your land and each state in Australia has different planning laws.
There is no mention of stocking densities so differentiating your pastured production system from feedlot piggeries is difficult. If you want to set yourself apart in the market place, become a PROOF Licensee.
So, you want to be a Pig Farmer?
It is an evocative picture that one in your head; the countryside, growing your own food, self sufficiency, community and a simpler life. Its a picture that seduces many and stirs in us our innate need to connect with land, a need that is unfulfilled in our busy urban lives.
I do believe that the way of the future will require a back to basics mentality and a shift that will see more and more people return to the land and rebuild communities and a way of life that reconnects people, animals and the land.
I have been teaching pastured free range pig farming in Australia for a while now and have followed closely the successes of many of my 'students'. People that attend the courses quickly learn that networking and building a like minded community of pig farmers holds many benefits and that the person next to them should not be viewed as the competition. I am very proud to be able to watch their growth and to have a continuing relationship with many of the people I have met through our courses.
It is my policy not to sell free range pig farming to anyone that reads my books or attends my courses. What I try to do is give you enough honest, first hand knowledge to enable you to make an educated decision for yourself. I like to say "I wont sell you fluff" because I read it all to often in pig farming books or hear it on lifestyle programs on TV and see too many people head off down the wrong path when they decide to jump right in and start a pig farm.
There is so much to consider and pig farming is not easy. My course will either inspire you to continue the pursuit of that picture in your head or, as happens on many occasions, you will be grateful that you made this small investment in time and money to come to the conclusion that free range pig farming is not for you after all.
Come and join me for a day or two and let me fill your head with everything pig, oh, and your stomach as well because lunch always features pastured pork :)