You can download previous versions of our magazine from our archives.
Follow on facebook
Pigs In Clover
by Linda MacDonald Brown
When you are breeding pigs to sell their meat to a discerning public, it's important that you choose your bloodlines and your pigs carefully, according to Cheralynn Pieters who owns and runs, Quarryhead Meats in Aberdeenshire, along with her husband Andrew.
Cheraylnn should know – she has been researching breeds and bloodlines for quite a few years now, selecting breeds that are known for their succulent meat and large hams.
Pigs haven't always featured in Cheralynn's life. After moving from South Africa with Andrew, they tried their hand at worm farming, but this was brought to a swift end when rats destroyed the site! A little while later they attended a pig course and for Cheralynn that was it, she was hooked, buying her first pigs and setting up Quarryhead Meats.
Currently they have three different breeds of pig on their farm; Large Black, Oxford Sandy and Black and the Austrian Mangalitza. Cheralynn is looking slowly to phase out the Oxford Sandy and just concentrate on the Mangalitza and Large Black. Both of these breeds are totally different, the Large Black is a good all rounder, producing excellent bacon as well as pork, whilst the Mangalitza, Cheralynn's favourite, is perfect for specialist cured meats such as salamis. These two breeds are also popular with the smallholders, who buy them at 8 weeks to bring on for their own freezers.
The Warbler and the Dinah line are two of Cheralynn's preferred lines for the Large Black as she feels these give the largest hams and the tastiest meat, “they also seem to have the kindest and nicest personality as well“.
The Mangalitza was exported from Austria and Hungary in 2007 and have since taken off in the UK. These unusual pigs look like sheep and have wonderful temperaments. Their meat is dark, like wild boar, it is low in cholesterol and they also have the best fat of any pig. Similar to margarine in texture it is soft and light, they are in fact known as lard pigs and are usually used in the specialist meat industry. Europe in particular uses them for their salami and air-dried hams.
The farm currently holds nearly 70 pigs, 48 of which are either young pigs waiting to be sold to other smallholders or pigs that Cheralynn is growing on for the butcher. As this number is rather hard on their nine acres, they are looking to move to a larger farm later on this year, where it is hoped they will their meat business and give their pigs a lot more space. Because of the land issue at Quarryhead, all the breeding stock on the farm is ringed to try and conserve the grass. The pigs can still graze, however the ring just prevents them from turning over the soil. Not ideal feels Cheralynn but a necessary evil.
Lack of space also prevents her storing different grains to feed her own mix, so all the pig food is currently bought in as GM free compound food from the local agricultural merchants. This can amount to quite a hefty outlay each month as breeding stock usually go through about 61bs of food each a day and the young stock, depending on their age go through anything up to 51bs each a day.
The day starts early for Cheralynn and her husband with a 4.30 am start not being unusual. As well as running Quarryhead, she also works in the oil and gas industry and therefore has to feed and put the animals right before she goes to work at 7am. A time when most of us are just getting up! Home by five, she then has to feed and water the pigs before settling down to do the paperwork and dealing with enquiries and meat orders.
A local butcher deals with the cutting side of the pigs, something that probably won't change for the forseeable future. “There are no plans to set up our own cutting room but this might change a few years down the line. We are so happy with our current butcher; he makes the most wonderful sausages.”
“What is going to expand is the internet side of the meat, this year has been our best yet, and our pork boxes are literally flying off the shelves, so it makes sense to offer more to the public by way of online sales.”
They will also be attending their first farmers market in a couple of months at Peterhead and if it is a success they will then be doing the rounds of other farmers markets in the area as well as continuing to add local B&B's, hotels and restaurants to their customer database.
The future looks bright for Quarryhead, Scotland does not have the following that England has for pig keeping, but if Cheralynn's sales of weaners are anything to go by, she is making quite a significant contribution towards changing that!