OSB’s in the Netherlands with Pipie Smits van Oyen

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Slide Show from Pipie Smits van Oyen

 

Two years ago we decided to keep some pigs as addition to our organic farm in the Netherlands to be
able to offer pig meat as well as our grass-fed Aberdeen Angus meat. Although outdoor pigs are
almost unknown in our country, we decided to take the plunge and looked to British pig keeping for
inspiration. After much looking around on the Internet and in books, we somewhat undecidedly chose
for the Oxford Sandy and Black breed, primarily because of its good outdoor qualities, meat quality
and inclination not to put on too much fat, and last but not least, its pretty looks. Since then, we have
fallen in love with the breed and the pigs have become a favourite on the farm, amongst ourselves,
employees and visitors alike.

With luck, we were able to purchase our first pigs (two gilts and two boars) from Taco van der Louw,
who had just imported them from Britain. We kept them over the summer and come winter, sent the
boars off to slaughter. We were stunned by the meat’s taste, from mincemeat to roasts, and have since
not gone back to buying other pork again. We fed those first pigs a finisher diet in their last few
months, which led to a substantial layer of fat, but this has not been a problem since we have been
finishing on a normal sow diet. We held on to the two sows for breeding, and they are now the basis of
our small herd.

The herd was expanded last year by the boar Luke, who was again imported from Wales with the help
of Kim Brook. After a shy start, he is now feeling very at home and has been doing his job
successfully while enjoying the grass and mud! The number of OSB keepers has been slowly growing
in the Netherlands, but with such a small population it is important to watch out for inbreeding so the
import of stock from other countries remains essential.

At the moment we are keeping the two sows and boar, with 20-30 piglets and finishers. We bring the
pigs to a abattoir, who butcher and package the meat, after which we sell it ourselves directly to
customers or to small retail or restaurants. The meat has proven very popular, with our customers
praising the full, “old-fashioned” taste. With an increasing number of pigs in the future, it will prove a
challenge to widen our customer base to be able to sell the extra meat. However, if no one else, the
pigs have made us happy from the first day they arrived. They are social, clever and beautiful animals,
and a minute spent with the pigs is never wasted!

 

 

Dave & Lizzie Reynolds – Our journey into pig-keeping

Lizzie and I always knew that we wanted space to keep some chickens when we began house-hunting back in the late 1990s and so every house was viewed from this perspective. Could we afford a quarter of an acre garden? We’d be delighted with half an acre. So it was without surprise that when we first set eyes on our slightly tired house and were informed that, ‘The garden finishes where that far fence is,’ we put in an offer almost without going inside the house. That fence was a long way away and we’d found ourselves an affordable 3-bedroom home with 0.85 acres in rural Somerset.

So next came the pure breed chickens, just 6 or so at first. Then 6 became about 36 and we acquired some more land off our neighbours. What could go on here? It had to be productive and serve a purpose. The answer was Pilgrim Geese – our first foray into keeping and promoting a rare breed. We breed as many as we sensibly can, have sold many birds for breeding over the years (with birds and eggs going as far afield as Norwich, the Scottish Highlands and The Isle of White), they’re great lawnmowers and the surplus stock provide meat for the freezer.

The only problem with Pilgrim geese is that they’re not always great natural mothers and their eggs don’t hatch well in incubators. So we needed some Muscovy ducks. And because we weren’t busy enough (!) we started beekeeping too…

Then, 3 years ago, we had the opportunity to purchase some more land off our neighbours which made our garden a neat, complete strip going all the way down to the river. This extra 75m length gave us about 1.2 acres in all and opened up another discussion about what should be kept there.

We’d always liked the idea of keeping pigs and, after an initial bit of research revealed that it would indeed be possible to keep them in our modest grounds, we went on an excellent course run by Gillian Dixon of South Yeo Farm East, Devon, entitled ‘Introduction To Keeping Pigs.’ It was on this fateful course that we were introduced to the different breeds and scribbled a note down about someone called Kim Brook who kept dual purpose Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs and had a Facebook group. And the seed was sown.

On deciding that this was probably the breed we wanted to keep, we duly joined the Facebook group, discovered the Oxford Sandy and Black Website and noted that our nearest conveniently located breeder was Susan Tanner and her Windwhistle herd. On paying her a preliminary visit to check out the conditions that her pigs were reared in, we were instantly hooked on the breed and astounded at how professional Susan’s set up was and how much she clearly loved and cared for her pigs. This was definitely the breeder and the breed for us!

And so it was that after lots of excited preparations in the field at home, including putting in new access from the bridleway (there was no way we were going to be herding pigs 350m down the garden when they needed to leave the premises!), on 29th May 2016, our first 2 pigs, whom we called Ham and Pickle, arrived. We were smitten from the start and decided immediately that pigs, and OSB’s in particular, were always going to be part of our lives.

Exactly 5 months later we were the proud owners of a new freezer full of meat and were convinced (as I’m sure all pig-keepers are) that ours was the moist delicious pork in the world! So in 2017, with plenty of meat still in our freezer for the 2 of us, we decided to offer pre-orders of meat for sale in quarter pig boxes to close friends and family. We were amazed at the positive uptake and soon realized that all the quarters that people wanted made 3 pigs not 2!

Susan Tanner duly provided us with 3 more, high quality, boar weaners and with a change in the feeding regime to the one promoted in the excellent Haynes Pig Manual’ by Liz Shankland, we reduced the fat levels and produced quality pork for our friends and family which we were really proud of and which our customers have given us nothing but rave reviews about.

So here we are in 2018 and we’re enjoying every second of rearing our next 3 pigs in exactly the same way as last year’s in the hope of replicating the quality of the meat produced. With word of mouth pre-orders from a couple of people in the village and from Lizzie’s family, we’ve already got customers for most of the meat without even sending out so much as an email making the offer. A real testament to the quality of the pork produced from this fantastic breed of pig. Thank you Gillian, Kim and Susan and to all the wonderful people on Facebook in the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group for their support and advice along the way – we couldn’t have done it without you.

Meet Hannah Coad, Taking Her First Steps with the OSB

 

I first discovered my love for pigs after meeting my boyfriend Luke, nearly 4 years ago at a young
farmer’s party. I have not been brought up or ever lived on a farm, so I am not your typical farmer’s
daughter! In my day job, I work for Cornwall Council’s legal department as a legal secretary for the
social care department.

Luke breeds pedigree saddlebacks and this was the first breed of pig I was introduced to. For our
first Christmas together, Luke let me pick and keep a saddleback weaner from a litter he had,
meaning ‘babe’ was born. We raised her from birth and she is now nearly 3, and has had two very
successful litters.

So, onto the Oxford Sandy and black breed. I had always loved the breed, their look and the rareness
of them. I had been looking for an OSB gilt for a while and then we went to look at a saddleback sow
for Luke, and Lucy was also for sale( I think if Luke knew this he would not have taken me to look!),
after a bit of convincing and nagging we came back with both!

Lucy has such a personality and the
fact I am doing a little bit to help save the numbers is great. Lucy is just over one year old and is now
due to have her first litter and farrow at the end of July. I would like to thank Kim for all of the help
she has given me, finding a boar in Cornwall which was not related to Lucy was a difficult task –
there was only one and he is Lucy’s dad! It resulted in Kim arranging for a boar to come down from
Wiltshire for which I am very grateful.

I am very much looking forward to Lucy farrowing and hopefully increasing my OSB numbers (if Luke
lets me!)