Guidelines To Free Range Pig Farmers

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FRPA Guidelines & Protocols To Free Range

Pig Farmers In South Africa

This article is aimed to guide the small family farmer who is interested to expand his or her farming business to include Free Range Pork Farming.

This is a summary of the guidelines and standard protocols as defined by the Free Range Pork Association: South Africa. [FRPA]

Free Range Pork & Farming Information

 

BACKGROUND

In the last few years consumers started to show a willingness to pay more for naturally kept and free-range pork products. Free Range pork is famous for their incredible rich and succulent taste.

The Free-Range Pork Association [FRPA.org.za] is ready to help you produce pork for this niche market if you are ready to apply the rules, guidelines and protocols.

In South African big commercial pig farmers produce about 10 million kilograms of pork every single month. This means that about 200 000 pigs need to be ready for the market monthly.

The first truth is that far less that 1% of these 200 000+ pigs is farmed free range.  The second truth is that it is basically impossible to produce FREE RANGE pork on this massive scale in South Africa with the current infrastructure.

Farming free-range pork, in general, is more expensive because the farmer needs specific and suitable land were the conditions are suitable to do it sustainably whilst protecting the environment.

Free Range Pig farming is not a new method of farming pigs, but in the early 1930’s most farmers started to migrate to commercial “indoor” farming because of the challenges and limitations of an open-air (free-range) system.

Today farmers have access to new technology and a greater understanding of animal welfare, diets and diseases.

The Free-Range Pork Association [FRPA ] in South Africa was registered with the following Mission Statement:

“We promote Free Range Pig Farming in South Africa and help small family farmers to raise pigs in a way that allows the pigs to express their natural instinctive behaviours. We do this by setting standards for the Free-Range Pork Industry to secure healthy food for the caring and discerning consumer.”

Protocols:

Anyone can join the FRPA. It is free.

Free Range pigs are typically raised on smaller family farms in South Africa in either a pure Free Range System or a Naturally Pig Farming system. Whatever system the farmer choose to use, it is done according to the following protocols.

Free Range Pigs:

  • Are never ever given antibiotics of any kind.
  • Are never given added hormones or artificial growth supplements.
  • Are vegetarians – they never even eat meat or meat by-products except for milk.
  • Are raised to the highest welfare practices as defined by the FIVE FREEDOMS of livestock standards.
  • Entire lives and all stages of production are recorded are traceable.
  • Carcasses need to meet all the qualified standards laid down from time to time.
  • Farmers need to proof that they abide by all protocols including the guidelines and rules provided on housing and availability of free space.

They are never given antibiotics.

A sick pig is an unhappy pig and we understand that sick pigs should be treated immediately with the best care there is, even with antibiotics if necessary – BUT there is one crucial rule that can never be broken.

Once a pig receives antibiotics, they must be marked and taken out of the free-range system.

Free Range pigs are never ever given antibiotics. When this rule is broken they unfortunately loose their Free Range Status on the farm immediately.

As sad as this may sound, such pigs must be cared for and sold separately on another and different market.

Zero hormones or artificial growth supplements.

Using hormones for growth promotion is an absolute NO-NO in the Free-Range Pork Farming System. It doesn’t matter how young or old the pigs are.

They never even get any added hormones or artificial growth supplements; not – even a little bit in their supplementary food.

Free Range Pigs are vegetarians and don’t eat scraps.

It is not allowed to feed free-range pigs any so-called table scraps, any meat, or any meat by-products. They are fed balanced vegetarian meals.

For example; farmers can’t mix any animal fats, bone meal, fishmeal or even eggs in the diets of free-range pigs. The ONLY exemption to this rule is milk or milk products.

It is further necessary to keep proper records for free-range pig diets on a specific farm as set out in the FRPA Blue Book Record System.

Free Range Pigs are raised to the highest welfare standards.

It is all about what the caring and discerning consumer demand and should receive.

Consumer’s wants to know that the welfare of all farm animals, including pigs are cared for as defined under the FIVE FREEDOMS of livestock.

The FIVE Freedoms are:

1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: They always have access to fresh water and receive a balanced diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort: An appropriate environment is provided that include shelter and a comfortable resting areas.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease: This is done by creating the right living areas and by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour: This is done by providing sufficient space, proper facilities to express this natural behaviour as well as the give them company with animals of their own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress:  This is done by putting systems in place to ensure conditions and treatment which will avoid mental suffering.

Free range pig farmers take specific notice of the fourth freedom above which state that pigs (all farm animals) must have the “Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour”.

The nature and normal behaviour of pigs is to explore, root, take water or mud baths, walk and play a lot, snuggle together at night when it is cold, interact socially with each other and separate themselves from the herd when it is time for farrowing (having baby piglets).  You can read more HERE about the amazing specific nature and characteristics of pigs.

To make sure farmers stay within freedom rule number four, it is vital to provide big enough outdoor spaces for free range pigs to allow them to express this instinctive and natural behaviour. There is no other way to do this than with free range farming.

Record keeping are traceability

Food Traceability is the new international norm in food production.

In short it is the ability to track any food through all stages of production, processing and distribution (including importation and at retail). Traceability should mean that movements can be traced one step backwards and one step forward at any point in the supply chain.

The Free Range Pork Association [FRPA] Blue Book Record System was developed to help farmers to keep record of every single pig for it entire life; especially to track events in the herds diet, growth, health care and breeding records.

Pork Quality

To insure the highest quality free range pork products with its legionary mouth-watering taste, free-range pork farmers only use the best genetic lines for breading in their herds.

Interested farmers should contact the FAPA for more information on these quantity genetic lines.

Guidelines and Rules

South African farmers compete in a global free market system and in most cases without government support – unlike the case is in many other developed countries.

As with all free market systems normal marketing forces apply. This including quality, quantity and price.

It is therefore necessary for free range pork farmers to find private buyers [corporate and private] who is willing to pay more for a niche product i.e. free range pork.

To enable a contract like this will mean signing quality, quantity and price specific contract that will specifically  guaranteed quality and free range status of the pork.

Many corporate buyers will therefore, before they sign any contracts, send field agents to visit the farmer on his farm to insure that all the guidelines and protocols for free-range pig farming (as set out by the Free-Range Pork Association [FRPA] ) are adhered too and met.

Field agents work closely with farmers to help them comply.

The Free-Range Pork Association [FRPA] has training courses and facilities available were farmers, farm hands, field agents are other specialists this the industry can be trained and coached.

Some of the duties of independent Field Agents are:

  • To audit farms were free-ranch farming takes place to insure that the guidelines and protocols for the free-range pork market are met.
  • To issue guarantees to suppliers and consumers on the quality of the meat.
  • To promote free range pork farming in general but also to new family farmers with the aim to increase production.
  • To work with farmers to insure correct record keeping and to insuring traceability of all pork products.
  • To help farmers find quantity genetic breeding lines and set up inventorying projections for buyers.
  • To help buyers find the best free-range pork money can buy.
  • To assist farmers with technical information including animal welfare and health care for the herds on the farm.
  • To arrange appropriate transport to and from abattoirs and to insure transport takes place within the stipulated protocols.
  • To find new markets for free range pork, including from local hotels, restaurants, butcheries and even for export.
  • To help farmers with the training of their farm hands to insure a smooth running business.

You can download an information pack on how to keep pigs in a Free-Range Farming System. Just complete the box below:

Free Range Pork & Farming Information