Glen Oakes Pig Farm
Since he was a small boy, Charlie Crowther has had a passion for pigs. After farming cattle for fourteen years in the Hemel en Aarde valley, he started a pig farm two years ago. He supplies Richard Bosman and Neil Jewel. The farm also offers accommodation.
Website www.glenoakes.co.za Phone + 27 (0) 28 212 2710 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
A passion for pig
One of the first things you’ll notice as you enter the home of Charlie and Julie Crowther is the faded photograph of a three year old boy squatting amongst a litter of piglets – immediately charming evidence of Charlie’s lifelong love affair with pigs that has finally culminated in the establishment of a pig farm at Glen Oakes two years ago.
Ranging free, but not freerange
This is no conventional piggery. The 300-strong flock roams freely through large open spaces – the largest paddock is over six hectares in size. But Charlie doesn’t like the term ‘freerange’ for his pigs. “It’s been abused. Almost anyone can call their farms freerange these days – it doesn’t mean much.” His method is what is better described as natural-rearing, or “pasture-raised”. Terminology aside though, this is the kind of farming that gives you the warm and fuzzies.
For example, while your bog-standard piggery has to dock the pigs’ tails to prevent them being bitten or chewed off due to stress, Charlie’s flock can happily keep their curly bits as they root around in the bush and dig little burrows in the hillside. In addition, conventional farms must house farrowing sows (those in labour) in crates to prevent them from crushing their new borns – Charlie’s sows are housed in comfortable open huts where they lovingly nurture their young.
Sows are pregnant for three months, three weeks and three days. The mother and her babies are kept apart from the main flock for two months, after which the piglets are weaned (at piggeries they are weaned at four to five weeks). The sows come on heat five days later after weaning, and at this point they are handed over to Major, the farms proud and proficient stud boar, who woos them over the next six weeks - or until they are pregnant.
The sows are a cross between Large White and Landrace breeds, and the boar stud is a Duroc with course red hair. The Duroc influence adds more marbling to the meats – a highly desirable quality in meats that are headed for curing. The pigs are fed a vegetarian diet including canola, maize, clover and lucerne. They spend all day grazing grass and burrowing roots in the paddocks, munching pretty much anything their otherwise omnivorous palates fancy. They have a particular liking for acorns, which suits Charlie just fine as Glen Oakes is thick with oaks and the pigs will eventually be ‘finished’ with a diet of acorns in their last month. This adds to the flavour of the final cured product.
This little piggie went to market
Around 12 months old (and 130 to 140 kilograms in weight), the pigs’ lives are complete. They then become the property of Richard Bosman (of Richard Bosman’s Quality Cured Meats) and Neil Jewell (of Bread and Wine Restaurant in Franschoek), two passionate fleischmeisters and quality charcuterie producers.
This farm is appropriately proud of itself, and happy to show off its beauty. Glen Oakes is open to eco-tourists who are welcome to stay in one of the two beautiful and rustic cottages, built almost completely off raw materials from the farm itself. They’re welcome to roam around the 300 hectare estate and say hello to the pigs.
And it wouldn’t be uncommon to spot the pig farmer in the paddocks too, giving his sows some affection. The love affair is clearly ongoing.
Piglet on the move! the piglets and their mother are kept separate from the herd for the first two months until the are big and strong enough to be independent
Major - the boar stud and king pig. He loves having his eyes caressed - in fact all pigs do!
Pigs love acorns so it's a blessing that Glen Oakes is covered with them (pigs and oak trees that is!). In fact, the pigs eat a predominantly acorn diet in the last month of their lives.
Spot the pigs! The largest paddock is six hectares in size and includes the native bush hillside where the pigs love to make burrows in which to hide from the sun.
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