The Organic Pigs Paradise

by Ann van Engelen

Based on the Dalley Family Organic Beef and Sheep Farm, Regan and Samm have built the best life possible for their group of pigs and hens.

“There are six boys in our family and we grew up on this farm from 1988,” says Regan.

“Our father died in 2006 and the farm was put into an estate which currently my older brother leases and I manage for him. We run lamb, beef and crop on the main property and four years ago my wife Samm and I bought a few sows to have an interest of our own.

The couple needed something that complemented what is already happening on the farm and pigs ticked all the boxes. “My father and grandfather had a small dairy farm in Oxford with around 12 cows and supplied cream to the local dairy. They had the skim milk byproduct so they kept pigs to feed this to and they sold weaners at the Addington saleyards. 

“I got a lot of knowledge from growing up around my father’s pigs and they are Samm’s and my first step into farming in our own right.

“We started with two sows and have built the group up to 12. We lease a four hectare paddock from the farm and buy barley as feed from the property as well.” 

They grow linseed for a company in Geraldine and buy the linseed cake back as a protein feed instead of using fish meal or soy which large commercial operations generally use. “It means what we grow ends up back in our soil.

We split the paddock into six areas and strip graze turnips to keep costs down and it gives the pigs green feed options.

“The farm was certified organic in the 1990s and my brother has carried this on. When we started we didn’t have a clear goal of where we wanted to go. Through media and consumers we realised there was a shortage for ethically grown organic pork so we started buying beef and lamb from the farm and we sell mixed meat packs under the trading name ‘Elmwood Organic’.”

The couple have been selling and delivering meat packs to families in the Selwyn and Christchurch areas for two years and also take their products to local farmers’ markets including Ohoka, Lincoln, West Melton and Prebbleton, and the Whole Foods store in Riccarton also sell their brand.

“The happiness of our pigs is important to us. They all have names and they can wallow in mud and play and interact with the other pigs and with us. 

They really are intelligent animals.

“Even with the electric fence they are quite good at ‘houdini’ acts. They know the grass really is greener on the other side and learn very quickly if there is a way to get into another area.

“It takes about four months to graze each turnip strip and they get excited when they change paddocks and love digging for worms and grubs in the ground. If they are in a paddock where there are cow pats, they will flip the pat over and have a gourmet feed of worms and bugs.”

Their housing is linseed straw bales arranged on the ground, and each hut has an iron roof and straw is placed inside for bedding.

“Eventually the straw rots down and we replace the bales and reuse the iron roofs. There are two to three pigs housed per hut as they love company and when they snuggle in at night they are like bunches of bananas,” says Samm.

Animal welfare is important to Regan and Samm Dalley as 
they grow their pigs on their organic farm

“Effectively we have two litters of approximately 8-10 piglets per sow per year. It takes around six months for them to get to 70-80kg because we don’t feed a formulated feed like commercial farms.

“The longer they live, the more flavour the meat has.”

Lifestyle block owners buy piglets and feed them from their vege garden and they eat lawn clippings as well.

“We also have hens for eggs and they are in with the pigs and can eat alongside each other from the same trough. It is common to see them interacting with the pigs.

“We are passionate about providing our animals with a good life.

“Animal welfare is important to us and that is why we run our pigs the way we do.”