Tipperary couple provide insights into free range pig rearing

A Tipperary pig farming couple are all set for the start of a busy summer season during which they will give insights into rearing free range pigs.

“We will be restocking with pigs this coming weekend. It is strange just being ‘summer time’ pig farmers, but for health reasons – ours – it was the best decision to make,” said Margaret O’Farrell of Oldfarm, which is located at Redwood, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary.

Margaret and her partner Alfie McCaffrey, who relocated to Lorrha from Dublin in 2003, had been selling free range pork to people around the country but scaled back the enterprise after Alfie’s illness. They kept hens and ducks all year around but now just keep pigs and sheep from April to November.

“Coupled with restocking with the Welsh breed of pigs, we will also be bringing Zwartbles lambs from Suzanna Crampton’s farm back onto the holding. Our first pig rearing course of the year will be on Saturday, April 27, with a number of people already registered to attend,” said Margaret.

Keeping free range pigs is incredibly rewarding, if for no other reason than the meat is so delicious. However, rushing headlong into pig ownership without proper consideration of the implications is a recipe for disaster.

“Our course covers areas such as: the best breed; housing and space needed; feeding as they eat a lot; and the practicalities such as finding an abattoir and a butcher.”

The day-long course which starts at 11:00am, and usually finishes around 4:30pm, provides realistic insights into free range pig rearing.

“Even if you decide at the end of the day that keeping pigs is not for you, it will be a day well spent. Most who attend are thinking of keeping pigs for their own benefit but over the years, we’ve also had participants who have gone on to set up a business,” Margaret said.

We’ve even had a participant who travelled from Portugal to attend and is now running a thriving organic / free range pork farm in northern Portugal.

Meanwhile, they are still kept busy with their AirBnB guests from all over the world. “So much so, that this year we have added a new room – the library room – to our offering. Our bread-making classes are going strong,” said Margaret.

“Our guests come from all over the globe but mainly North America, Australia and Germany. Being rural has not been a hindrance, it is often a blessing. The majority of our guests come because of the food.

“They like the idea that we grow and raise our own organic food and enjoy the insights into that. We offer them the chance to join us for dinner in the evening which makes the stay even more memorable.”

Margaret has found time to diversify even further. “Recently, we have also collaborated with some neighbours to offer crafting weekends, making lampshades; learning to crochet; and making footstools.”

More information is available on: www.oldfarm.ie.