Dundeady Free Range Farm

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Almost all Irish pigs are reared in intensive systems, never getting to experience the outdoors or carry out natural behaviours. However, the good news is there are more and more free range pig farms popping up around the country and I recently went to visit one just outside Clonakilty in County Cork – Dundeady Free Range Farm

Two years ago Shane Kenneally had had enough of not knowing where his food came from. He was already keeping hens and it seemed like a natural progression to take on a couple of pigs. Not coming from a farming background this was quite a leap, and a big learning curve. He got himself two Kune Kune pigs and it grew from there.

Shane now has a growing herd on his 3 acres of land, that is segmented so the pigs can be moved around periodically, depending on conditions. He has a mixture of 10 Kune Kune and Duroc OSB crosses, with two pedigree sows and one boar for breeding, and 10 pedigree Kune Kune piglets.

Piglets snoozing in the sun. In factory farms they never get to experience the sun on their backs
Well that’s one way of ensuring you get your fair share of the food! #Littlest pig

One of the sows, Sky (all the breeding pigs have names) had just given birth in time for my visit, and has 10 healthy piglets. That is quite a large litter for a Kune Kune and it was only her second. There are no farrowing crates on free range farms, and despite the excuses given by intensive farmers crushing is not an issue. As long as the sow has enough space and bedding to keep the piglets warm she will make a good mother. A heat lamp also helps prevent crushing as the piglets are drawn to it and pile up under it for a nap, out of the way of mom.                                  Sows have an instinctive need to nest build as they get close to farrowing (giving birth) and Sky was no different, collecting grasses to add to the straw in the ‘maternity unit’ as Shane calls it. This behaviour is denied them when on a factory farm, even if they weren’t trapped in a cage there are no materials for them to nest build with. Seeing a sow able to nurture her young in a more natural environment, on a comfy straw bed, is a far cry from row upon row of sows crammed into crates, on bare slatted flooring.

The pigs are spread out across four fields, but they can all communicate with each other, which they do with a complex series of grunts. They have mud baths to wallow in, grass and roots to munch on, and plenty of space to run around and burn off excess energy. There is no tail docking on this farm, the pigs have plenty to occupy them so are not interested in chewing each other’s tails. The main reason tails are docked on factory farms is because of the bleak environment they are stuck in, the overcrowding and competition for food. Pigs have an innate need to root and forage, it’s hardwired into their DNA. They have a compelling need to explore their environment and search for food, by sniffing, biting and chewing. If they cannot do this, they become bored and frustrated which leads to destructive behaviours, and they will chew each other’s body parts instead.

Pigs love to wallow in the mud on a warm day. Something else they can’t do in a factory farm

As well as chomping on grass and roots the pigs are given fruit and veg, hay, bread left over from a local bakery, and pig feed. They are sent to slaughter at a local abattoir when around 8 or 9 months old. Whilst this is a fraction of their natural life span, on a factory farm they would get slaughtered at a younger age of 5 or 6 months. The pigs don’t have to travel far and as local authority slaughterhouses use electrical stunning the pigs aren’t subjected to the horror of a gas chamber, as most pigs in Ireland are.

Look at those gorgeous lashes 🙂
Pigs love to root and forage…

Shane’s operation is very small at present but he’s just starting out and has plans for expansion in the coming months and years. There is currently no website but if you want to purchase any produce Shane can be contacted via the Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/dundeady.purebred.kunekunes or on 086 1068880.

You might think produce of this standard is very expensive,  but the price per kilo is on a par with branded factory farmed pig meat. If we must eat animals, they should at least have a decent life and a stress and pain free death. I hope one day free range produce will be more widely available in supermarkets and will be the norm rather than the exception.


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