A pig breed that once traded alongside gold on the Hungarian stock exchange is now gracing the northern Pennines in Cumbria.
To the untrained eye they could easily be mistaken for sheep, for these woolly creatures, known as Mangalitsa pigs, are covered in a thick, course coat making them well equipped to deal with extreme weather.
These pigs, once known as the Curly Coated Lincoln, were traditionally lard producers, but they also produce highly marbled meat. They were common in the British countryside more than 200 years ago but are rarely seen on these shores today.
It is because of the Mangalitsa’s ability to withstand extreme weather and the sweet and tender meat they produce that farmer Jan Balfe, who farms in partnership with Carolyn Nelson, decided to introduce them on their 10ha smallholding on Alston Moor.
Jan’s aim is to try and raise awareness of the breed and get other farmers to consider breeding and finishing them in order to get the unique-tasting meat on to British menus.
WHEN Cumbrian pig farmer Carolyn Nelson started planning ecologically friendly housing for her rare pedigree animals, she decided to take inspiration from a children’s fairy story.
Carolyn, who breeds woolly Mangalitsas, thought it would be a great idea to build her pigs’ homes out of straw.
But unlike the Three Little Pigs, the housing she is proposing is unlikely to be blown down – either by wolf or wind. Starting with old tyres for the foundations, Carolyn is planning to use straw bales as the main walls of the environmentally friendly pig housing at Eldorhog Farm, Alston north Cumbria.
NO matter how bleak theconditions on the high slopes of the ...
November 14, 2014
NO matter how bleak theconditions on the high slopes of the Pennines this winter, the happy herd of woolly Mangalitsa pigs at The Old Battery House Farm, Galligill, should stay snug, thanks to a groundbreaking use ofsustainable technology.
Mother and offspring revel in the mud
Jan Balfe with her straw-walled pig house in the background
A Mangalitsa piglet
Pig farming partnership Jan Balfe and Carolyn Nelson are creating an eco-friendly straw house for their rare breed Eldorhog herd and hope that others will follow their green example.
Once complete, the straw structure which Jan believes to be the first of its kind in Europe will boast a state-of-the-art underfloor heatingsystem, fuelled by pig poo!
The daughter of a Lancashire butcher and pig farmer, Jan has a background in science,engineering and IT. The house at Galligill, which came with 10 acres, was bought in 2010 and Jan soon acquired three Mangalitsa pigs “as a hobby”.
The breed is native to Austria and Hungary, where it has long been prized Mangalitsas were originally bred exclusively for the royal families of Europe and traded on the Vienna stock exchange alongside gold.
Being a mountain breed, the Mangalitsa copes well with the sometimes harsh conditions of the North Pennines. Itsdistinctive woolly coat reminiscent of a sheep certainly sets it apart from other breeds of pig commonly seen in the UK.
In the past four years Jan, who does most of the hands-onmanagement of the herd, has built up numbers and now has 25 full-grown pigs, and around 25 piglets and weaners.
The animals range across the farmland in as close to a natural state as possible.