Summary – excursion to Akkervarkens farm
Summary – excursion to Akkervarkensarm
On 26th January, Boerengroep organized an excursion to the farm Akkervarkens (Field pigs in English) in Walthermond in Drenthe region, for a group of 11 people. The goal was to visit a pig farm with an innovative, more animal- and environmental-friendly way of raising pigs.
farm is, to say the least, special. Willem and Claudia, the farmers, wanted
their pigs to be raised in their natural habitats, so that they could perform
their natural behavior. They have 250 pigs that live outside all year round. They
live in and feed on neighboring forest areas, and on other farmers’ arable fields
where they dig out weeds or the remains of a harvest (like potatoes). This way,
new open spaces are created in forests and the fields are cleaned without
machines, which leaves more space to soil life. Every day, pigs get additional
feed that is locally sourced (such as cereals and beets), to ensure that they
remain healthy and so they keep coming to the farmers.
entire life cycle of the pigs is managed by the farmers, from birth to
slaughter. The sows give birth in the farrowing pen on-farm, where they have
space to make their own nest made of straw. Some extra space close to the walls
is made especially for piglets, to prevent them from being crushed by their
mother. Piglets stay with their mother for 8 to 10 weeks (instead of 4 weeks in
conventional farms), before they are placed together by age so they learn to
get used to life outside and within a group.
farm raises 3 different breeds (Berkshire, Duroc and Husumer) that are known
for being robust and curious, perfect for living outside. Husumer is especially
a rare breed that the farmers want to save from extinction. Pigs are raised
until more or less 1.5 years old (instead of 6-7 months in conventional farms).
The farmers bring the animals to the slaughterhouse themselves to ensure
minimum stress. The meat is sold on-farm. It has extra tenderness and juiciness
thanks to the special breeds. The meat is not organic but it is free of
antibiotics and of conservatives.
farm is multifunctional and locally rooted. The pigs are used as landscape
managers, as they clean fields and forests. Also, because the pigs dig weeds
with their roots, the farm works hand-in-hand with the municipality to control
invasive exotics, such as the Japanese Knotweed (Japanse duizendknoop in
Nederlands). Farmers offer farm visits all year round, and people can pass by
freely to say hi to the pigs, some of them give the pigs their leftovers. The
farmers also organize activities for children: they have an indoor playground
for children parties (including farm animals) and they organize each year an
acorn collection campaign: together with local residents and sport clubs they
go and pick up (up to 6000kg) acorns, as treats for the pigs.
a 2-hour tour at the Akkervarkens farm is quite an experience. It is especially
delightful to help the farmer go feed the pigs, and to see hundreds of them
happily running to us from a distance in the field. It is inspiring to get to
know about an economically successful farm that raises pigs according to their
natural behavior, allowing them to live outside under the trees, dig out their
food and to chill in the mud.