Rare breed pigs have been enlisted for conservation duties at Bere Marsh Farm as volunteers vie to be a part of Operation Pig Watch
Conservation efforts at Bere Marsh Farm have taken on an unusual twist with the arrival of three rare breed Oxford Sandy & Black pigs. The trio of female pigs will be allowed to freely roam a nine acre field for the next few months, and they will naturally root up the ground.
The idea was suggested by ecologist Derek Gow and is part of the Countryside Regeneration Trust’s (CRT) plan to increase natural biodiversity.
The pigs have come from nearby breeder Lillie Smith, one of only 136 registered breeders of Oxford Sandy and Blacks in the country. See our feature on Lillie and her OSB’s on page 25.
The sows will be left to their natural foraging behaviour that will encourage a less uniform area filled with scrub and tussocks, and will create small patches of bare ground to allow grey willow and other wild plants to establish. The wild field landscape will provide a better habitat for insects and field voles – and consequently more food for the farm’s barn owls.
Operation Pig Watch
Volunteers from the Bere Marsh Farm community will be on duty every day to feed and monitor the pigs as part of Operation Pig Watch. According to Elaine Spencer-White, the farm manager, the response to the call for volunteers was overwhelming; within 24 hours of the call being sent out, she had 14 pig-sitters volunteered to help, with two more on standby. The volunteers will monitor the pig’s daily welfare and scatter their food across the field to encourage their natural rootling activities. Feeding times will also be flexible to stop them relying on a regular meal.
Pig-promoted conservation has not been used at Bere Marsh Farm before, and the innovative scheme is being closely monitored by the CRT, which hopes to see results quickly. They plan to take a photo from the same spot overlooking the field for a detailed record of the habitat’s development over future years. The hope is that the pigs’ assistance will result in the establishment of a variety of plants and create a sustainable ecosystem for future years.
Across its 19 farms and properties the CRT works on the principal that nature is integral to good farming, and that philosophy is the practice on more than 2,000 acres of working farms, small-holdings and woodland across the country, where they are demonstrating how regenerative farming increases biodiversity and maintains sustainable food production for every one of us.