“Pigs are like the ultimate tractor”

Letting a group of foraging pigs loose onto marginal land is an excellent method of regenerating the soil back into production and is an environmentally friendly practice. That’s exactly the type of farm Angus McIntosh is operating in South Africa.


Name: Angus McIntosh Function: Owner Farm: Spier Wine Farm, located near Stellenbosch, Western Cape province, South Africa, is steeped in history dating back to 1692 and extends to 650 ha broken down into 150 ha for a hotel com- plex and organic vegetable garden; 18 ha of wine grapes; 126 ha irrigated farmland; 200 ha of winter grazing and 156 ha of a fynbos biome restoration area. Apart from keeping 200 pigs, he also has cattle, sheep and hens.

egenerative agriculture builds up the soil, resulting in healthier pasture plants that in turn feed animals to produce grass-fed protein for humans to con- sume. Angus McIntosh made a bit of a detour be-

fore starting his journey in regenerative agriculture. He grew up on a cattle ranch in KwaZulu-Natal before embarking on a career as a stockbroker in London, UK. After four years of

buying and selling he returned to South Africa in 2004 with his wife Mariota Enthoven, whose family owns Spier Wine Farm near Stellenbosch, Western Cape province, to pioneer his own pasture-based farming system on the farm. McIntosh was also the first farmer in the world to sell carbon credits for increasing the carbon content in the soil of the pastures where the livestock graze, back in 2014.

Outdoor enterprise since 2016 “Farmer Angus”, as he is known in Western Cape province, explains how the outdoor pig enterprise that was born in 2016 is managed. “We run 150 cattle, 8,000 laying hens in egg mobiles, a small lamb operation and the pig operation on the irrigated land. Our pig numbers change all the time but ba- sically we buy in Large White/White Duroc crosses as weaner pigs and fatten them up. “The aim is to provide carcasses of 110 kg at around nine months old to the producer of our charcuterie, which is the only meat cured without added nitrates or nitrites in South Africa. Initially, on two occasions, we tried using sows and breeding our own young pigs from them but without success, so now we buy in weaners and fatten them outdoors.” McIntosh continues, “Pigs are like the ultimate tractor, except they fertilise the soil while loosening it and don’t have any breakable parts, nor cause compaction. My definition of a pig is that it is a tractor that you eat when it has finished working.”

No fixed housing for the pigs McIntosh keeps up to 200 pigs and does not have any fixed housing for them. They are kept on the rougher land that is destined for reseeding and are moved to fresh ground regu- larly at least once a week. In the fields he places little triangle structures made out of zinc-aluminium that are closed on two sides and the top. Those provide shade to protect the pigs from the sometimes harsh sun, and they can be easily moved by two people. He uses a series of PVC pipes connected to a mobile tanker to provide a fresh water supply for the pigs. McIntosh bases his farming system on the high-density grazing methodology or “mob-grazing”, utilising the manure and urine that is deposited onto the soil by the animals to eliminate the need to apply any artificial NPK fertilisers. The pastures were established with a variety of different per- ennial summer and winter legumes, herbs and grasses. Once an area has been grazed, the animals are moved giving the

24 ▶ PIG PROGRESS | Volume 37, No. 7, 2021

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