Saturday, 24 October 2015

When Pixie Met the President

It was a big day for little Pixie when the President of the Ryeland flockbook society honored me and my flock with a special visit. This years President is Steve Hipps who is not only experienced in breeding and showing Pedigree Ryelands but is also a really keen to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with others. 

Steve kindly offered to give me a tutorial on how to card and trim a sheep for a show and little Pixie obliged us as a model.

Little Pixie - Meeting the President is a big deal for a little sheep
A previous and well deserved winner of "Wool on the Hoof" -Steve shows off his expert trimming skills
Once on the trimming stand little Pixie wasn't too keen on the carding process so we kept it short and sweet and moved on to the trimming.
Pixie soon got used to standing on the trimming stand but wasnt too keen on the carding

Steve learnt his skill from watching his wife Margaret who was highly respected in Ryeland showing circles so Pixie was in expert hands.

Due to her shakey start in life Pixie is a little too small to cause a stir in the show ring and my trimming skills are a far cry from Steves expert hand but I thought Pixie looked rather spended with her special show trim and I think she did too!

Kune Kune - The best tasting pork ever!

Ok...perhaps the title of this post should end in a question mark rather than an exclamation mark but hey, its my blog and they are my Kunes so let me tell you why I think they are the best.

If you don't know much about Kune kune pigs (pronounced Cooney Cooney) then it's no surprise as they are not only very rare but are not a native British breed.  Kunes are a small and extremely friendly little pig from New Zealand, though they are not native of New Zealand either. There are many theories as to how they got there and they may in fact be the result of the breeding of a number different pig breeds, but whatever their origins, they have evolved into the most delightful little pigs.  

Hamish- Ranging as pigs were meant to do - as happy as a pig in clover

Having formed a staple part of the indigenous peoples diet, the Kune pig eventually fell out of favour with the Maoris and by the 1970’s they were on the brink of extinction. It was then that two wildlife park owners, Michael Willis and John Simster bought every Kune Kune they could find for sale and began to revive the breed from a breeding stock of only 18 pigs. By 1992 though the Kune Kunes had worked their little piggy charm on Zoe Lindop and Andrew Calvely who were responsible for bringing the first specially bred genetically varied herd to Britain.

Kune Kunes come in a wide range of colours  

So what makes Kune Kunes so great...? 

Well for me the secret to great tasting meat lies in a number of factors and perhaps the most important one is that it comes from an breed that matures naturally over a period of time rather than over a few short weeks. The Kune is far from fast maturing but the result is clearly evident here in the taste, texture and look of the meat.

Beautiful leg of kune kune pork 

Another very important factor is feed. The rapid growth of commercial pigs is fueled by high protein concentrates but Kunes are great grazers and rummagers who mature on a diet of grass, fruit, fresh veg and acorns as well as a small amount of low protein feed and hay in winter. This free range diet results in a wonderful flavor in the meat and reminds many people of "how pork used to taste"

Angus - enjoying finding acorns in the Autumn sun


An often misunderstood factor is the percentage of fat on a piece of pork. Pigs fall into two types: Meat (or Bacon pigs) and Lard pigs. Meat pigs were developed to have more lean meat with moderate marbling of fat but bacon from these modern pigs can often be injected with liquid to avoid the inevitable drying out as a result of the lack of fat. However, in the days before commercial farming when lard was highly desired for everything from making soap to baking, preserving wood and leather or lubricating machinery, the  lard pigs were greatly praised. Lard pigs still have lots of good meat to offer and when raised in a natural way (which is not in an intensive pig farm) the meat and fat from these breeds can be healthy and utterly delicious. So Kune pigs that are kept this way produce meat and lard that are full of flavor and nutrition as well as being succulent.

Meat with fat is meat with flavour 

Lastly, for me a key element the production of my high quality meat is a natural, stress free environment. My Kunes range in woodland and pasture enjoying stimulation, variety and an opportunity to exhibit all their natural behaviors. They are all handled daily and  happily come when called or follow a bucket when moved around the farm. They are not subjected to sticks or electric prods and do not have their teeth cut or their tales docked as commercial pigs do. 
The sows give birth in straw lined sheds not farrowing crates designed to prevent them turning round. The piglets are left with their mum to wean naturally at 8 weeks and not taken away abruptly at 4 weeks as in commercial systems. This means that the sows are relaxed and contented which results in higher survival rates for the piglets.

Kune Kune sows make great mums

Because Kunes are such a people friendly breed who love to have a back scratch or a tummy rub, they are able to take life in their stride and even a short journey to the abattoir is a quiet, laid back affair of snoozing in a trailer full of straw for my pigs. As livestock go, pigs seem to suffer more from stress than cattle and sheep and this can be an issue for commercial pigs and can result in the pale colour, soft texture and extruding moisture content of the meat. 

Kune Kunes- Always in the mood for a tummy rub

So there are faster growing breeds, leaner breeds, larger breeds and native rare breeds.
But I defy anyone to find a breed that is tastier or more adorable! 

Kune Kune - being this cute can be exhausting!

With thanks to Rea Jones, Alison Stephen and the Kune Kune Pigs UK Facebook group.

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