5 Dec 2014

Pig Out

From Country Life, 9:28 pm on 5 December 2014

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Steve Sterne and Jens Raven and their families wanted to develop a free-farmed pig breeding and finishing operation based around healthy sows living and farrowing in paddocks.

Their vision also included  finishing pigs for bacon in large eco-barns with deep straw litter.

So they bought a sheep farm on the south bank of the Hurunui River near Hawarden in North Canterbury in 1998 and started their pig operation from scratch.  

Fifteen years later there is no looking back. Patoa Farms now produces about 15 percent of the country's pig meat and recently was named The Lincoln University Foundation's South Island Farmer of the Year for 2014.

There are 45,000 pigs on the 600ha farm and Steve says they are now working towards reducing their footprint on the environment.

"We have another property next door to this one were we take any compost that we can't sell we and we spread it on that ground and incorporate into the soil  as fertiliser, then we double crop that ground and strip as many nutrients out as we can to  achieve a nutrient mass balance".   

There have been some changes along the way though. Jens retired in 2013 and Steve's daughter Holly, who has a background in banking, was enticed back to the farm to manage the $25 million business and its 40 fulltime staff.

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Holly and Steve Sterne.

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