March 2012

The first farm visit for 2012 was to a familiar local enterprise at Darnum. Pig breeder, Bronwyn Cowan, an original member of our organisation some two decades past, welcomed members back to see progress with her niche piggery.

Given the rain of the previous week the paddocks of pigs of all ages and breeds, were happily enjoying the muddy conditions and the occasional bursts of sunshine. WOF members walked along the farm lanes while Bronwyn gave valuable insights into pig husbandry and intelligence. One fascinating observation she shared is of the tendency of sows with large litters to share the responsibility for providing milk for all their piglets. Charming as this image might be, WOF members were also guarded. Bronwyn explained how fiercely protective sows can be if any of their young brood are handled by humans very early in life.

The focus of the visit was on the challenges, pitfalls, opportunities and satisfaction of running a viable animal enterprise on a small scale. With the aim to produce both an optimum product and return custom, the pork leaving this farm has developed a solid reputation with which larger commercial productions cannot compete. Notwithstanding, this open range pig farm has to make a profit and does so through farmers’ markets in strategic locations.

Landrace, Tamworth, Saddleback, Berkshire, Wessex and various crosses in between satisfy Bronwyn’s interest in preserving rare pig breeds in Australia. Given that pigs were along the livestock arriving on the First Fleet in 1788, pork production has remained a mainstay of the Australian diet. Producers such as this farm at Darnum, compete successfully with the huge import trend towards cheap pork from North America. While fat levels in the meat have been reduced over time, flavour has been maximised, partly by pigs’ diet, by the open range approach and also by slaughter at the optimum time.

The production of market desirable pork is a goal which it appears that Bronwyn and her partner have well achieved.

The next event on the WOFWG calendar is the annual state-wide Gathering, this year in Buchan over 16-18 March. Members are keenly looking forward to this long weekend of fun events, farming activities and rural catch ups.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. You do not have to be a farmer to participate. For more details contact secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at for the 2012 monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.