From fashions of Paris to pig farm

North Queensland couple and their pigs settle into new home at Biggenden


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How a couple's hobby turned into a highly successful free range pig farm.

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Julia Powell with some of the pigs at Backfatters Heritage Breed Free Range Pig Farm near Biggenden.

Julia Powell with some of the pigs at Backfatters Heritage Breed Free Range Pig Farm near Biggenden.

A FEW years ago Julia Powell would wake up to the smell of coffee and croissants and work in the fashion world of Paris, now she spends her days in the company of more than 300 free range pigs.

Julia, and her partner Shane Muller, are settling into their new home at Degilbo, near Biggenden after packing up their Berkshire and Large Black pigs and relocating from near Ingham a few months ago.

The pair run Backfatters Heritage Breed Free Range Pig Farm, the biggest free range pig farm in Queensland, and supply products to local markets and Super Butcher stores. 

There are plenty of inquisitve faces around Backfatters' farm.

There are plenty of inquisitve faces around Backfatters' farm.

The decision to move from 20 acres to a 160 acre property came after abattoir rent increases made it difficult to continue their business in the north. 

Julia said their pigs started off as a hobby but now they were struggling to keep up with the strong demand for their products.

“When we moved up there we just bought a little farm and we were just going to grow our own food because we couldn't get the stuff up there that we wanted,” she said.

“We got some rare breed pigs that we were just going to sell the ones that we didn't eat and give them away to our friends as breeders but Romo (the boar) he broke out and (found) every lady in the place.

Julia Powell with the couple's pigs.

Julia Powell with the couple's pigs.

“So we had 60 piglets born three months later and of course that was way more than anyone can put in a freezer so we started the markets up there and it just really snowballed from there.”

The pigs are fed a “secret” grain ration and the farm has pregnancy paddocks rather than pregnancy pens. 

The youngsters of Backfatters' farm.

The youngsters of Backfatters' farm.

A small amount of breeders who were to close to giving birth during the move are at a property in Proserpine while 90 breeders, five boards and 350 “little squealers” are now at Biggenden.

Pigs are killed between 50kg and 55kg and return a commercial fat score between 10 and 15. 

“We are all about breeding for the flavour rather than the growth rates,” Julia said.

“Everybody is outside...so everyone gets to express themselves and their piggy-ness.”

The pigs all get to enjoy the free range lifestyle.

The pigs all get to enjoy the free range lifestyle.

The pigs are sent to the Biggenden Meatworks and are processed at a butcher in Childers with expectations about 20 pigs per week will be needed this year to keep up with the demand.

There are only eight bloodlines of the Large Black breed left and the couple are also hoping to expand their breeding program further this year. 

“What we will do is we will breed out with some Berkshires and looking at some other breeds of pig like new Hampshire,” Julia said.

“So if we can breed out four times and what you do each time is you pick the best of the best but the further away you get from the original the harder it gets to get just what you are looking for.

“So it’s going to take another five years before I can say we have fresh bloodlines we could put in.”

Along with their Backfatters brand of fresh meat products the couple also sell chemical free smoked goods under their Herbert Valley label and are sourced from their smaller number of pink pigs. 

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