FOR Lucy and Kim House, Dawson Valley Free Range, Baralaba, a life of pigs, goats, and sheep was not one they expected for themselves.
Traditionally cattle graziers, Mr and Mrs House said they went into pigs “a few years ago” and leased cattle land out as it was more profitable.
Laughing, Mrs House said the current cattle market would “change that a bit”.
Now with more than 80 sows and 350 growers (weaners or finishers) at any time, the pig business is going from strength to strength – so much so that they are expanding into sheep and goats.
Sitting on traditionally cattle country near Baralaba, the House family are operating on 900 hectares, and sell their pigs to two South East Queensland butchers, and also do their own marketing and sales at local markets.
Mrs House said the consumer trend towards wanting sustainable, ethically produced food worked in their favour – and they were able to cater to those markets by offering nitrate free pork, which is butchered in Monto.
The pigs are free range but not organic, and are grainfed as well as pasture fed.
Mrs House said the drought has been a continual issue for the operation, with pastures quickly running down.
While bacon is the obvious favourite at the markets, Mrs House said she has been able to sell some alternative pieces of the pig which would not normally sell, simply by providing recipes for consumers to try.
The pigs are predominantly Berkshire-crosses, with some white pigs in the mix.
Mr House said a recent loan from QRAA was helping the couple install more fencing and water infrastructure on the property, with the aim of increasing their opportunity to rotationally graze the pigs, goats and sheep safely.
“We have had problems with dingos,” Mr House said.
“Just recently in an area where we had not quite completed the ring lock fence, dingos came in in the middle of the day and got into the goats.
“We were letting them out during the day and locking them up at night, but we went out to get them and they were dead, spread out everywhere. We haven’t done that again.”
The couple are continuing with ring lock fencing for the property, and said expanding into sheep and goats was not a hard decision, with vermin-proof fences already in place for the pigs.
Now with only 70 goats and 50 sheep, they said they want to expand their numbers “substantially” over the next year.
Mrs House said both the lamb and goat meat had been popular at markets, with many locals originally from other countries enjoying the ability to purchase locally reared goat, especially.
She said the market was there, the consumers were ready and willing to pay for the product, and now they just had to focus on growing their numbers.