Stewards of the Heartlands

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A Rare Breed and Husbandry on the Range

Dr Naya Brangeberg and Jeremy WilhemLongbush Free Range Pork Farm • Longbush, Wairarapa, New Zealand

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Longbush Free Range Pork Farm • Longbush, Wairarapa, New Zealand

As summer arrives in New Zealand, it was time to visit Longbush Free Range Pork Farm and meet Naya Brangeberg and Jeremy Wilhem who have established a farming operation based on rare pig breed genetics of Large Blacks from England, excellent pork quality and principles of ethical animal welfare. Two Hong Kong medical doctors, Tinny Ho and John Chua were so impressed by the progressive farming operation, they joined Naya and Jeremy as partners in the farm’s development. The farm is laid out in two blocks of land over 26 hectares with a valley block and second block of free-draining rolling hillsides ideal for free-range grazing.

Naya and Jeremy are immigrants from the United States. Naya is a veterinarian and is responsible for overseeing animal welfare in the New Zealand provinces of the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay for the New Zealand Government. Jeremy, a statistician by training is a keen farmer and skilled stockman.

Longbush Farm is located in the valley and rolling hills of the Wairarapa region of the North Island of New Zealand. With a typical New Zealand climate of ‘four seasons in one day’, they have carved out a sustainable livestock farming venture dedicated to animal welfare, concern for the environment and focused on delivering pork products to a demanding market of discerning chefs, butchers and consumers who are asking for a high flavor and quality that markedly differs from ordinary supermarket pork.

The first encounter at Longbush already tells you that you are in animal friendly territory with a couple of Great Danes, Large Black Sows and a herd of lovely Jersey cows that all walk over to check you out and give you a nudge asking to have their backs and heads rubbed. There is also a flock of rare Jersey breed of turkeys that whilst loving their free-range they prefer to remain a bit aloof but do not run off as they hang around to see what the visitors are up to. They will even pose for a portrait.

Longbush’s environmental work is impressive with a focus on pasture improvement and land care programmes. In the first instance, grazing paddocks are being re-conditioned and improved by using the pig’s in built system of having a “tiller” on the front end and a “manure spreader” on the backend in order to plow up and fertilise the pasture in preparation for bringing on new, healthy grass paddocks for grazing. With planned rotation of pasture land, free-range pigs are assured to be able to express their natural behavior in the full comfort of the other four animal welfare freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain, injury and disease; and fear and distress.

As their capacity grows, Longbush will be also focusing on their processing and marketing expansion in the near-to-medium future.

With the plans to develop the farm in stages, the Stewards of the Heartlands project will continue to re-visit Naya and Jeremy to document the changes and improvements as they develop the farm and create and supply new markets for their high quality pork.

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    British Large Black sow

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    British Large Black sow

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    Naya with free-ranging sow

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    British Large Black sow

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    Flock of Jersey Buff turkey flock

  • Longbush Farm, New Zealand

    Afternoon nap, Large Black grower pigs

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    Naya checking on the napping Large Blacks

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    View of the top of Longbush with paddocks in use and a paddock in restoration.

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    Insulated, weatherproof pig housing imported from England.

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    Free range sow with her litter of crossbred Large Black X Duroc piglets.

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    View showing the restoration of free-range paddocks vs a paddock about to be tilled and re-seeded.

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    Free-range set-up with feeders and self-watering facilities.

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    Jeremy on the cellphone arranging for his electrician to lay a new power cable in the trench Jeremy completed digging in the afternoon.

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    Jeremy and Max having a bit of a play after finishing digging the long trench.

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    Longbush Large Black pork loin diner at Tiohana Estate Winery, Martinborough, New Zealand

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    Longbush Farm’s Jersey ladies taking an afternoon break.

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    Portraiture of one of the Jersey ladies.

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    Waiting for a bit of attention.

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    Naya having a walk with one of her Jersey ladies.

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    Naya holding a conversation with her Jersey lady.

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    Naya giving her Jersey T.L.C.

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    Double-bar Plymouth Rock chickens guarding the napping Large Blacks.

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    Max, the Great Dane, staying out of the rain.

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    The fog moves in over the hills of Longbush Farm.

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    Jeremy bringing the pig feeders to be filled for the day’s rations.

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    Free-ranging Large Black x Duroc grower pigs on the paddock.

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    Black and White portrait of a Large Black female.

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    Four-wheel drive feed wagon

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    Naya Brangenberg, Jeremy Wilhelm and Max the Great Dane of Longbush Free Range Pork Farm.

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