Dawson Valley Free Range
Early last week Jono and I (Chris) visited Dawson Valley Free Range farm, who supply Sunshine Coast Organic Meats with Free-Range Pork.
Kim and Lucy House of Dawson Valley Free Range have owned their PROOF certified Free Range 2,200-acre property in Baralaba, Central Queensland since 1991. The Houses have been farming pigs since 2010. Currently, they have 400 pigs, of which 65 are heritage breeders, on approximately 70 acres. They also produce Free Range cattle, sheep and goats all of which are born, raised and finished on pasture.
(Kim and Lucy House at their farm house)
Pasture Raised On Open Fields or better known as PROOF is a Certifying body. PROOF certify Free Range eggs and livestock in accordance with its strict standards and regulations that apply from the birth of the animal right through to its delivery at the Butchers shop. PROOF ensures that pigs are born and raised outdoors and have access to pasture at all-time, as where under other Free-Range Certifying bodies that isn't always the case. Annual audits and unannounced audits are undertaken to ensure the all standards are upheld.
(Mud wallows are important as they are used by the pigs to regulate their temperature, ad the mud acts as sun protection.)
When you compare this with conventional farming, whereby each pig, weighing up to 100kg is only given 0.66m2 of space, it makes you wonder why this form of farming is legal.
In line with PROOF standards, Dawson Valley Free Range do not use any herbicides or growth hormones and have zero chemical inputs on the pigs and paddocks. The pigs do not have nose rings, docked tails or clipped teeth, as they often do with conventional farming.
Dawson Valley Free Range implement regenerative farming practices that are holistic and soil focused. The Houses ensure the pigs and the land are well cared for through rotational grazing, which is the practice of moving livestock after designated periods of time to new pastures. For example, sows have their own farrowing pen of around 6 metres by 6 metres where they give birth and then feed their piglets until weaning, after which the land will not be re-used for farrowing pens for roughly another 5 years.
(The farrowing pens have plenty of space for the Sows and her piglets)
Conventional farming generally wean piglets at 3-4 weeks old but at Dawson Valley Free Range piglets are weaned at 6-8 weeks in line with PROOFs minimum weaning age of 6 weeks. This is important through crucial developmental stages. Once the pigs have reached a certain weight and age they then are taken to the abattoir where they have a day to settle into their new surroundings. The abattoir is set up to make the experience for the animals as quick and painless, stress-free and above all as humane as possible.
Animal welfare is a very important part of what we do at Sunshine Coast Organic Meats. Lucy and Kim show true compassion for their animals. Unlike how pigs are conventionally farmed, we witnessed their pigs happily running free. With plenty of space, there was no overcrowding and were convinced the pigs live a great life, albeit with one bad day.
We would like to extend a big thank you to Lucy and Kim for allowing us the opportunity and pleasure of being able to visit and see first-hand the great practices in place at Dawson Valley Free Range.