Choosing your pork. Crossbred, Berkshire or Mangalica ?

The otherworldly Mangalica (or Mangalitsa) pig is a fascinating creature and a fantastic eat for those who only want the very best. Fatty and marbled, the meat has a brilliant hint of nuts. Truly the best pork in the world.

The Mangalica pig looks awkward and ancient at the same time, with its woolly coat. It never really adapted to living indoors and looks and behaves more like its wild boar ancestors than like the crossbred pigs they use in commercial farms. It is a charming pig with a friendly disposition.

Berks and Mangas eating pumpkins

Its unique qualities come at a price. Mangalica pigs are rare gems that grow incredibly slowly, and they are much less prolific than garden variety pigs. Rumour has it that their fat is incredibly healthy. It is different for sure.


The Berkshire pig is our all-time favorite. It is a perfect compromise between the Mangalica and crossbred pigs. Tastes great, marbles beautifully, with lower pH and short muscle fibers. While not a commercial breed at all, Berkshires are a little less rare and more prolific than Mangalicas. They grow a little faster and dress out quite a lot better than Mangalicas. They are only a little bit more expensive than crossbred pigs, but the taste is already so much better.

Crossbred pige with Duroc influence

Crossbred pigs (Duroc x Landrace x Yorkshire) are bred to perform. And perform they do. They perform as well when raised outside under good circumstances. And they are ubiquitous as they are meant for big commercial farms. Raising them outside, without feeding them industrial by-products does help the quality along a little bit. The meat is lean and there is little marbling. But leanness has advantages too. Most people prefer their bacon a little meatier…

There are other heritage breeds, and we tried some – like Large Black, Large White, Hampshire, Duroc, and Tamworth – in the past. We learnt that we do not want to raise heritage pigs that do not improve meat quality. Unfortunately, tiny genetic pools, haphazard crossbreeding and – let us face it – amateurish farmers, do not do many favors to heritage pigs in general.

Tamworth pigs in the woods

Of course, there are many heritage breeds that we have never tried – but like to try. If you are breeding purebred Hereford, Meishan, or Mulefoot pigs, let us know!

But, let us face it. All we can really think of while writing these lines, is the truly amazing and delicate taste of Mangalica pork.

Berkshire chops

A grass-fed beef primer

With input prices skyrocketing, low prices for weaned calves at the auction barn and an increased consumer interest in local food due to supply worries and high grocery prices, many cow- calf producers now try to market their beef directly to the consumer.

Consumers are often disappointed in the quality of their purchase. A better understanding of cattle production can help to select good breeders and avoid disappointment.

Beef production consists of three steps: cow-calf production (until weaning at 600-700lbs), the semi-finishing phase (until 800-900 lbs, or 500 lbs carcass) and the finishing phase (until 1400 lbs, or 800 lbs carcass).

Cow-calf production

Until weaning time, pretty much all calves qualify as grass-fed. Semi-finishing beeves on grass for the season, is as old a day and used to be known as stocker calf production. Under perfect conditions, a beef can gain about 300 lbs during the short season in Quebec.

Despite revolutionary claims, there is nothing new under the sun. For example, rotational grazing has been researched and widely practised since the fifties and continues to be used extensively on conventional cattle farms today.

While stocker calf production has been largely abandoned for lack of profitability, the grass-fed premium has led to a revival, and stockers calves are now increasingly sold directly to the consumers as grass-fed beef, baby beef or even grass-fed-and-finished beef in the fall. Many such producers do not even own cows but buy calves at the stockyard.

Green oats for semi-finishers in the summer

Beeves with a carcass that weighs about 500-650 are certainly not ‘finished’, even if they ate grass all their lives. Unfortunately, the finishing phase is important, and omitting the finishing phase leads to bland tasting, overly lean beef, poor profitability (or very high prices) and really has no positive environmental impacts.

The problem is that finishing beeves on grass (up to 1400 lbs) is terribly difficult and requires more than one season. Finishing beeves need lots of energy to sustain their metabolic functions (called Net energy for maintenance). At the same time, rumen space and digestibility put a limit on how much an animal can eat. Grass, and especially hay, are not very energy dense and pass the rumen rather slowly. On a cold winter day, a stomach full of the best hay will barely contain enough energy for maintenance. There will be almost no energy left for growth. Only on lush spring grass will growth resume.

There is no pasture in winter.

So while the beeves are parked out there in winter hardly gaining any weight, they are consuming tonnes of maintenance energy, they are belching and shitting and farting, and thus releasing copious quantities of potentially harmful waste products in the atmosphere for nothing. We are talking about forests and forests of CO2 equivalents. And like old cows, slow growing beeves develop yellow fat which is a quality problem.

We did not want to grow lower quality (unfinished) beef, park beeves for winter or grow beeves on a conventional diet consisting of energy-dense corn or barley, and ionophores (a class of antibiotics), growth hormones and growth promotors, so we needed to come up with a solution.

For years now, we have been recycling vegetable cuttings from a local vegetable cutting plant. These vegetables help our beeves grow at acceptable rates, even in winter, and at a very low cost to the planet.

Basically, we get the goodness of grass-fed beef, combined with the superior quality and improved economic performance of finished beef (that is why our prices are lower!), and all that at while increasing the sustainability of our operation.

An 800 lbs carcass to the left

Over time, this increased economic performance allowed us to invest in high-end genetics. Cattle that are more performant, convert feed into pounds of meat more efficiently, so there is less waste, and increased growth. Good genetics can help improve quality, and eliminate common health and conformation problems, so animal welfare is increased as well. Improved docility makes cows easier to handle and reduces stress and increases safety for everyone involved.

We count on building our genetics program for years to come and hopefully we will make a small contribution to future lineages of more performant cattle that will make life better for all producers while reducing waste. Our regenerative farming dream is not about bashing conventional farmers, but about breeding cattle that are more sustainable by nature, for generations to come.

Embryo donor Tar Donna 614

Bull power and girl power!

Bull power

We love selling females for reproduction, but we do not really like to sell bulls. Yet, it is impossible to avoid having some really nice beasts that deserve more than to end up on someone’s plate. Let the superpowers of these bulls surprise you! You will never go back to buying a cheap bull! Bulls will be semen tested before sale. Our growing bulls never eat grain.

2023 yearling bulls (picture of reference sire, bulls are born in May 2022)

Come and see them!

SAV America (ET) x Coleman Donna 2302 RESERVED

Colburn Primo (ET) x Coleman Donna 2302

PVF Blacklist (ET) x Tar Donna 614 RESERVED

Myers Fair’n Square (IA) x Donava Blackbird 1H

Musgrave Crackerjack (ET) x Maya 247 D

It is time for us to let go of three of our proven herd sires: PJ Henry 1H, a enticing tank, DOR Raindrop 1J, an excellent heifer Rainfall son, and DOR Puddles 3J, son of N Bar Emulation.

Reference bulls for 2024 yearlings

DV Growth Fund (IA)

Colburn Primo (ET)

Connealy Emerald (IA)

SAV Raindance (IA)

SAV Territory (IA)

Girl power

We have some nice heifers for sale in 4000-40000$ price range. Come and see us.

Pastured pork

Raising pigs on pasture is not complicated. All you need is some fencing, shade, feed and a steady, fresh water supply, right?
Right. Until you realize that pigs will destroy pastures at a rapid pace, especially after a rain. That is not the time to take pictures or to get some fresh air! You end up with what we call mud lot pigs. Mud lot pigs are smelly and disgusting, harm the environment (you need plants to use up the manure!), are more disease prone, and probably not too happy.
So you implement pasture rotations to move the pigs to clean land after every rain. Now supplying abundant, clean, fresh water is no longer so easy. They just will not drink enough stale, day old water out of an IBC or hot water from a pipe. You just lost lots of growth, and your pigs may seem happy, but they are in fact…rather thirsty. You had your water tested, right?

Maybe your pigs are growing unevenly, because you do not have enough water points or enough feed points so the boss-pig will hog the water or feed source. Maybe your pigs are wasting 20-40% of the feed you give them, because you do not have a feeder. Such waste is economically and environmentally unacceptable.
Then, it gets really hot in the summer and your shade huts prove inadequate, so you decide to take the pigs to the woods. It is hard to set up fencing in the woods. The undergrowth is not as dense as the thatch in an old field, so the pigs destroy your soil in no time, causing pollution. That is why raising pigs in the woods is illegal in Quebec (REA). The pigs seem happy now, but when you were fixing the fence you were devoured by deer flies. They drove you nuts! The pigs do not seem to mind…
Guess what. Spring and fall are muddy every year, and in the winter, even though your pigs still seem happy out in -30 degree weather, they surely will not grow. We tried it: it takes more than 10 pounds of feed to grow one pound of liveweight at -25C. It is madness whether you look at it from an economic, environmental or animal welfare point of view.
Raising pigs outside this way is not so easy and rarely improves animal welfare or limits environmental impact, and unless clients can be persuaded to pay crazy prices, it rarely pays the bills.

So we got rid of our preconceptions and rethought the model completely. Why would we insist that the pigs are always out? Why not start from what pigs need rather than from our own infatuation with raising pigs on pasture? Why not let the pigs choose? Our pigs can go outside whenever they want, but we accept that they sometimes prefer to stay inside.
Once you start to really listen to the pigs, everything will fall into place. If you do it right, pigs raised on pasture can grow at the same pace as their conventional counterparts, will taste better, will be happier, will not cause environmental harm, and will not cost much more to raise, so you can sell them at a reasonable price.

If you really listen to the pigs, raising pigs on pasture is not that difficult.
The real challenges lie in the maternity, where the piglets are born. ‘Seasonal farmers’ just buy conventional piglets, fatten them on pasture (or in a mud lot), tell a pretty story (almost organic!) and cash in the big bucks.
To really change the system, we need to reinvent the maternity too. But that is another story altogether!