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Women in Pigs – Anna Longthorp

We’re always looking to encourage people into the Pig Industry and have discovered many talented people in the thirty years we’ve been in it.

Now, we’d like to showcase ‘women in pigs’ and chat to females across the industry. Discovering insights from pioneering farmers to stock women, scientists and pork producers, we’re now on a mission to highlight the many ways that women in pigs, farming and agriculture, are shaping a new and progressive pig industry future.

We kick things off with a chat with Anna Longthorp of Anna’s Happy Trotters!

RH: Farming has been in your family for generations, please tell us how you got into pigs?

AL: Mum decided to get into pig farming when I was around 7-8. She had previously grown speciality veg as a bit of diversification to our arable farm, but this coincided with summer holidays (us kids were still young). So she decided pig farming would be a better choice from a lifestyle perspective. I loved the pigs from Day 1 – much more interesting than the crops that just sat in the field (this is also the reason my brother prefers crops – you put them in a field, and they stay there! Lol)

RH: What’s your typical day like? 

AL: Get awoken by my 6-year-old son at around 6am-ish – I’ve rarely needed an alarm clock since having him! Every day is different.
I would usually take him to school but obviously not at the moment. I may go to the office, or presently I’m out doing deliveries to help the butchery team out as they are really busy with internet orders and our new contract with Dubai sending pork products out there.
Lots and lots of office work at the moment pulling out and processing online orders.
Tomorrow is weaning day on the pigs so I’ll be heading to our free-range fattening unit to welcome them in and give them some lovely vaccinations. 

I can’t really give you a “typical” day as no day is the same – which is what I love about what I do, I guess!

RH: What do you like about working with pigs? 

AL: They’re such inquisitive animals. I’ve always enjoyed watching animal behaviour in any animal, but pigs are particularly interesting I think, and seeing their confidence grow and their trust in you as they get older.

RH: You sell directly to butchers, restaurants & chefs. What made you go down the direct route? Also, please tell us about some of your products and who you sell pork to? 

AL: We had previously sold everything to supermarkets. When we went fully free-range (previously we were outdoor-bred so the pigs would be bred outside but then fattened inside), we spotted an opportunity to just do something a bit different.
We thought we had a great story, we’ve always believed in high welfare standards, and we believed people were starting to think more about where their food was coming from.
We felt we could offer something really special to the consumer and of course we knew our product tasted fabulous.
In a nutshell, we wanted to shout about our fantastic product, give it a name and not let it just sit on a supermarket shelf with all the other faceless products.
Of course, it was about adding value to what we already did from a monetary perspective, but we’ve also always been keen to educate about where food comes from and really bang the drum for British Farming.

RH: Do you see many women getting into the pig industry?

AL: There are plenty of women in the pig industry! The last EPP (European Pig Producers) conference I went on, more women were representing the UK than men! And fabulous ladies they are too. 

RH: What advice would you give to women looking to get into agriculture, and in particular pigs? 

AL: Gosh, advice! I’d just say follow your heart.
I was always encouraged to try other things, my dad not wanting to pressurise me to just fall into farming by default. But my heart was always on the farm. It’s not the easiest job in the world. It requires true dedication as at the end of the day, working with livestock, the stock is incredibly dependent on you, and their welfare rests in your hands.
But love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life! ?

RH: Are you hopeful for British (livestock) farmers in this current climate? 

AL: I’m eternally optimistic for British Farming. Everybody needs to eat, and that’s never going to change! 

RH: In 2007, you took the plunge and took your pigs outside to create free-range stock, how difficult was that? What advice would you give other farmers looking to make the move?

AL: It required a lot of investment in new kit. You need the right type of land, and this is the single biggest challenge, finding sandy free-draining land, particularly in Yorkshire. It’s more labour intensive outside; you can’t automate things so much. In winter it can be pretty blooming miserable, but then in summer, it’s the best job in the world! 

I’ll never stand here and say that free-range is better than outdoor bred or indoor. They’re just all very different systems and people choose which system they are going to follow for lots of different reasons. Costs play a massive part.

We are able to follow a free-range system and do it well in terms of having the right land available and team available, and we have a market for our product. Whilst some people would like to see all animals free-range this just simply isn’t viable. There isn’t the right type nor quantity of land available and there isn’t a big enough market for it.

RH: Your pig farm is Red Tractor Assured, and Freedom Foods accredited, how important is high animal welfare to British pig producers in general, do you think?

AL: From an animal welfare perspective I am incredibly proud to be British. We have some of the best welfare standards, if not THE best standards in the world. And being Red Tractor assured and RSPCA assured, I can tell you, they don’t hand out those certificates lightly. The inspections are thorough.

And working closely with our vets on quarterly visits (as well as in between), we wouldn’t do that unless we were completely committed to ensuring our high standards of welfare. And, at the end of the day, we as farmers all recognise that a happy pig is a productive pig and so it is in our interests all round to ensure high welfare. 

RH: If you weren’t a farm owner, what would you be doing instead?

AL: I literally do not know what else I would do! As I said, it’s in the heart, it’s running through my veins, I don’t think anything else would feel quite right.

(All images courtesy of Anna Longthorp of Anna’s Happy Trotters)

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