New homes for pigs are built out of straw

Jan Balfe of Eldorhog with some of the Mangalitsa pigs

Jan Balfe of Eldorhog with some of the Mangalitsa pigs

First published in News
Last updated
The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

WHEN Cumbrian pig farmer Carolyn Nelson started planning ecologically friendly housing for her rare pedigree animals, she decided to take inspiration from a children’s fairy story.

Carolyn, who breeds woolly Mangalitsas, thought it would be a great idea to build her pigs’ homes out of straw.

But unlike the Three Little Pigs, the housing she is proposing is unlikely to be blown down – either by wolf or wind. Starting with old tyres for the foundations, Carolyn is planning to use straw bales as the main walls of the environmentally friendly pig housing at Eldorhog Farm, Alston north Cumbria.

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She said: “We have raised heritage pigs for four years and they work the fields by turning the clay and fertilising it as mangalitscavators, a sort of cheap natural rotavator.

“In order to provide our pigs with a comfortable space to spend the bitter days of winter, we researched pig housing to find sustainable ways of building a barn and finally hit upon the idea of the old story of the Three Little Pigs and their house of straw.

“We wanted to build a barn that didn't take from the earth, which blended in and could rot at the end of a long life and leave no footprint behind marring the landscape, one that did not cost us dearly and would keep our pig herds and piglets cosy in a centrally heated environment.

“So a straw bale pig barn with underground central heating fuelled by pig manure is going to be built by volunteers as an experiment to see if the feed bills will be lower over winter, to see if they are healthier and to see if the barn will be eaten by its occupants.”

“We also want to make an impact on how pigs can be farmed and produce pork that is tasty and healthy and provides the consumer with a choice.”

The build, which also involves carpenters building a wooden frame and incorporates a green roof system, is expected to take six weeks.

The project involves volunteers and is being supported by Cumbria Action for Sustainability and local businesses.

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