A CELEBRATED miniature pig breeder is offering farmers and landowners a sustainable way of killing off bracken.

Rob Rose, the stockman at Valley of the Pigs at Lowick Bridge near Ulverston, believes his diminutive porkers would be an effective and sustainable alternative to the herbicide Asulam, which was banned on December 31.

Mr Rose, whose micro-pigs have featured on the ITV documentary The Lakes, said they could clear a two-acre bracken-infested paddock in a week to 10 days.

He said the eradication of bracken was carried out in two phases. First, he used his long-snouted animals such as miniature Tamworths, Oxford Sandy and Blacks and Gloucester Old Spots to forage out the bracken’s long rhizome roots; then he brought in short-snouted miniatures to graze what was left and tidy up the ground.

“In a sensitive area where there is meadow next to the bracken, we would use only the short-snouted pigs,” said Mr Rose. “The pigs will tackle the bracken and also graze the meadow, without causing any damage to the land.”

The process involves creating a temporary holding paddock with a bedding of woodchippings. The pigs would only be let out if the weather and ground conditions were suitable.

Mr Rose said he could make between 100 and 150 pigs available for bracken-clearing duties from a herd of around 250.

“We’ve used the pigs to clear bracken from our own land and it worked very well. We’ve ended up transforming it into a wonderful wildlife oasis in the woods.”

“The process is very effective and sustainable but it’s got to be managed correctly. What you can’t do is chuck a load of pigs on to the bracken and expect them to do the job. It just won’t work.”

He said the cost of using his miniature pigs was ‘negotiable’ and depended on the nature and size of the land involved.

Simon Thorp, director of the Heather Trust, said pigs had successfully removed rhizomes in other areas, but added: “There is a risk of the pigs contracting cancer related diseases and therefore it is not a good long-term use of the animals.”