Eight years ago, County Down farmer Mr William J McCullough took the bold step of abandoning his accredited poultry enterprise in favour of expanding his pig herd.
And results since he made the changeover would appear to have fully justified his decision.
The breeding strength of the present Landrace herd comprises 35 sows and three boars, producing in the region of 450 fattened animals annually.
Three years ago the herd was accepted into the Ministry of Agriculture’s Accredited Pig Herds scheme.
The McCullough farm at “Roseville,” Ballyhaft, Newtown-ards, is, with the exception of the fattening of a few beef cattle in the summer months, now devoted exclusively towards one prime objective – the production of a high quality commercial Landrace bacon animal.
The present herd, which carried the Ards prefix, is mainly the progeny of imported stock.
The herd has a strong Swedish influence. In 1964 Mr McCullough purchased Dana av Blombacka, a Swedish Landrace in-pig gilt.
The animal was one of an importation of Swedish Landrace bought from members of the Swedish Pig Breeders’ Association by a five-man Northern Ireland buying team.
Three years earlier Mr McCullough had imported an in-pig gilt from a Devon breeder.
A firm believer in the theory “only the very best is good enough,” he would be keenly interested in stepping up importations of what he would regard as “right stock”.
Mr McCullough, at present vice-chairman of the NILPBA, ran a mixed farm in County Cavan before coming to Newtownards district.
“I always kept a few Landrace since I came here as I realised that it would not be too difficult to expand the pig herd at the expense of the poultry,” he told FarmWeek.
“I was able to adapt the housing to the change quite satisfactorily although it would have been more advantageous if the farrowing, rearing and fattening units could have been kept completely separate.”
Mr McCullough does not employ labour – “I would need to make an extra £1,000 before I could hire one man” – and for this reason he does not contemplate expansion, at least in the near future.
He is a competitor at bacon carcase competitions but has no inclination to join the show fraternity – “the present enterprise keeps me fully occupied,” he said.
Mr McCullough said that the Landrace had done a lot to improve the standard of Ulster bacon during the last few years.
In his pig enterprise, Mr McCullough has been heartened by the “encouraging” figures for his herd as provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.