Hello Ballakelly family, sorry I have been blogless for a few weeks but things have been busy UP NORTH!
I have been sat on the pig sty these last few weeks as to whether to do this topic in my blog.
Events this week forced me to come to you to try and create our own Ballakelly market for the Manx Mummy Pig,. It is a simple model – buy some sausages that contain MANX sow meat.
Before we go any further I will clarify the farm language: Mummy Pig is called a sow, when a sow has come to the end of her economic breeding life she is called a cull sow.
I know we don’t like to think that we are eating mummy pig, however, I think the connection to the animal is crucial for this campaign to work.
I nearly titled this blog:
‘Ballakelly farm can’t afford to feed their sows so has to cull half the herd.’
Shocking, but true. For me and all the team at Ballakelly it is heart-breaking.
Since September I have been warning all relevant parties that there will be no commercial pigs being produced at Ballakelly if things don’t change. Originally in September I wanted to reduce my pig herd from 90 breeding sows to 60. I was convinced by various parties to do this gradually, we agreed to do this over 6 months via the abattoir, taking us to end Feb.
The abattoir agreed to take 2 sows per week, they paid a nominal price but it was better than nothing. This was working well until they stopped taking sows in early December as there was no market for them, please note in December Ballakelly sold the same amount of sausages as we did at the grandstand TT week – lots – please hold this thought.
At the beginning of February I had 12 cull sows in the shed, we only had 2 weeks left of our own home grown feed, so an urgent disaster recovery plan was required, we could not afford to feed the sows as they were no longer generating income, they were in fact eating feed that we were never going to recover from the sale of them. If we forget these are animals we are talking about to keep this product was business suicide.
After lots of phone calls the abattoir agreed to take 2 every other week from Monday 11 Feb. So last week I sent 2, I got the ticket through this week to show what they would be crediting to my account, £0!!!!
This same week I have priced up shipping feed in from the UK. To feed my whole pig herd for 1 month is going to cost £9k!! I will have 30 days to pay for the feed in full. Not possible.
It does not take an accountant to see that I cannot afford to feed the cull sows. It also highlights how when people take weeks/months/years to come up with solutions the costs escalate.
Thursday morning, I sat down with Rachel to discuss what we are going to do. We need to halve the herd again but this time by tomorrow!! We need all cull sows to be gone 6 months ago!!!!
What can we do? Unlike cattle and sheep pigs cannot be transported off the island alive. So pigs can only leave the farm if going to be slaughtered. Simple send them to the Abattoir. This plan would be great if they had a value, namely there was a market!! So the last option is to cull and send to the incinerator. I can barely type this never mind bring myself to admit this is what needs to happen.
It is times like these that I don’t like being a stock farmer, the reality hits home that your business involves live animals. I am usually fine with the reality of my job when I know I have done my best for the animals, but for these sows sending them to the incinerator when I know they could be turned into Manx sausages goes against everything we at Ballakelly stand for.
No market…….hmmmmmmm………at Ballakelly sow meat/fat is an essential ingredient in our award-winning sausages. So all you avid Ballakelly sausage eaters already provide us a great market for the sows, unfortunately in our small set up we can only use one every other week.
You are probably asking why was/is there no market? Is Ballakelly the only sausage makers that use sow meat? To ensure that I got the correct answer I asked a sausage producer from the bigger rock what went into their award-winning sausages, the response was, pork trim, seasoning, rusk and sow trim/fat. They also explained that in some of their sausages the ‘pork’ element was 100% sow.
This answer leads me to the question why was there no market for ManxSow meat? I discovered that there are large volumes of sow trim imported into the Isle of Man to use to make sausages.
It is common practice in the Isle of Man that if a product cannot be sourced in the Isle of Man then you are allowed to source it from elsewhere, mix it with ‘Manx’ product and the final product can still be called Manx! To me people should know the original of all the products in the product not just the Manx bits.
I was talking to someone about another Manx product, 1% mixed with 99% non-Manx = Manx!!!!!!
If I explain the ingredients of our sausage, then I will leave you to work out the rest:
Manx ‘Pork’ – 75% – 30% is Manx sow fat/trim, 45 % Manx pork trim
Water/Rusk/Seasoning – 25%
Another interesting fact: If we turned a 100kg sow into 1,000 sausages , 50p per sausage, this would generate £500, in simple farmer terms £5 per kg is her true market value!!!
With this in mind we, Ballakelly family, need to create a market for the mummy pigs so they have value – this is easy as we already have one!
If you eat Ballakelly sausages then you are eating sow, so all you need to do is carry on eating Ballakelly sausages, even better get one new person to buy some.
To help here are the ways to purchase:
Or places who sell our sausages:
If you own a café and would like to join the campaign then please contact us …..
If you are a butcher/sausage maker and would like to join the campaign please contact us …..
I am going to get the marketing team to create our own Ballakelly Farm providence sticker so you can be confident where the sow came from and that by purchasing the product you are truly supporting the right farmer.