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Special Feature: Bornholm pigs

Pig Industry Matters went on a fact-finding tour of the island of Bornholm to discover more about the Bornholm pig or 'Bornholmergris'.

It’s known as the Sunshine Island and the pigs that are bred on the Danish island of Bornholm, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, would probably agree with this description - at least the pigs that are bred by Kristina and Hans Peter Sonne.

Situated in Rønne, the largest town on the island, the farm, which used to be UK Contract approved, supplies five local finishing farms with 30 kg Bornholm pigs that are subsequently sold to Danish Crown.

Hans Peter and Kristina Sonne run a high welfare system: “We want to enjoy going to work and we run our farm in the way we do both for our own sakes and for the sake of our pigs. Being a Bornholm pig producer, we have to comply with the rules of production of course, but we would have done this anyway. We want our pigs to have the best of conditions.”

The Sonnes stopped producing under the UK Contract scheme when they were informed that it was no longer financially viable to transport the carcases from Bornholm to the Danish mainland.

“When we finished our expansion programme in 2007, we were already in discussions about becoming a Bornholm pig producer,” explains Kristina. “As a former dairy farmer, Hans Peter is used to straw – plenty of it – and I was trained as an organic farmer. We also wanted our sows to be loose housed. The Bornholm system, therefore, fitted our idea of good farming practice well.”

Loose housing also extends to the farrowing unit. Although the Sonnes do not run a Freedom Farrowing system because they believe that this poses a risk to the stockman and exposes the new born piglets to the danger of being crushed by the sow, they have installed a compromise “Combi-system”. “This is good for the stockman, good for the piglets and good for the sow,” Kristina says. “Once the piglets are 7 days old, the sow is no longer confined and she can move freely. The only other time that our sows are confined is the three-day period after service.”

 

The pride that Kristina and Hans Peter Sonne have in their system is clearly evident. They open up their farm to local schools on a regular basis and they have set aside a special area between the stalls where the pigs are afforded even more space to move about. The feed is also high quality since under the Bornholm rules of production, 70% has to be locally sourced – which is no problem for Hans Peter and Kristina because they grow most of it themselves.

Facts about Bornholm pigs and production