Longbush Free Range Pork, Gladstone, NZ

From lifestyle blockers raising a few pet pigs to a wildly successful free range pork business, Naya Brangenberg and Jeremy Wilhelm have nailed the ethically raised food gig, and nutrition for their pigs is a key consideration.

“We started off as lifestyle blockers with pet pigs, then we started showing pigs, got more pigs, and it kind of spiralled out of control into a pig business,” Naya explains.

Naya and Jeremy founded Longbush Free Range Pork in 2011, starting out selling at farmers’ markets and cleverly showcasing life on their farm through social media.

As the business grew and the need to expand to a larger property became obvious, they sought business partners. In 2014 Tinny Ho and John Chua, who split their time between Greytown and Hong Kong, came on board. Eventually, Naya and Jeremy sold Longbush Free Range Pork to their business partners but stayed on as managers.

These days, Longbush Free Range Pork has between 600 and 700 happy hogs grazing the pasture at the new farm at the top of Admiral Hill in Gladstone. The pigs are mainly cross-bred, between the Duroc, Large Black, and Hampshire breeds.

They supply nationwide via Woody’s Free Range Farm and locally via Homegrown Butcher, Deli & Pantry in Masterton.

“The demand for free-range pork is so high that every pig we produce is immediately sold. We have a social license to farm the way we do.”

Naya says pigs are challenging, but enjoyable to work with. “They’re a very interesting, intelligent animal. Once you have had pigs, you understand. They’re pretty special.”

Diet is crucial to growing pigs, and free-range pigs have even more specific dietary requirements than pigs farmed indoors.

In about 2013 the couple formed a relationship with Sharpes to formulate an exclusive feed, specifically tailored to their pigs’ needs. Working in conjunction with Sharpes nutritionist, Alun Faulkner, they designed a special feed, which is reviewed and tweaked annually.

“We have bulk custom-made feed delivered into our silos. With pig farming, because they’re not a ruminant, their diet is what makes them grow. Good husbandry and nutrition are our two top priorities for these guys – you can’t function as a pig farm without the right feed. Feed is the number one expense in our business.

“In particular, for free-range, their needs have to be tweaked up because they have access to pasture and have different trace mineral needs. That’s why we have the nutritionist involved.”

The fact Sharpes was a local Wairarapa business, and Longbush fell within their delivery zone, was another tick for Sharpes.

“Being in the delivery zone makes it economical for us. Sharpes have been supporting us for a long time. The duration of the relationship and trust built is a good thing. Sam (Orsborn) and Alun come here every year, and any time we need anything, we can just phone up.”

Additionally, Sharpes is able to provide GMO-free certification for its feed. “Because our products go to Farro Fresh and a few other exporters, they require certification for GMO-free. Sharpes can provide us with a diet that’s GMO-free, and that’s important for the high-end retail customer demand. It’s about our customer’s needs as well as the needs of the pigs.”