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In focus: What’s new in sustainable pig farming?

Everyday Annechien ten Have-Mellema fills many shoes as a crop farmer, pig farmer and a biogas producer. Creating a self-contained, sustainable farm system requires years of planning and doesn’t happen overnight or just during office hours. Annechien showed us and explained how her farm works.

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In Beerta, the Netherlands, Annechien is a tenth-generation farmer running an energy-neutral farming cycle and has developed a specialty pig breed with husband Menno, and adult kids Detmer and Lizeth.

Annechien with Menno and Detmer

The farm produces crops like winter wheat, lucerne/alfalfa, sugar beet, maize and lupine. “Our crops feed the pigs, who make manure, which makes biogas. The leftover ‘digestion’ is a fertilizer for the crops. The production of biogas provides enough energy to run the farm and the fertilizer returns to the fields to grow feed again for our sows,” said Annechien.

Annechien ten Have-Mellema: “From the biogas facility, we deliver electricity to the grid. With the warmth leftover from the biogas process we heat our farm, animal housing, our home and we can dry product as wheat, solid manure and more.”

Annechien’s Hamletz pigs are given a special feed mixture which includes locally grown lupine and wheat. Lupine peas are also an up-and-coming ‘super food’ for both animal and human consumption.

“Our lupines are fed to the Hamletz sows and piglets to improve pork moisture, tenderness and flavor. Taste, experiences, health and passion give added value. It’s important focus on what the consumer wants and we cannot forget the concerns of society. We also need to find retailers who are interested in working with farmers to develop special concepts based on what the consumer wants,” says Annechien.

What is lupine?

Lupine is an alternative animal protein feed that grows and feels at home in the sandy soils of Groningen province. Lupine blooms in late spring and early summer making beautiful fields of blue, white and purple colored blossoms. By August, the lupine has produced a pea pod ready for harvest.

“Lupine grows well in cooler climates like in Groningen and across Northern Europe. Soybeans do not grow naturally in the region, so we have to ship in soy from other places. By growing our own lupine, we are less dependent on soy imports from outside the EU. Our lupine is grown here, locally, we have three hectares this year,” said Annechien.

A few years ago, Annechien was approached to help bring lupine production back to the Dutch region. Rich in calcium, magnesium and iron, lupine is a more sustainable crop than soy.

“Lupines are adding value to our farm and specialty pigs. The Hamletz pig has a very good CO2 footprint compared to other pigs. But as a stand-alone crop in the region, lupine cultivation is not yet profitable.”

Lupine is soil-friendly and is considered a regional high-quality protein replacement and more environmentally friendly than shipping feed from far away.

“Growing lupine is considered more ‘green’ because the lupine plant binds nitrogen and improves soil quality. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. On our farm, our own lupine actually returns to the fields through pig manure and fertilizer, completing the cycle on the local level.”

It’s taken many years of experience for Annechien to develop and build the vision for a more sustainable pig farming system that is both environmentally-friendly and pig-friendly.
"I want other farmers and pork consumers to see the possibilities ..."

“I see it as my duty to support the needs and wants of the conscientious consumer. To also be farmer-friendly, we have to be both sustainable and profitable. I want other farmers and pork consumers to see the possibilities in what we do and how we do it. I’d also appreciate learning more about what other farmers are doing on Global Farmers website.”

Follow Annechien ten Have-Mellema on Global Farmers


Watch out for more tours and information coming out of Annechien’s farm, including sow housing, piggery, biogas facility and drone footage of crop harvests. 


Tammie Nolte

Content writer & editor at Rabobank

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