Mangalitsa pigs on a wooded hillside near Dalry are quite the surprise.

No one would expect woolly ears to be on anything but a sheep around here, but according to The Woolly Pig Company, they are living their best life and that shows in the incredibly flavoursome pork that is being produced.

Pigs living a healthy, natural, wild existence, foraging under full forest cover all year round, results in meat that is darker in colour and much denser and richer in flavour.

Mangalitsas, or woolly pigs, originated in Hungary and have that unique hair that any self-respecting cockapoo would be proud of – a thick, curly, insulating coat makes them well suited to living on forested hill land.

The Scottish Farmer: The pigs prove to be a great mix in agro-forestry situationsThe pigs prove to be a great mix in agro-forestry situations

If pork is your protein of choice, the meat from these Mangalitsas is one of the most ethically sourced, environmentally regenerative, healthy and delicious pork products available in the UK. And you can pre-order for your summer BBQ box, or quarter pig boxes, the question is why not treat yourself to the best quality, nutrient-rich burgers and sausages available?

But first a little background to this agri-forestation approach.

The Woolly Pig Company farms at Brodoclea Farm. A 430-acre woodland in the hills of Dalry, it is managed by Ken Porter, assisted by David Carruth and the silent partner, Ken’s dog Tess.

Ken has nearly three decades of experience turning large organic beef and sheep farms around in Dumfries-shire. He took over the reins of Brodoclea, moving the pigs from Mull onto the Dalry farm, and has made sustainability a priority in the farming strategy.

Ken said: “We pride ourselves on ensuring the environment is protected throughout everything we do. Brodoclea is home to an abundance of wildlife and we aim to keep it that way.

"By using only sustainable materials, from on-site equipment to the packing we use in shipping the pork BBQ boxes, we ensure the local wildlife is not affected and natural resources are maintained at a healthy level.”

The Scottish Farmer: Proof of the puding is in the eating ... these are proke steaks from Mangalitza pigsProof of the puding is in the eating ... these are proke steaks from Mangalitza pigs

As a passionate environmentalist and agri-forester, David Carruth added: “As ecosystem engineers of woodland and wetland habitats, the land and wildlife benefit tremendously from the activity of the pigs.

"They beat back, graze and turn over the dominant species on the forest floor that would otherwise crowd out young trees, giving a lot back to the soil in organic matter and nutrient-rich manure.

“Many species of plant and wildflower thrive in this disruption, creating a much more diverse mosaic of life under the canopy. This in turn benefits insects that pollinate the wildflowers and breed in the still water of the scrapes the pigs leave behind.

"A recent bird survey we carried out onsite found that we had 60% more diversity in bird species in areas where the pigs were grazing, compared to areas where the pigs were not, with 42 species of bird recorded in that one survey alone, half of which were yellow or red-listed.”

The pigs – the numbers average 150-160 – are born and spend their whole lives in the woodland living in groups of up to 40 in 20-30 acre paddocks that have shelters where they can sleep in the worst of weather if they wish.

They are moved regularly to ensure fresh forage and 97% of their diet through the summer months comes from what they find on the forest floor. This system keeps them happier and healthier which means there has been no need for any routine medication.

The Scottish Farmer: Happy as a pig in ... mud!Happy as a pig in ... mud!

David continued: “Land use is limited in upland hills and this is a system that works on forested land. We have had to be creative. Reforestation is often seen as the end of agriculture, and the value of land plummets when trees have been planted on it.

“This means that over the next few decades, these reforested areas will become the most accessible and affordable for new entrants into farming.

"What we’re trying to show with the pigs and any other enterprise we expand into at Brodoclea, is that these reforested upland areas do have a lot of potential and can remain productive, not only providing for nature and the environment but also people and communities.

“If productive areas can outperform other areas going through reforestation in the key aims of these sites in storing carbon and increasing biodiversity then perhaps that will change the attitude we have to woodland restoration.

“Our pigs are slaughtered and butchered locally, and we can send it out on next-day delivery to anywhere in the UK. We package the box with special wool insulation and ice packs to keep the meat fresh, meaning that it does not need to be sent out frozen.

"The money raised from the sale of the pork pays our wages and aids the ongoing regeneration and maintenance of the woodland,” he pointed out.

This is just year two for this enterprise and the pigs are the main focus but there are more plans afoot. They are looking to bring their herd of cattle over from Mull to finish grazing behind the pigs and also looking at what other grazers will work well in that space and other ways of making the forestry more productive while enhancing the environment.

In the short term, this summer Brodoclea is opening its gates to visitors – both for farm tours and also as a trail route for walkers and cyclists up to a stunning viewpoint over the Firth of Clyde.

The farm tours will be guided around the woodland with up to four cars at a time, which will detail the agri-forestry practices in operation and, of course, the opportunity to get up close and personal with the woolly forest dwellers, that are not averse to a good scratch from a passing visitor.

Ken concluded: “We have been asked for more availability on our famous Mangalitza pork and to work against wastage, we are working to pre-order only so that we only produce enough meat as we have the demand to supply.

“We are taking pre-orders for our quarter pig boxes for delivery soon. For full details visit