Sun pig: earn an income from the farm with fifty sows

Sun pig won the Best Idea of ​​Pigland in 2020. Jumping from an ambition of one barn with 25 sows, to a chain of thirteen stables that supply meat all year round. The sale to five stables has now been arranged.

When the initiators of Zonvarken won The Best Idea of ​​Pigland (HBIVV), the first barn in De Heurne for 25 lakes was under construction. This is now clear and mirrored. Opposite the first barn is also another that is already in use. At the co-operative Koks family in Winterswijk Huppel, the construction of a third barn is underway.

Four more participants will be added in the coming year. Their building permit is in the making. Once the stables are built, fresh meat can be delivered all year round. When this is the case, the sows on each holding have piglets twice a year. Then there is someone in the barn 24 hours a day to lend a helping hand where needed. Because one of the cornerstones of the concept is a low piglet mortality rate.

Piglets twice a year

“Being with your animals for a weekend twice a year, 24 hours a day, is manageable for a pig breeder and his family,” comments Rob Nieuwenhuis. Together with Jeroen Koks and the brothers August and Otto Offenberg, he is the initiator of Zonvarken.


The square recordings are finished, but there is still some sales for seven stables

Rob Nieuwenhuis, initiator of Zonvarken

The basic principle in Zonvarken is that an income can be obtained from a farm with fifty lakes. By making use of fourteen innovations, the initiators claim that Zonvarkens is kept more animal-friendly, environmentally friendly, climate-friendly, farmer-friendly and neighbor-friendly.

Hectic, Nieuwenhuis qualified last year. There are four of them, but Zonvarken plays chess in many fields at this stage of the concept. With an emphasis on connecting new participants and organizing sales.

There is great interest from various quarters for the Zonvarken concept, says Rob Nieuwenhuis. © Hans Prinsen

There is great interest in Zonvarken. From pig farmers looking for a different income model, but also from newcomers. People who do not farm now but want to, or mink farmers who are looking for a new future.

Pig breeders who keep Sun pigs become members of the Zonvarken cooperative. Each participant has the same stable and genetics and provides the same circular feed. The income consists of a fixed tax per. provided animals and a fixed tax on the barn and the invested labor. To give the concept sufficient body, the cooperative is looking for thirteen participants.

Research is being carried out with the province of Gelderland, among other things, to see if the reorganization of companies can also be combined with innovation on site. Gelderland wants to keep its farmers. No landscape without farmers, says Nieuwenhuis. But the interest in Zonvarken comes from all over Holland. And the neighbors to the east are interested.

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‘The province and the regional agreement we received have helped our concept enormously. But we also note that the distance between The Hague and De Heurne is great. Sun pig does not fit sufficiently into existing rules. It still requires movement. ‘ Nieuwenhuis, for example, refers to the Sbv subsidy for innovation and makes stables more sustainable, which Zonvarken did not get when the second barn was built.

Nieuwenhuis: ‘They do not understand the system. They consider it inconceivable that the barn is not used for a large part of the year, and they do not understand how the Separate floor, which separates manure and urine, works in combination with removing manure from the barn several times. ‘

Pet sitter on duty

The first year, the initiators took more time than they had anticipated. While their ‘normal’ work continued in parallel with the roll-out of Zonvarken. Therefore, they hired Loes Borkes as a pet sitter in May 2021.

The growth of the piglets born within the concept was good. Only they ate more than expected, which made them thinner on the manure. ‘Feed intake must be reduced,’ says Nieuwenhuis. Another challenge lies in controlling the manure behavior.

Find the right slaughterhouse

Finding a 3-star Beter Leven-certified slaughterhouse approved by Eyes on Animals was still quite a challenge, according to Nieuwenhuis. The animals are now being slaughtered in Friesland, but there are still discussions about whether it is possible to do it closer to home.

From 11 March, meat from Zonvarkens will be on sale in twelve Albert Heijn stores in the eastern part of the Netherlands at multi-franchisee Ten Have. The webshop Sorthalespove has Zonvarken in its range and Dreug van Ivo van Dijk makes dry sausage from the soot. The latter was also one of the nominees for HBIVV in 2020. ‘The square recordings are finished, but there is still a lot to be sold for seven barns’, says Nieuwenhuis.

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No cost information

Coöperatie Zonvarken wants to contribute to a widely accepted pig farm, where an income can be obtained from the company with fifty sows. Therefore no key figures or information about the cost price. “As soon as this is known, you will be judged on it,” says Rob Nieuwenhuis. Within the concept, the lakes sail twice a year. The piglets stay together from birth to slaughter.

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