How did a pig get so big?

One of the biggest pigs in New Zealand is proving to be a popular attraction at David and Vicky Pattinson’s new Animal Farm Rare Breeds Farm Park near Mapua.

At just four years old, Geoffrey the large black boar is more than two metres long, stands waist high to an adult human and is estimated to weigh around 450kg.

Obtained from a farm in the lower North Island, he is much bigger than a 166kg pig three Otago men shot in 2009 - at the time, they considered it to be the largest wild boar ever killed in New Zealand.

Mr and Mrs Pattinson’s Gardner Valley Rd park was meant to open over a year ago, but after dozens of delays and an investment of more than $2 million, it opened on March 1. It employs four fulltime staff and two part-timers, some of whom were recruited from Nelson’s Natureland.

Mr Pattinson said the couple first became interested in cultivating rare breeds for the sake of preserving their genes, before realising that these were animals that the public would like to see up close: ‘‘They’re not your everyday cows and sheep.’’

Their stock includes Texas longhorn cows, highland cows, red deer, fallow deer, donkeys, llama, Captain Cooker pigs, kune kune pigs, Arapawa Island goats and sheep, Boer goats, Pitt Island sheep, Wiltshire sheep, karakul sheep, yaks, ostrich and emu as wells as rabbits, guinea pigs and caged birds. Mrs Pattinson knows them all by sight, and each has a name.

‘‘It was important to have a place where animals come up to people and interact with people,’’ she said.
The goats which stand on fences to look at children in prams; horses which neigh for attention and Floss the sticky-beaked ostrich all demonstrate the undeniable appeal of this philosophy.

Mrs Pattinson said the farm’s point of difference was that visitors could enter paddocks and interact with the animals up close. Its schedule includes opportunities for children to catch and release native eels and freshwater crayfish from streams; brush miniature ponies; walk llamas on a lead; ride donkeys and feed a baby fallow deer named Willow with a bottle.

Other resident characters include Arnie the emu, Bluebell the miniature pony and several yaks, which were shifted to the farm from Golden Bay in an effort to socialise them for use on film sets.

"It’s fair to say they’re our least friendly animal,’’ Mr Pattinson said.

The 16.75ha farm park borders onto a 45ha property where larger animals such as alpacas and goats are bred before being shifted into the park. They are regularly given ‘‘time off’’ on the farm for a change of scenery.

‘‘We breed the animals so we can rotate them, and then they get a bit of a rest. Animals get bored too.’’
Mr Pattinson said the park’s current shape was ‘‘only the start’’ of the whole project, which will eventually have a cafe, a shop and several barns on-site.

‘‘Where possible we’re trying to breed the rare breeds. It’s not a museum, we’re actually trying to grow and develop.’’