Crossgar pig farmer stars on UTV show

Crossgar pig farmer stars on UTV show

8 January 2020

PIG farmer Robbie Neill is one of the new stars in the latest series of UTV’s Rare Breed — A Farming Year.

The Crossgar man — who is also a full-time fireman in Belfast — shares his farming life raising pedigree Oxford Sandy pigs in the observational documentary series starting tomorrow night.

Robbie will be making his first appearance in next Thursday’s programme and is featured throughout half of the 12-episode series.

He is seen being supported by his eldest son, Angus, who’s now aged nearly five, as well as his wife, Louise, and 19-month-old daughter Connie.

The arrival of Robbie’s youngest child, eight-month-old James, is also featured in the programme, which follows his 

progress at Stonebridge Cottage Farm on the Derryboy Road over the last 12 months.

The 37 year-old is delighted to be featured in the programme as he has only been rearing his rare breed of pigs for about three years.

“If you had said to me over a year ago that I would be on Rare Breed, I would have laughed at you but here I am,” said Robbie.

“I was very lucky that UTV approached me after a friend suggested me and it’s great to be featured in a show that we all love.”

While his brother Johnny still farms a beef herd at the family’s nearby home farm, Robbie explained that he began to diversify into pig farming and decided that rearing rare breeds was the way he wanted to go.

“I wanted to rear a traditional, pedigree pig such as the Oxford Sandy which is a very good-looking pig,” explained Robbie.

“I started off in a small way with a single litter and just grew it from there and over the last year, it has really started to take off.”

Robbie rears pigs for pork to be sold into local restaurants such as 14 The Georgian House in Comber and the Ispini Charcuterie based in Dungannon.

However, he also sells whole pigs and half pig packages at his home farm shop which he runs with his wife.

Robbie has hit on a discerning market of people who are prepared to pay a little more for their meat when they know how the animal has been reared and processed

He says that it’s important to him to give his pigs the best diet and lifethat he can in order to produce the best pork.

“I would say that the pigs have a better diet than me,” joked Robbie, “And it’s all local.”

Proving his commitment to his animals’ welfare and using by-products of other local food and drink producers, Robbie feeds the pigs brewers grain from Farmaggedon Brewing in Comber, whey from a cheesemaker in Newtownards and fresh, locally produced vegetables.

Robbie said: “I like to call them eco-pigs as they are helping to use up other food and drink waste.”

He knows that there will be viewers who will fall in love with the pigs as the Oxford Sandy piglet is particularly cute.

“The Oxford Sandy has orange-coloured patches and when there’s a litter they can look like a bunch of little Dalmatian pups running around,” he adds.

Robbie says that while he and his family naturally get attached to some of the pigs, he can tell within a few weeks of birth, which ones will go on to slaughter and which will be kept for breeding.

Filmed in all weathers, Rare Breed follows Robbie and nine other families from a variety of farms across Northern Ireland.

The show features the producers of cattle, sheep, bees, llamas and this series, there’s also a vet, and a contracting family who both play vital roles in the agri-food industry.

The series is produced for UTV by local independent production company Crawford McCann Television. UTV’s Mark McFadden will narrate the series. 

Sponsored by Moy Park, Rare Breed – A Farming Year starts on Thursday at 8.30pm on UTV.

For further information on Robbie’s produce, look for @stonebridgecottagefarm on Facebook.