As the owner of Northland's largest pig farm, Graham Taylor wants to encourage others to consider being part of the industry.
Pork consumption is on the rise with New Zealand's growing Asian population and there is increasing demand from the food-service sector for high-quality fresh pork.
Taylor has welcomed a Kaipara District Council report identifying strong potential for pig farming in the district.
The "Kaipara Kai Growing Larger" report looks at different options to increase food production in the district.
Opportunities identified in the report include pig farming, due to Kaipara's climate being "ideally suited to modern, high productivity pig production systems".
"It was very good to see pig farming identified as an opportunity for our region," said Taylor, who farms 220 breeding sows at Paparoa.
"I would really like to see more commercial pig farming coming to Kaipara. It would be good for the pork sector and beneficial for business and employment locally."
Taylor said, with the breeding sows and all of their offspring, there were usually about 2500 pigs on the 56ha property. He also runs about 150 mixed age cattle and rears calves.
The former Otamatea High School teacher said pig farming had suited him well over the years and provided employment for two fulltime staff. His wife, Sally, has been an integral part of the business and for a long time was the main carer of the newborn piglets as well as keeping tabs on finances.
"I spotted an opportunity here 40 years ago and built our business from scratch. It is relatively small by today's piggery standards but I have made a reasonable livelihood out of it and think the region could work very well for others.''
Taylor's pigs are mostly Large White and Landrace breeds in the females, with a Duroc boar as terminal sire.
"With the Duroc boar, I'm looking for meat quality and good meaty carcases. It also gives a good marbling in the meat which helps with tenderness,'' he said.
He sends a truckload of 100 animals every week. "Pigs are prolific breeders and normally we would have 10 sows farrowing every week."
Taylor said New Zealand's pork was sold entirely to the fresh-meat trade within New Zealand, so there was huge potential for expanding the industry. Only a limited amount was exported to Pacific Island countries.
"Hopefully people will choose a fresh pork roast for Christmas this year,'' he said.
"Most of the Christmas hams, bacon and small goods are imported from about 20 different countries.
"I would like to see the New Zealand pork industry develop niche brands so that consumers can seek out premium quality items that they know has been produced in New Zealand.
"We farm to higher standards than any of the countries we import from."
Taylor was a director on the Pork Board for about 15 years until he stepped down in 2008.
"Pig farmers have had to be resilient and while there have been some spikes in prices over the years, mostly the return on investment has not been that great. We've had to learn to be more efficient.
"While there are fewer farmers these days, I believe there is potential for the industry to grow again.''
New Zealand's pork sector operates to high welfare standards and the national herd is free of serious diseases that affect many other pork-producing countries. Farmers operate rigorous biosecurity measures at farm level to prevent disease incursions.
"We have a closed herd with no visitors allowed on the property to prevent the chance of any diseases being introduced.
"We vaccinate for any issues. Two diseases we are concerned about avoiding are African swine fever and PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome), which is widespread in some of the countries we import pork products from.
"We are very concerned about biosecurity which is why we keep the farm locked down,'' he said.
Industry body NZ Pork chief executive David Baines said moves to encourage pig farming in the Kaipara District were positive.
"Pork consumption is growing rapidly in New Zealand. New Zealand currently has 95 pig farming operations, worth about $700 million a year to the economy. On average, Kiwis eat 23.46kg of pork per capita each year – 8.81kg of New Zealand-produced pork and 14.65kg of imported meat.
"The pork industry offers a range of employment opportunities and training. It is also a relatively low emissions sector. Pigs naturally produce much lower methane emissions than ruminant animals like cattle or sheep. Pig farming currently contributes just 0.2 per cent of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions.
"The report's findings could also be useful for other regions considering encouraging pig farming in their areas."
Consumers can identify New Zealand pork through the PigCare™ Born and Raised in New Zealand labelling on product. Taylor is PigCare accredited which is a major plank in the quality and welfare programme in New Zealand.