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By PAULA THOMPSON
FREELING Berkshire pig farm-
ing business SchuAm Pork has
won the national deli-
cious.Produce Producer of the Year
The operation beat a field of 2000
entrants to claim the top prize last
SchuAm Pork had been medallists
in the 'from the paddock' category at
the awards for the past two years.
The Schuster family run the pig-
gery's 40 Berkshire sows which go
into the SchuAm Pork brand.
They also run 120 sows which are
made up of a mix of the Large White
and Landrace breeds. The 'white
pigs' are sold under the trading
name MA&JG Schuster, predomi-
nantly through the Dublin pig mar-
The family has been running pigs
as a supplement to their hay and
cropping enterprise since 1965. The
late Martin Schuster introduced pigs
onto the farm and his sons Mark and
Jeff continued with them.
Damien Amery and his brother-in-
law Daniel Schuster moved the
operation into Berkshire pigs and
established the SchuAm brand in
"The pig industry was really in the
doldrums in the 2000s, partly due
to drought but mostly due to pres-
sure from cheaper imports," Damien
"I thought it would be good to
establish a niche product.
"At that stage, Maggie Beer was
getting interested in the Berkshire
breed and I also saw a show on
Landline talking about them."
Having one of the nation's most
well-known Berkshire breeders --
Colin and Joy Lienert from the
Lynjoleen stud -- not far away at
Shea-Oak Log was the final push to
get into the breed.
Damien bought his first Berkshire
boar from the Beaumont family in
Daylesford, Victoria, who were sell-
ing at the Royal Adelaide Show's
annual pig auction.
He then bought a boar from the
Lynjoleen stud, along with a few
"At the time, we had about 120
Large White and Landrace sows, so
it wasn't too hard to bring the
Berkshires in," he said.
"We didn't have to go too far to
To ensure genetic diversity,
Damien wanted to source genetics
from two different breeders.
"With Berkshires, the genetic pool
is fairly small," he said.
"By sourcing pigs from different
areas, we could have some diversity.
Without that diversity, you can run
into genetic issues."
In November 2010, Australian
pork producers overwhelmingly
supported a resolution to voluntari-
ly phase-out sow stalls by 2017. But
some held on to concerns about
possible reduction in productivity
when moving to group housing.
Many South Australian producers
are in the process of moving away
from stall-housing their pregnant
sows but the Schusters never had to
worry about this as they have always
group-housed their pigs.
"We started by running pigs out in
the paddocks, and then we built
sheds when we moved into group
housing," Damien said.
By running pigs of the same size
together -- rather than having larger,
more dominant pigs in the group --
Damien finds fights are kept to a
Each pig also has its own feeders
and does not have to fight for a
Another way Damien gets the
most out of group housing is by
allowing plenty of room for the pigs
to move -- this reduces aggressive
The SchuAm Pork brand -- an
amalgamation of Damien and
Daniel's last names -- came about as
a way to distinguish their product in
The family was selling their
Berkshire meat at the Barossa
Farmers' Markets and needed a way
to make it stand out from the crowd.
"We originally sold Berkshires to a
butcher who really liked the meat
but struggled with the fat content,"
"So we decided to try and get our
name out there. We did that by
attending the Barossa Farmers'
Market, which we did for three
"While it was a great way of mar-
keting our product, it was time-con-
suming. It was good fun, but a lot of
After three years at the market, the
family had built-up brand awareness
and by doing that, managed to get
its product into different restau-
While SchuAm Pork is a recognis-
able brand in the marketplace,
Damien says selling their Landrace
and Large White pigs was also
important in terms of business
returns. The family's 'white' pigs go
mostly to the Dublin pig market,
with a few sold to Skara Smallgoods.
"We do get reasonable money for
our white pigs, and they usually
have better litters and growth rates,"
"The live market at Dublin has
been very good to us and I think it
would be a sad day if it ever disap-
Damien says by running crosses,
they are able to get the full benefit of
the eating quality of the Berkshire,
coupled with the fast growth rates of
the other breeds.
By building brand awareness and
winning the prestigious deli-
cious.Produce award, the family
now has a new issue -- keeping up
"Our problem now is supply, so
we'll have to look at increasing our
numbers," Damien said.
"But we'll be expanding our num-
bers slowly. We don't want to
expand just for the sake of expand-
SchuAm Pork is sold through
Richard Gunner's Feast! Fine Foods
and at Freeling Meats.
• Need to know more?
0408 084 947
SchuAm Pork's Damien Amery cannot
see the Berkshire breed falling out of
favour with consumers.
Who: Damien and Emma Amery,
and Daniel and Heidi Schuster, and
Mark and Jeff Schuster
Company: MA&JG Schuster
Brand: SchuAm Pork
Products: Berkshire pork, as well
as Landrace and Large White pigs
that are predominantly sold to the
Berkshire breed finds market niche
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