Home
Search
thewest.com.au
Countryman

Pigs are a way of life, even during the tough times

Zach RelphCountryman
Shark Lake Piggery owners Stephen and Deb Hoffrichter at their farm, near Esperance.
Camera IconShark Lake Piggery owners Stephen and Deb Hoffrichter at their farm, near Esperance. Credit: Kelsey Reid

For Stephen Hoffrichter, the pig industry is a labour of love.

The Esperance pork producer’s piggery, about 10km north of the coastal town, has grown into an award-winning enterprise since it was founded by Mr Hoffrichter and his parents Peter and Judith in 1983.

Hailing from Ceduna in South Australia, the Hoffrichters moved to Esperance in 1978 with Mr Hoffrichter eager to leave school and pursue a career in pork.

“Dad has had pigs all his life and I left school and wanted to go into pigs with him,” he said.

“We now have a 600 sow piggery across about (560ha), with 300 breeding cows and 700 ewes.

“We sell close to 300 baconer pigs every week.”

Mr Hoffrichter, 52, operates the piggery wife Deb, employing seven full-time workers to manage the day-to-day tasks.

Shark Lake’s pigs are sold to butchers including Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s long-standing Everett Butchers, Choppin’ Block Butchery at Esperance and West Sky Butcher, near Ballajura.

Shark Lake Piggery owners Stephen Hoffrichter with some of the pigs on his pig farm, 10kms from Esperance.
Camera IconShark Lake Piggery owners Stephen Hoffrichter with some of the pigs on his pig farm, 10kms from Esperance. Credit: Kelsey Reid

Major WA company Linley Valley Pork also purchases the Hoffrichter’s pigs.

Mr Hoffrichter said producing pigs was a rewarding process, with the family-owned business committed to upholding high standards.

“I’ve always liked pigs,” he said.

“From the moment they’re born to producing a nice baconer pig at the end, it is a very challenging but rewarding job.

“We average about 70kg dressed per head, which is about 110kg liveweight, and we do it in about 18 to 19 weeks.”

Despite the lifelong pork passion, Mr Hoffrichter admits it has been difficult to operate under mounting input costs.

The proud pork producer said hiking feed costs compounded by the Eastern States drought was still hitting many pig farmers’ wallets.

Mr Hoffrichter also cited biosecurity concerns about the ravaging swine virus, African swine fever, and its proximity to Australia.

In August, an ASF outbreak was detected in East Timor — about 700km north of Australian shores.

Stephen Hoffrichter oversees pigs, cows and sheep.
Camera IconStephen Hoffrichter oversees pigs, cows and sheep. Credit: Kelsey Reid

Since the disease was detected in China in August last year, it has spread to nine other Asian nations and killed an estimated 200 million pigs.

Mr Hoffrichter said the disease’s proximity to Australia was a major concern.

However, he was pleased the Federal Government was bolstering its biosecurity efforts to protect the pork sector.

“I’d like to think it won’t come here, but wow it is close now,” he said.

“With the amount of tourists coming into Australia, border forces across Australia have to be on top of it.”

Although pork producers have to navigate multiple issues, including feed costs, while worrying about a possible ASF outbreak, Mr Hoffrichter said the pig industry still brought him joy.

“It can be hard at times to return a dollar,” Mr Hoffrichter said.

“The commitment and responsibility of looking after animals is huge and shouldn’t be understated.

“But, I couldn’t wait to leave school as a pig farmer ... and it has been a good life and served us well.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails