European flavours in Vankeek Hill
At least five tons of them end up on Hans and Marianne Lindenmann’s Wild Boar farm in Vankleek Hill.
The couple have about 160 European Wild Boars and 130 Red Deer, which roam year-round on 80 acres of fenced land.
Hans Lindenmann said the hairy boars love to eat pumpkins and can devour a whole Jack-o-Lantern in seconds.
“Every day they eat vegetables and I am lucky to get the pumpkins from the Legault greenhouse,” Lindenmann said.
The couple’s farm, Trillium Meadows, has been in business about 10 years.
It produces boar and deer meat for local restaurants and sometimes sells deer antlers for their velvet.
While meat prices have been increasing lately and more people are trying exotic meats, Lindenmann says his business has suffered some setbacks.
For example, he used to sell animals to hunting parks.
Today, new regulations have made the parks illegal in Ontario and only a few remain in Quebec.
Another challenge has been the reduction of velvet prices.
Lindenmann used to keep 35 bucks exclusively for their antlers, selling to Chinese and Korean distributors who sell velvet powder as holistic medicine.
Lindenmann said he stopped selling velvet this year, because buyers were demanding unrealistically cheap prices.
“Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is making a profit,” he said.
Lindenmann said his boars are insatiable gluttons and will consume tons and tons of corn, vegetables, whole soybeans, fruit and brewers’ grain.
Therefore, a slight increase in corn prices can mean the difference between a profitable, barely-sufficient or losing year.
Another problem – which is common to all Canadian meat producers – is the fallout of Mad Cow disease or BSE, which lowered slaughterhouse prices.
“Because of the mad cow disease everything broke down, but the meat prices are beginning to get better. To produce an animal – to get out even – you need to make $3.50 to $4 a pound. I am now getting $5 a pound. Now, I am making a little bit of money. But all the years before, I lost money because the price of meat was really down,” he said.
Lindenman raises his animals without hormones or animal byproducts. He said it takes a year and half for a boar to reach 120 pounds.
So why go through all the trouble?
When asked why he raises these animals, Lindenmann said they are more common in his home country of Switzerland.
The boars produce a dark meat which is rich in iron and which he says is healthier and tastier than pork.
There is also the marginal benefit of the boars smelling better.
Compared to pigs, these animals are very clean and don’t produce many foul odors.
Lindenmann adds that Red Deer produce venison of exceptional quality, and since there are few deer farmers in the region it gives him a more exclusive product.
Over the years, Lindenmann has had a few dangerous encounters with these wild animals, which are kept on a farm but not domesticated.
He said he was once ‘punched’ repeatedly by a doe who was protecting her fawn from getting an ear tag; luckily his thick winter parka and sweaters softened the blows.
On another occasion, Lindenmann was rammed by his breeding boar “Louie,” who weighs about 250 pounds and has sharp hooked tusks.
“When he jumps on me, it’s really dangerous. I try to keep the boars tame and sometimes when I bring them to the slaughterhouse they are surprised I can just push them in. Some Wild Boar farmers never get in the pen with them and they are only handled with heavy cages,” he said.
Adding to the problem is that boars are very intelligent and constantly scheme for escapes; he mentions an anecdote of boars learning to disable his electric fence by piling dirt over the wire.
“It’s always a challenge. Last winter I had some problems because of the high snow. One of the males climbed over the fence and joined the females. He was breeding all the females and in the spring I had quite a surprise, I had about eight young ones,” he said.
Still, he calls it a good investment.
It might be difficult work – and no dairy farmer has to deal with an animal that can jump a six-foot fence, like a deer – but Lindenmann said he’s proud of his farm and his accomplishments.
He formerly sold his meats at Ottawa’s Byward market but now sets up every Saturday morning at the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market at VCI.
“Right now I am selling to a restaurant in Hawkesbury, The Elephant,” he adds.