A fifth-generation, regenerative farm of 700 hectares
Ermida de São Luís da Mogueira, Portugal
Alentejano breed pigs
Cross Angus beef
Black merino sheep
Welcome to Porcus Natura, a 700 hectares regenerative farm close to Montemor-o-Novo in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
The proud and dedicated owner, Francisco Alves, is the fifth generation of this unique montado farm. Montado refers to the traditional agroforestry system in Portugal, characterised by low-density cork trees combined with pastoral activities or agriculture.
Highlights of this article
- innovative pig breeding
- multi-species rotational grazing
- cork tree protection plan
- results of applying regenerative techniques
How everything started
Francisco, originally from Alentejo, has been working in the region for the last 20 years. To keep up the family tradition, the main activity at Porcus Natura continues to be the breeding of Alentejano pigs. Francisco’s dad developed a very innovative system for this, which starts at the pigs’ maternity.
Francisco’s family dedicated a special farm area to breeding sows with lots of shadow, water, and huts. They spend two weeks there before giving birth. When the baby pigs are two months old, the sows are transferred to open areas to walk and graze.
A couple of years ago, Francisco came across the concept of regenerative soil management. His interest was sparked immediately.
‘’We are now integrating multiple animal species – Angus beef, Merino sheep and serpentina goats – with the Alentejano pigs. Together, they make up a beautiful, dynamic grazing system.’’
Through rotational grazing, which implies the daily rotation of the spaces covered by animals, they ensure the quality of the pasture and the regeneration of the soil. Another, of many, positive side effect of regenerative soil management is the take-up of carbon by the soil. This balances the emissions caused by the animals.
Let’s look into other activities happening on the farm…
Francisco regularly welcomes journalists and visitors at his farm. There’s the opportunity to follow an internship as well!
He also started selling quality products to butchers and chefs in Lisbon. One of them is a Michelin star restaurant!
Protection of ecosystem
Portugal is currently facing a decline of 5,000 ha montado’s per year.
‘’I strongly feel I have to take care of this unique ecosystem. And I believe we are still in time to act upon it and recover this beautiful tree species.’’
Optimising rotational grazing
They are currently experimenting with increasing the amount of animals to optimise rotational grazing. The aim is to create the perfect balance with an increased amount of animals without creating ecosystem disturbance or any disbalance.
Lots of great work in progress!
How do they contribute to a better climate?
The grazing dynamic with different animals has plenty of advantages:
→ recovering and regenerating the soil
→ ensuring the quality of the pasture
→ balancing the carbon emissions
No pesticides are used due to attached health risks, soil and groundwater pollution, and the destruction of local biodiversity
Francisco does not till his soil. This has several benefits:
→ the storage of carbon in the soil
→ moisture conservation
→ reduced compaction
→ keeping the topsoil intact
‘’Did you know that a teaspoon of topsoil typically contains a vast range of different life species and up to 6 billion microorganisms?’’
At Francisco’s farm, pigs naturally till the soil, so machines are not needed.
What would they like to tell farmers that wish to make the transition to regenerative agriculture?
‘’Since I am applying regenerative techniques, I have increased the number and diversity of animal species in the farm and my profit has increased. I observe better soil health and biodiversity on my farm too. So just experiment with different techniques and don’t give up at the first failure! Every day is a new opportunity to learn, observe, and compare.’’
Curious to know more about the transition of your farm to regenerative agriculture? Check out our Academy!
And there’s more!
Francisco is part of the Climate Farmers Pioneer Program, which is a training and personalised support system for farmers in Europe who are interested in the long-term implementation of profitable regenerative practices. Do you also want to experience the changes that Francisco mentioned?! Sign up here!