De Varkenshof: Experimental Shelter for Princes and Princesses

There is a global estimate of experimental global warming for the Nordmann family. Breeding pigs, nursing pigs and pigs, all stages of pigs under one roof. visitors bring money; Meat sales are not enough (yet).

The Nordmann family yard in Overijssel Limlerfeld is bustling with action. A truck transporting materials to build the new barn. Herbert Nordman leads her with a shovel to the desired place. Nils Nordmann consults at the construction site and Annemarie Nordmann plays the garden because many visitors are expected. De Varkenshoff is one of three companies on Noaber magazine’s “De boer op” daily trip.

Annemarie Noordman is active when it comes to the farmer-citizen relationship. The experimental stable Varkenshoff plays an important role in this. Last year during lockdown we were one of the few flights that opened. Ask for money for a visit and a big hug. But in fact, there are always interesting conversations about how and why pigs are raised and the role of meat in our diet.

natural ventilation

Varkenshoff has been used for five years. Greenhouse 18m wide, 47m long and 7m high with a semi-transparent roof and natural ventilation. The stable was furnished according to the idea of ​​Jean Pape. He is also the godfather of the bovine zoo.

We need to spread more knowledge about what a healthy food is and the role of animal proteins in it

Annemarie Nordman, pig farmer

Five large farmers divide the barn into four sections. Under one roof there is a place for sowing stands, sowing, pies, finishing. The greens in containers had a double function: they are edible and the plants keep the air clean.

What seemed fresh and green in the planters at the beginning of the barn, now appears somewhat deserted. “The idea was beautiful,” says Anne-Marie Nordman. ‘But the straw and sawdust in the barn create so much dust that trees and plants can’t stand it. We continue to search for a solution.

stole to say

For Nordman, Farkenshof corresponds to the ideal of the past. “It is a stable in which I can tell the story of raising pigs.” The most diverse groups know how to find their way into the company. Also a fellow pig breeder. Although they were criticized at first. Afraid because they were that Farkhenshov would become the norm in the future.

“Well, it wouldn’t be like that,” says Anne-Marie Nordman in her distinctive way of calling. She doesn’t beat the bush about the good and bad aspects of pig farming. Since Varkenshoff was a new concept, Wageningen University & Research conducted the research there. It is now complete and has yielded new insights.

Ten steps and Paul

For example, a rabbit takes a maximum of ten steps and then defecates or urinates. “If you want to control the behavior of the manure, there has to be a pig toilet within that radius of movement.”

In Varkenshoff, she gives birth to about three piglets at the same time. Their pigs stay together for the rest of their lives. “I see pig behavior as more competitive.” As an example, Nordman cites a young woman who thought she was responsible. Her peers endured it for two days, and then things got worse.

“Everyone always thinks it’s cool to have animals lying in the hay, but if it’s too warm they lie on the slides.” On the contrary, Nordmann describes the barn as being very cold in the winter months. To the question of whether this is really the case, because last winter was not cold, or whether it was human perception, the answer is: “In this stable I make my animals very short in winter.”

In winter, Nordmann uses the fabric to make tents for the piglets to maintain a better temperature. © Frank Oglenbrook

“Good to take care of your animals is to take care of people. Food and drink is a nice place to sleep. And that’s how pig farmers are taught to keep little pigs alive. So last winter Nordmann made plastic tents over barns to wean the pigs, creating a more pleasant microclimate for ‘lords and princesses'” This is what pig breeders affectionately refer to as the colorful spectacle that fills the stable and gets a lot of attention.

In order to obtain pigs more resistant to the conditions of cultivation in Varkenshoff, animals with bacon are bred a little more on ribs, and piglets that are not very large. “We can’t make adoptive mothers.”

Little pigs summon mother

Each sheep has its own nursery in the large group shed. A wooden ledge keeps pigs in the nest for the first few days. If you put a piglet, it will call out. The mother responds and then you have crossed two dozen. The piglet needs two days to get to know its mother, the pig farmer explains.

I really had to learn to watch the behavior of my animals in this barn. She worked for years caring for people with disabilities. Read the signs, where my heart lies.

Share more innovations

Nordman says the new barn provided her with great insights. She would have liked to share it with entrepreneurs working on similar initiatives like Varkenshoff. ZonVarken is mentioned in De Heurne as an example.

The entrepreneur calls the fact that companies with experimental concepts are not in close contact with each other as a missed opportunity. If so, then one plus one can become three. “There are now opportunities.”

Sell ​​your meat

Nordmann has been marketing pork from De Varkenshof himself for about three years now. This adds a whole new dimension to pig farming. I never realized that you can make so many different products from pigs. An open world for me. I understand better and how best valuation works.

Near the entrance to the visitor’s room are two large freezers and a freezer. Meat is sold in packages. The whole world is demanding a change in the scale of livestock farming. “We do it but this is not observed in the sale of our meat,” the commentary said. Even a marketing firm is working to increase the visibility of De Varkenshof’s meat.

The Nordmann family sells meat from their pigs.
The Nordmann family sells meat from their pigs. © Frank Oglenbrook

Selling meat is basically a business of Bart and Nils’ sons. They invest a lot of time and effort and put online sales through a sales organization on the right track. “I quit a long time ago,” says Anne-Marie Nordman. The downside is that meat sales have raised awareness that good and safe food is made in the Netherlands.

Nordmann says – not alone – that the average Dutchman has lost track of food. Why not buy washed potatoes and carrots or how to bake schnitzel. In the past, food was important, but now it is a staple in many families. We need to disseminate more preliminary knowledge about what a healthy food is and the role of animal proteins in it.

When Nordman sees an opportunity, she won’t let her miss. Whether it is with visitors to Varkenshoff or with students who come to the company. Tell them the whole story. From De Varkenshoff, but also from the pig fattening company Veldhoek Porc. Every animal has the right to a decent life. No matter which farm.


Herbert and Anne-Marie Nordman have four children. Son Niels takes over the company. The next generation that puts its weight behind it, brings change with it. Construction activities on the property are also connected to this.

On the place where the concrete is now poured, a greenhouse with 3,000 places will be built. The existing dwellings for fattening pigs are also greenhouses, the beds are exposed to a lot of indoor light as a positive for the animals and they work well.

With the new construction, space is being made for the company's successor Nils Nordmann.
With the new construction, space is being made for the company’s successor Nils Nordmann. © Photography by Frank Oglenbrook

There are plans to close the business again. Niels wants to take over the management of the company, but he’s also clearly indicating that he wants to do things differently than Herbert and I. Working on your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week is out of date. Our children are proud of what he says, but they also learned their lessons from him.

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