About a year ago we added our first group of pigs to the farm. A second group was added 3 months later, followed by a third group in November. We got them from 3 different neighbors that run their own breeding operations. After having compared the behavior and growth rate of the 3 groups we chose one of these breeders to get the pigs for our own program. Below a picture of the fourth group of 5 piglets just after they arrived.
All animal species have their own characteristics. One of the most obvious (apart from having a huge appetite) things pigs do is dig. They’re just 7 weeks old on this picture and they mean business already.
The first groups of pigs have been a tremendous help in clearing the areas of our zone 1 and 2 in preparation for our gardens and crop systems. We use electric fences to keep them in the fields we want then to clear and that works very well. Where possible we set the fence lines on contour. The pigs then loosen the soil and move quite some quantities of soil downwards, which makes it very easy for us to create swales and terraces after they move to the next field.
During this phase of preparing the land for gardens we deliberately let them ‘moonscape’ the fields. We leave them on each field until they rooted almost everything out. During their work they also fertilize the area, which is of further help.
When our gardens are in place we will shift to a less devastating method and let them graze instead of dig everything up. That will require us to move them to a new field faster. The goal then will be to use less and less commercial pigfeed and more and more pasture which we can grow in our zone 3 (and 4 when needed).
Below a picture of one gilt from the second group which we hope is now pregnant. Delivery of the piglets is expected in the first week of August.
Nothing beats a good rest after a day of digging!
Our goal in about a year is to have 6 sows, one or two boars and about 50 to 60 pigs of various sizes out in the field at any given time. As far as we can calculate now that should be within the carrying capacity of the areas we have designated as pasture. The pigs should then get the majority of their food directly from their own foraging.