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blackberries & pigs

 
Denny Hunt
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I put 4 feeder pigs in on our blackberries in an area about 40’ x 80’ where about 1/3 of the area is covered in blackberries. They are quite high and growing up against an old chicken house that will be restored. I have two Tams and two Berks. No goats in there and I am hoping the pigs will root out all the blackberries. I notice they are working on the roots on the edges, but have not yet gotten into the areas where the vines are taller. They eat some of the leaves too. Of course it has only been since Nov 5 and they only a little over 9 weeks old now.
I am feeding them rolled barley soaked in whey with cooked parts from pasture raised slaughtered chickens and cooked potatoes that I cannot sell. Also they get some found food from the containers behind grocery stores where I sell my potatoes. Soon I will be adding SEA 90 to their diets. I suspect I either need to get goats or go in there with a machete and clippers to give the pigs better access to the blackberry root zone.

I am trying to regulate their feed and get the berries out by the time the pigs grow out to weight for the freezer. I am interested in feedback and suggestions. Thanks in advance from Denny in Sebastopol
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'll bet if you went in there with tree loppers you could drop the canes quite quickly. The pigs will pick away at almost anything they can easily approach. It could be that their young mouth aren't tough enough for them to ignore the thorns like some adults do. Once they develop a taste for the berries they'll probably deal with them in short order.

Young pigs on their own would probably benefit from the presence of adults who might demonstrate proper technique?

When my dad used pigs for rooting out stumps and rocks, he believed that a little bit of starvation helped to motivate them. Of course that doesn't quite fit into your plan of fattening these pigs quickly.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Throw some cracked corn or pea's into it.

But I do agree is you can tollerate slashing it it would make things easier, and I agree also thats theres a possibility of an age issue or at least an adult to help bulldoze things down to get them going.

But throwing some of there favorites in you can try tomorrow, not much you can do if they need to grow into it or you don't have an adult to lead the way.

Cow's trample blackberries only when the apples falling it have gotten to a sufficient volume to be worth getting scratched up, so there's where I see the incentive of corn doing the same for pigs and you don't have to grow tree's for years like you would apples.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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i have found that if you cut and clear the blackberries(or chop and drop into pieces) and then put the pigs in they do the job 10x faster. the older thick stuff they dont really like, but the fresh stuff thats trying to regrow after you cut it is exactly what they want along with the now easy to get to roots. the same goes with goats.
 
Alison Thomas
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I echo humbert. We have MASSES of blackberries, some we hacked back and another patch we just left for the pigs to clear. Hacked patch now super clear, other patch nibbled at edges but not much more. Goats on the other hand.... (however, our goats won't eat the old canes, just the new growth)
 
Dave R. Mason
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You have problems with blackberries?
Send the plants to me...
I love Blackberriues
..
Dave
Phoenix, AZ
 
Ivan Weiss
Posts: 172
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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Hi Denny. I deal with this all the time. You don't have to chop and drop the whole blackberry thicket all at once. Do it a little at a time. The hogs will be curious and will follow you around. Chop and drop above a particular root mass that you want them to attack, and dump a bucket of their feed around and over it. They will get the hang of it and will make short work of all those blackberries soon enough if you repeat this procedure, root mass by root mass.

I am getting ready to put 16 head on a blackberry-infested pasture next week, and I expect to be out there doing this in rainy-ass Washington every day. Ultimately, those uprooted blackberries dry out. The canes can then become biochar or hugelkultur feedstock. But the root balls go right into the biochar barrel. I'm taking no chances with them, haha.
 
Denny Hunt
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OK Thanks everyone - these replies are very helpful. Got the loppers. I have two kinds of machetes that I like to use. I could use the exercise. I like hanging out with the pigs anyway. Got a good spot to relocate a survivor or two because we do pick and freeze them. Cheers and thanks again - Denny
 
Clifford Reinke
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Location: Puget Sound
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Hi, I just butchered my three pigs and was using them to clear black berries. You do need to cut the canes down. I put them along the inside of my fence. It keeps the pigs from rooting under the fence. They always loved it when I cut the canes and were very quick to go in and take out the roots.
 
Doug Mac
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Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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You will probably not get the effect you want with a couple of pigs or goats. To get into stands of tall blackberries (without hacking them yourself), you need to take advantage of 'herd effect'. Herd effect is the trampling, pushing, shoving, crushing and competitiveness of your livestock. I saw a herd of goats (100ish) strip a 300 by 400 foot area in about 3 hrs. That's about 1 goat per 1200 sq ft. If you put 3 goats in 3600 sq ft, they just nibble around for days. I don't know much about pigs but with goats the way to clear an area of blackberries is to intentionally over graze it and then come back when it leafs out. Over graze again and repeat the process till the berries have used up all the energy stored in their root system. This can be a multi year process on big established stands. The area I saw the goats strip was so thick that a bulldozer got stuck trying to get through it. The stuff was 12 to 15 feet tall. Three years later the area is all under 4 feet and there are areas of grass and other annuals. Canes they didn't eat they trampled. This is not quick if you need the area now but great if you want to clear it and feed your livestock in the meantime.

Pigs may root them out sooner. I just don't have experience with pigs.

Dave - These aren't probably great berries. These are not the berries you are looking for.

Ivan - I cut some canes a couple of years ago, tied them in bundles, let them dry out and then stacked them out of the way til I needed them for erosion control. They started to sprout! I wouldn't put canes or roots in hugelkulture anywhere they are already a problem.
 
Brent Rogers
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I have three weaner pigs on about three acres right now. There where, and are still, giant patches of blackberries everywhere. You must pen the pigs in close proximity to the blackberries, because it seems that if they have much of a choice they won't touch them at all. When you put them in smaller areas they also have a tendency to root heavily...immediately. My observations where much like yours. They eat what leaves they can reach and root around the edges of the blackberries. If you cut the blackberries and pile them up, out of the way, the pigs can gain better access to the root wad and hopefully destroy it. I know they can. When I move them, there are blackberry roots everywhere. I found a pair of loppers to work best. You can clip with blade and drag away vines by clamping behind the pivot point (opposite the blade). I recently heard that sepp holzer throws a mixture on the ground that the pigs are keen on (I believe it was fermented grain with food scraps), and it encourages them to root in the area where the food is thrown. I agree with Doug, the best success I have had is with herd competition. I have fed sheep some hay in a blackberry patch and within hours they have either trampled or eaten all of the blackberries in the vicinity of the hay. There is also an added bonus, the wasted hay becomes mulch over top and keeps new growth down.
 
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