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Raising pigs on 1-5 acres on PNW forest land possible?

 
Annie Burncott
Posts: 8
Location: Arlington, WA
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I've heard a lot about pasture-raised pigs, but has anyone raised pigs by letting them live on forested land in the PNW? I want to raise meat pigs without feeding any grain and give them a happy life. I have 5 free acres of thick forest with a little grassy area, but is technically all 2nd growth forest. I do not want my land cleared, and I wonder if pigs will destroy the natural setting I so love. It's my dedicated hiking place, but I wouldn't mind sharing it with pigs if they were easy on the land and would thrive. The kune kunes seem like they might be good pigs to consider. If anyone has any experience or knows of any specific literature that might address my questions, I would very much appreciate any info or direction where to go to find it. Any additional info that I didn't know to ask, I'd love to hear, too!
 
Lew Wallace
Posts: 7
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Hi Annie,
I was was raised on a 5 acre pig farm, in the Rainier/St. Helens area of Oregon. I still grunt when my wife scratches my back and hits just the right spot... LoL. It was our primary income, until the early '70s. About a third of the property was pasture, and the rest was woods and brush. There were some evergreens, but most were maples and alders (i.e. deciduous trees). The pigs did require some additional feed (especially in winter), but got their main food from the underbrush and grasses. We kept a lot of pigs on that 5 acres. Usually between 100 and 300 head, if you count all of the piglets, weaned pigs, brood sows, butcher hogs etc. Our herd cleared brush better than anything I've seen before or since. If you only want a few they should do fine on that acreage. You might want to give them additional grain "treats" so they stay tame and will come to you. Make sure you have a good electric fence perimeter, and good shelter for them. We divided the property into smaller runs so we could control where and how much they foraged. You'll want to keep at least 2-3 or else they get bored and lonely and will try to roam to find friends and entertainment.
Hope this helps!
lew
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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I would read most of Walter jefferys (hope is didn't misspell) blog. He is the pig sage.
 
Kelly Smitherson
Posts: 46
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How many pigs? We have two kunes on 5 acres over here in the Puget Sound, as of yet, I can not see their impact on the land, we are actually getting bigger market pigs and doing more intense grazing areas to help the kunes out because we want the pig impact
but a herd of kunes ... and mob rotation... you could see an impact I would bet

pigs are great for old growth forest and for hardwood forests- but it depends on your idea of what impact you would want to see
when you go to buy pasture pigs, ask to see where they have been, ask how long and how many- all those questions, seeing is believing imo
 
Erika May
Posts: 14
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DANG LEW! 100 pigs on 5 acres?! I've got 13 acres in Scappoose with 10 being vertical forested acres and my piggies arn't finding much in the woods this time of year (winter). Did the quality of your forest improve overtime so that you could sustain more animals? When I bought the place I thought the pigs would love the woods here...but they seem to enjoy ripping up the pasture more. :/ hopefully after my aggressive pruning the hazelnut trees will start to produce actual nuts again and the pigs will enjoy that.
 
Annie Burncott
Posts: 8
Location: Arlington, WA
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Thanks, Lew, for all the details. I "saw" that farm of yours in the 70s because you described it so well, but I think the back-scratching-grunting comment was the clincher! I'm beginning to understand so much more as I read thread after thread on pigs. It's somewhat daunting, but then I read Kelly's reply (thank you, Kelly), and I think, yeah...2 kunes and she sees no impact yet. Kelly, how long have you had those 2 kunes on your 5 acres? Great suggestion about seeing where the pigs have been when buying them to see how much they've impacted the land. I'll do that.

You also asked how many pigs, and here goes another question. Currently, I buy 50 pounds of pork meat a month, and I'd like to know how many pigs I would need to raise a year to give me that amount of pork? I expect to freeze of course. I'll bet there's some kind of formula, and if anyone can send me there or can give me a ballpark figure, that would be great. I have this vision of keeping 3 -5 pigs at a time, but perhaps that's a bit naive...

Shawn, I appreciate your suggestion. When you mentioned Walter Jeffries the name clicked, and it took me a few seconds..."Isn't he that Sugar Mountain Farm guy?" I asked myself. I'd actually been to his site just before finding this forum, so thanks for suggesting him. At the beginning of any endeavor, there's a lot of sifting to get to know where the good information is to be found, and it's great to be validated that what I'd found actually WAS a good source.

Thanks again, everyone!
 
Lew Wallace
Posts: 7
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Our pigs would have the pastured areas down to dirt by mid summer. The woods got brushed out good, but would still have some vegetation. We kept moving them so it didn't get down to bare dirt too. Everything grew back in spring, and they'd start over. The area right around the barn was muddy (don't wear yer school shoes to feed the pigs! I heard that more than once). They had a big mud wallow near the barn and would usually make a few smaller ones out near the trees. Pigs don't sweat, so they "waller" to keep cool, and help get rid of lice.

We had a neighbor lady (neatest prissiest lady I ever met) fall in love with an orphaned (very sickly) runt. She took him home and he became a pet. He ate and slept on the porch with the dog, had the run of the house during the day, asked to be let out, and eventually died of old age. BTW it takes a BIG hole to bury a full grown Yorkshire, that's been spoiled all his life. Pigs can be very clean if you let them. Even in the barn, if you kept the stalls shoveled out. They would sleep in one corner, eat in another and do their "business" as far away as they could.

Warning If you're going to name your pigs make it something like "Porkchop" or "Hambone"... makes the killing and eating much easier if they don't become pets!

Lew
 
Renate Howard
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Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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For how many you need, figure roughly half the hog is waste - guts, skin, blood, brains, bones, etc. so to get 50 lbs of meat you need to slaughter a 100 lb hog. Kunes take longer to mature than some and don't grow as big. If you bred your own, since you're a pork enthusiast and feeder Kunes are expensive, you'd probably either slaughter a bunch at once or some smaller ones at first and grow out the rest so you get more meat as time goes on to keep your freezer from overflowing.

So take an average, between how big the Kunes would be when you decide it's time for the first to go and how big they get after a year or year and a half. Kunes at 10 months (typical slaughter weight for them) would weigh between 140 and 220 lbs (I assume the larger ones may be older??) so let's say 180 is the average and from that you'd get 90lbs of meat, more or less. So around 7 pigs, plus the breeders (I'd say one sow and one boar should be plenty to supply 7 piglets a year, with surplus being sold off to pay for supplemental feed costs) should supply you with around 630 lbs of pork a year.

During that time some of your pigs will be little and have a small impact on the environment but at times (just before slaughter) you may have up to 9 larger pigs and then they would have much more impact. You could time the breedings so they have the maximum food at those times, like one breeding to mature when the grass comes in in the spring and another when the trees drop their nuts in the fall. Do that by breeding about 1 month before then (4 month gestation plus 9 months to grow). For maximum control over when they breed you'd probably want to find a way to borrow a boar instead of owning one, which would also cut your feed costs but could complicate things a little - sows of some breeds don't ovulate until they're with a boar so they need almost a full month together before they actually conceive.
 
Erika May
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yeah..if you go through 50lbs a month it might make more sense to get something that grows faster or bigger. and doesn't cost quite as much. Then you could stagger butchering from a 200 lb carcass at about 6 months (100 lbs freezer meat), a few months later get a 270 lb carcass (about 140 lbs of freezer meat), then if you don't mind growing one to a year when the gains on food to growth slow down you can have one butchered at 300 something... I don't know what is better for the woods: less animals at a larger size, or more animals of a smaller size. Also, with their small size how would they do against predators (coyotes, pumas, bears, hawks) in the area? My 500 lb momma sow is big enough to scare off most predators with her smell alone, but I wouldn't leave her piglets alone in my woods overnight until they get a good 100 lbs or more. How quickly would kunekunes reach a size that they could fend for themselves?

Also, there are different qualities of meat. My Yorkshire produces a white meat that is good for roasts...but not alot of bacon. I bred her to an old spot that makes a "red" meat that is more suited for bacon and hams. The boar's brother, when slaughtered, produced 75 lbs of bacon and two hams, but no roasts. So take into account what kind of pork you consume the most and what meat would work best for your purposes. I sold my old spot to a fellow who was raising Tamworths. Tamworths are also a nice red meat, excellent foragers and fine mothers, BUT they produce a smaller carcass with less lard. So that fellow is trying to cross in the Old Spot to increase size and lard quantity.

 
Kelly Smitherson
Posts: 46
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Our kunekunes are August babies, about 30 pounds each now in March. Great condition, nice looking pigs, but I am not butchering them for a while yet. The kids named them Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. We name all our animals names of honor, and treat our meat stock the same as our dairy stock. But there is something in knowing that Edison will be in the freezer. We talk about it often, not to rub it in the kid's noses, but just to sort of make it the reality. They have a long long time to digest that reality.
Ours have been on the 5 acres for just over 3 months now, so not too long really. You put a market pig on something for a day- and you see the impact though, they are workhorse pigs!
Do you want to see pictures? I have a facebook page for my little shin dig place - Sprout Hill
I am not sure you can really see anything about the impact from the pigs, it is winter and our pastures are all blah atm- but maybe an idea of their size
 
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