• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

resources to learn about pigs?

 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I need to do more research before I make decisions! We have a small place, 4.5 acres of which about 1.5 acres is meadow/pasture, some is very wet, boot-sucking bog adjacent to a small river, some is slightly drier bog and willow copse, and some is an old mill pond which is now reasonably solid, but still wet, ground with lots of common rush and where I am also growing alder trees.
I want to convert some of the meadow into more veg growing area, but not too much more, probably 1/4 acre of so. I was planning to get pigs starting next spring, I was planning to just get 2-3 weaners and use them to till up an area of pasture. I have talked to some people about it and thought I kind of had a plan but after talking to my brother some more I'm doubting myself. The idea was to get 2-3 pigs, enclose with electric fencing on an area of pasture, let them do their thing and obviously feed them as well - we have spent brewing grain, kitchen and garden scraps, and will be buying some commercial feed also. And slaughter them in the fall. My brother said they will actually need a huge amount of commercial feed, and that they will also need to be moved frequently because if they're left on the ground once they've destroyed the sod, they will just ruin it. I didn't realise that I would have to move them frequently, and I don't want them to de-sod large areas of pasture because we do want to maintain most of it as meadow. It's fairly wet as we get a lot of rain, but it is decent quality pasture in most places.

So here are my main questions at this point:
what size area would say 2 weaners need in order to NOT be moved around a lot?
what would be a good size area to confine them to to get them to till it up ready-ish for planting (I mean I am still expecting to have to prep soil, but not to have to do major tilling work)? if these are not the same size areas, how often will they need moving?

can you keep pigs on a bog? as another choice once they've mangled up as much pasture as I want to?

and most importantly, can anyone recommend a book or other resource that addresses questions like this on a very small scale? most of the ones i've seen are aimed at bigger operations.

thank you!
 
Ivan Weiss
Posts: 172
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S Carreg wrote:can anyone recommend a book or other resource that addresses questions like this on a very small scale? most of the ones i've seen are aimed at bigger operations.

thank you!

--
A quick search on bookfinder.com reveals multiple copies of and sources for Dirk van Loon's "Small Scale Pig Raising." Suppliers in the UK are listed. The book is US-centric, but should be valuable for your needs. Good luck.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S Carreg wrote:I want to convert some of the meadow into more veg growing area, but not too much more, probably 1/4 acre of so. I was planning to get pigs starting next spring, I was planning to just get 2-3 weaners and use them to till up an area of pasture.


Pigs are renowned as tillers, but their fame is greater than their reality. A few weaners aren't going to actually till up a very large area and it will be important to move them around to avoid soil compaction. If you leave them in one spot you just have a pig pen and it damages the soil. This moves you into managed rotational grazing which works very well with pigs. We do managed rotational grazing of about 400 pigs on pasture. It doesn't have to be complex and 1/4 acre is enough land to do a few pigs. Fence the perimeter well, divide it up like a tic-tac-toe board into nine squares and then rotate them through the paddocks, planting behind them. Once trained to electric fence they're very respectful of it.

S Carreg wrote:My brother said they will actually need a huge amount of commercial feed


Your first year I would suggest you also buy commercial hog feed of the appropriate type for their age. On full commercial feed they need about 800 lbs of feed. Good pasture can cut that dramatically. We raise pigs with no commercial corn/soy/grain hog feed. But it takes time to learn the pigs and develop the pasture quality to get to that point. Don't rush. There is much to learn the first year, and second.

S Carreg wrote:what size area would say 2 weaners need in order to NOT be moved around a lot?


If you don't move them you just have a pig pen and they will damage the soil in favorite areas even if it is a big pen. Divide it up and rotate them. Not hard.

S Carreg wrote:what would be a good size area to confine them to to get them to till it up ready-ish for planting


Two weaners? Maybe 16'x16'. Even then you'll have to be careful about soil compaction.

S Carreg wrote:can you keep pigs on a bog?


They'll love it, and turn it into a wallow, a mud hole. You need some non-bog area in there for them too.

S Carreg wrote:most importantly, can anyone recommend a book or other resource that addresses questions like this on a very small scale? most of the ones i've seen are aimed at bigger operations.


"Small Scale-Pig Raising" by Dirk Van Loon is what I recommend. An oldie and a goldie. It covers the basics of pigs although it is short on pasture knowledge.

In the archives of the forum you'll find lots of great info.

On my blog at http://SugarMtnFarm.com you'll find many articles about how we raise pigs on pasture here in Vermont.

For disease diagnostics try thepigsite.com but hopefully you'll not need it. Pigs are quite hardy.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Bob Blackmer
Posts: 31
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Walter covered it well. Moving them is important. Spending time on the initial set up will make management easier.

Some tricks we use to make moving pigs easier.

~Use a bulk feeder of some kind. anything that will hold say 100 lbs of feed of more that will keep it dry and allow the pigs to get to it. This does a couple of things. It keeps them well fed and gaining weight. It keeps them happy and inside the electric fence. And it can be used as an indicator of when its time to move them. When moved to a fresh paddock and the feeder is full, we have found that the pigs will hardly touch the feed. They find too many other good things to forage. We check the feed regularly, and when they start eating it down quickly we know that they have used up most of the good forage in that paddock, so we plan to move them just as they run out of feed. It gives them good motivation to follow you to the next paddock. And for me this is a sure fire way to avoid overgrazing and negative impact. When the pigs are little they could stay in an paddock as long as two weeks maybe more. But you should move them at least every three weeks to break up the parasite and pathogen cycle, in order to have healthy naturally raised pigs. Once they reach a couple hundred pounds they will likely need to move once, or even twice a week, But by this age they should be following you around like dogs. Easy. On the off chance they don't want to move, just moved the feed and water to the next paddock and leave the gate between paddocks open. They will make it there eventually, and you can just close the gate behind them.

~Gates. We have found pigs move easier through some sort of "permanent" gate. Not even a gate really just physical barrier that they can see you have moved. We used electric line once for out gates and we found the pigs were hesitant to walk through the opening. I once saw a pig limbo and crouch under an electric fence that wasn't there. It was funny but troublesome. You only need three that you can move from one paddock to the next. Two could work but as you take up the back one the pigs might get excited and think they are moving that direction rather to the next fresh paddock.

~High impact areas. The highest impact areas will be where you place the feed, the water, shade areas, and any wallows they make. You will eventually come back to the first paddock you started in, and it will have grown back wonderfully. Just try to make note of where the water and feed was last time the pigs where in that paddock and place them somewhere else. You will likely still see where they were last time, but by the third time around, if you get to it, you probably wont even be able to tell. The same goes for shade, if you provide a movable shade structure. If you don't, the next season you can move all of your paddocks to the next 1/4 acre and those areas will regenerate in time.

~ Training. Train them to electric fence in a closed barn or corral. This makes for less time chasing piglets that don't want to cross an electric fence again. It can take up to two weeks for them to really get it.

~Breed. Really a matter of opinion, but we find flop eared pigs easier to manage than prick eared pigs. They can't rely on their sight as much with their ears in the way, so they tend to move a bit slower and really train well to electric fence.

I hope this wasn't too confusing. I'm not so sure I explain things well in writing. Mostly I hope this helps ease your mind about moving your pigs. It really can be simple and enjoyable, and absolutely nothing beats raising your own pastured pork
 
Jd Parris
Posts: 6
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you both Walter and Bob - that is some great information.

Does anyone have any info on raising pigs in the tropics? I have a friend w/ land in Nicaragua that is going to start raising pigs. Does not appear to be a ton of info on the subject that I can find. The basics are the same, but I'm interested in what differences or problems might arise in the rotational grazing of pigs in a largely wet, always hot and humid environment. Any breeds particularly well suited to Central American climate?

Any leads on this would be much appreciated!
 
Jd Parris
Posts: 6
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also, Bob - could you elaborate more on your system of gates? I am having trouble conceptualizing what you wrote here:

"You only need three that you can move from one paddock to the next. Two could work but as you take up the back one the pigs might get excited and think they are moving that direction rather than to the next fresh paddock."

A picture or a diagram would be really helpful!

Josh
 
a wee bit from the empire
Got Permaculture games? Yes! 66 cards, infinite possibilities::
www.FoodForestCardGame
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic