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Temporary bonfil-fokuoka beds as self-feeding pig gardens  RSS feed

 
Annie Hope
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Hi,

I am trying to create food beds that I can put pigs in a pig tractor in, to dig up as required (esp for winter and early spring when there is no extra fruit. This is to save time harvesting ourselves, and also to establish new garden beds from pasture (dig up a few times over a few years in order to get rid of the seed bed). I am looking at growing a mix of jerusalem artichokes, beets/mangels, swedes, radishes, carrots etc. I am also planning that I would rotate the goats (and maybe cattle) over it before harvest as well in order to eat down the tops.

I am wondering if anyone has done this and also incorporated growing grains in the bonfil-fokuoka method. The main problem i see is that if you put the root plants in the first summer with the wheat, then they will be ready too quickly, and if you put it in with the wheat the second spring/summer, then the grain will over-crowd the smaller root crops (beets, mangels, swedes, carrots), and the green leaves of the root crops may hold in the moisture and encourage the crop to mold.

Do you think the following will work or are there are any other suggestions:
- SUMMER AFTER MIDSUMMER - plant grain and field peas
- WINTER - slash-harvest field peas and grain tops for stock or let the animals graze them down.
- SPRING/SUMMER Plant jerusalem artichokes and/or sunflowers between the grain, as they would grow above the grain. If the grain is spaced a bit, then it might also be possible to plant a single row of peanuts between the rows of grain to add a higher-protein content to the food.
When the grain is harvested, then put in the faster growing root crops (beetroot, white radishes etc) for the pigs to harvest in late autumn/winter.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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I have a textbook that is almost 80 years old: Ensiminger's Feeds and Feeding. Apparently before everybody had tractors they would raise pig food in a fenced area, and then turn the pigs out into it so that the pigs did the harvesting. This was called "hogging off" a crop. I assume that other feeds, like skim milk and scraps and such, was still brought to the pig. Popular feeds for hogging off included corn and peanuts and clover and I forget what else. I know that some oil-rich foods can make inferior pork the book called "soft pork" but I bet that having peanuts as PART of a diet would be excellent.

Your idea of using a pig tractor would spare you the effort and expense of building a pig-tight fence. Though, one thing gives me pause: moving things to new ground when the crop is perhaps 6 feet tall. Will your pig tractor consist of something like a portable electric fence that goes AROUND the food crop?
 
Annie Hope
Posts: 96
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We have tried various temporary electric fences including the portable netting ones. The work for days or weeks, and then they pigs get a bit bored or hungry and decide that it is worth the zap to nip under or over them. We still have plants to experiment with electrical wire attached to shade cloth, and wrapped round "t-posts" / star pickets, that are pegged down, and they have to push through. the present tractor design being made has a solid metal frame, and steel mesh on sides and top, and we may electrical wire round the base for good measure.

before we put the pigs on, we will put the goats on though, and they will bring the crop down to a pretty much to ground level and a few stalks. We will also throw some green tops backwards to the pigs. While we feed our pigs huge amounts of greens (the will eat a wheelbarrow (3 lawnmower catchers) full off grass a day each), we don't give them free range of the paddocks, They can also dig up a few hundred square feet of pasture in a few hours looking for worms.
 
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