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Keeping/feeding pigs

 
Alison Thomas
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We went to see a pig (and goat) breeder yesterday to see how to do our fencing, how to house them etc.  They were kept in quite large enclosures, maybe 30m x 20m (similar in yards I believe) and the food bill seemed quite high.  I just wondered if there was a more 'free-range' way of keeping pigs - like does this 'enclosure' thing equate to chickens being kept in a run? 

And ideally what should pigs get in their diet?  Should soya feature?  We were told that they needed a fair amount of protein in order to put on muscle and not fat (guess that's similar to humans).
 
Irene Kightley
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We were told that they needed a fair amount of protein in order to put on muscle and not fat.


If they have plenty of greens and enough exercise they don't get too fat.(Like humans !) Pigs kept in small spaces and grown on fast to sell have a completely different diet to free-range domestic pigs.

If you don't mind spending a lot of money for your free range pork you can buy in food. There are very detailed feeding charts from the internet or I'm sure there are other people in the forum who can help. 

We consider our pigs as a way of using up some the excess from our smallholding. We wouldn't keep them unless we had enough food on site. We've never bought in feed but we do grow food especially for them. We keep our in several parks of about half an acre each and move them around so that they can feed themselves as much as possible.

How many acres do you have to devote to their parks and how much for growing ?
 
Alison Thomas
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Ideally we don't want to spend lots of money so I'm keen to learn what to grow etc. 

We have 17 acres of pasture in total, all of it at present unused other than a local farmer coming and cutting them once a year and taking away the hay bales (hmmm should we be selling them to him I wonder, or maybe now asking for some to be left for us??)  Actually that was going to be another post at one point - how to make the best use of this land.

We have a major bramble problem so we hoped that pigs plus goats might get the 'hedges' back into order and keep them that way.
 
Irene Kightley
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The deal in France is that if someone cuts your hay he or she keeps half and you get the other half. 

Your brambles aren't a problem - they're a great food source for both goats and pigs. The problem is replacing them with something just as good when they've all gone !

Goats will destroy your hedges so be careful !

Have you done a design for the house and land yet ? If not, an easy way to do that is take a screen shot from Google earth and mark in by hand or use a programme like Paint to mark out how the land is protected, where the winds come from, neighbours roads, types of soil/rock, where there are fences and so on.

Then do your zoning plan - you know, the house and things that you want near it in zone one... etc.

Just do a rough draft to give people an idea of what your land consists of and post it in the forum with a new topic heading. I'm sure lots of people will give you valuable advice.
 
Max Madalinski
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I work for a Sheep Dairy/Cheesemaker in Vermont, and we raise 3 pigs in the spring for use in different charcuterie products that we sell at local farmers markets. The system that is set up at the farm uses the pigs as "Pasture expanders." We use some electroplatic netting combined with a solar/battery generator to make a pen along the edge of a pasture where the woods meet the grass. We leave them to just do there thing for a few weeks and then set up another attached pen with the netting to move them into and then remove the old netting and move the electric. After they've moved we come and throw down a pasture seed mixture (mostly grass and clover) in the area that they've rooted up so that we can expand the edible area for the sheep. It sounds to me like this method could probably help with your bramble "problem," as after we move the pigs the pen they had just come from is completely dug up. You might have some trouble planting in here though since the pigs running/rolling around compacts the soil quite a bit.

For food we have a VERY good system. We worked out a deal with a local school and a local Elder home to take there food scraps that would normally go into the trash. Once or twice a day we drive down to town and collect buckets of scrap food which we then parse out over a number of feedings for the pigs (depending on how much scraps we get from them on a particular day). Then because of the cheese making on the farm we have large amounts of excess whey which we feed to the pigs as a water replacement. Whey is very high in protein The combination of whey and scraps almost entirely eliminates our need for external feed crops like soy and corn, which we only provide if for some reason the schools or elder homes can't give us any or enough food for the day. We also supplement there food with windfall apples from apple trees on the farm and our own food scraps from the house that would otherwise go to compost.

Some potential issues with the system are: with the fencing sometimes the pigs figure out how to escape, though this typically only happens during heavy rains where piled up mud can potentially short out the current, and thus we have to try and lure them back into the pen using buckets of food... it's sort of ridiculous. This could be a serious problem if you have neighbors nearby that would not appreciate the appearance of 250 pound eating/rooting machines on their property. Also obviously this system assumes you will be butchering all the animals in the fall and would not be keeping any animals for breeding stock. In which case you would need to figure out your own system for overwintering them.
 
Chelle Lewis
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Irene Kightley wrote:Have you done a design for the house and land yet ? If not, an easy way to do that is take a screen shot from Google earth and mark in by hand or use a programme like Paint to mark out how the land is protected, where the winds come from, neighbours roads, types of soil/rock, where there are fences and so on.

Then do your zoning plan - you know, the house and things that you want near it in zone one... etc.

What a neat idea for planning!

Chelle
 
                    
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Seems like the breed of pig is important.  Newer breeds have been designed to eat grain and put on fatty weight quickly.  We're getting an older breed that prefers to eat grass and legumes exclusively.  We plan to rotate them around our five acres of perennial vetch in electric paddocks.  We'll be growing pumpkins and winter squash for their winter rations as well as harvesting and stockpiling acorns from around our valley.  We're buying some organic pig feed as back up but hope to not use it very often.  We plan to get a cow in the next few years.  Two pigs and a cow is a classic homesteading arrangement, I've been told several times from reputable sources. 

I wish we could get the breakfast and lunch leftovers from our local elementary school (the only source of such leftovers near enough to us to be worth the drive), but apparently it's illegal to do anything other than throw the food away.  Gotta love bureaucracy! 
 
Chelle Lewis
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Could you give a list of older breeds of pigs, Marina? i'd like to check out what we have here. I don't want the grain eating breeds either. Have you heard of a pot-belly pig?

Chelle
 
Chelle Lewis
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Found this. Called a Kolbroek. Cute!

Chelle
 
                    
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We're getting American Guinea Hogs, black hairy things that don't get all that large.  A full grown boar is less than 300 pounds.  I'm totally new to this, have no idea about other breeds, we're just starting with a pig-type that sounds like it's good for our situation and is easy to get from breeders in our area. 



http://www.guineahogs.org/

Those spotted ones are cute, Chelle!  There are lots of breeds out there, the best thing seems to be finding a local supplier. 
 
Max Madalinski
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here's a good list of a LOT of different pig breeds and some info about them


http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/swine/
 
                    
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Wow, thanks for that link, Cornelius! 
 
Chelle Lewis
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Definitely wow! Thanks! 

Chelle
 
                    
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It appears that Guinea hogs are African in origin, Chelle!  One of the many side effects of human slave trade. 

"Guinea hogs, or Guinea Forest hogs, most likely originated on the Guinea coast of Africa and were spread widely though the slave trade from Africa to England, France, Spain, and America. At one time they were common homestead pigs in the southern U.S., but are now practically unknown. Guinea hogs were also used for breeding with English pigs in the 1700 and 1800's and the very distant relationship between the two types made for an excellent cross.

Historically, Guinea hogs were large and square, with reddish bristly hair, a long tail, and pointed ears. They were hardy grazers and foragers that could be raised on mast and pasture and still produce both lard and pork. Their numbers declined drastically with the collapse of the lard market and the shift away from backyard pork production.

Today's Guinea hogs are small, only 150-300 pounds and 15-20 inches tall when fully grown. They are usually black and often hairy. Guinea hogs are very gentle and easy to care for, making them popular at children's zoos, though they remain suitable for small scale pork production. Investigations are continuing into the relationship between modern and historically documented Guinea hogs."
 
                    
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Hey Paul, over at richsoil.com you have a photo of some pigs beginning to turn a huge compost pile.  Said you'd update it spring of 2002 with the results.  What happened? 
 
Chelle Lewis
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I will definitely try track some Guinea Hogs if possible, Marina! They look super and really good choice for homesteading. Thanks! Funny.... never heard of them till now. Maybe far north of me.

Chelle
 
                    
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You should totally look for them, Chelle!  The african ones will probably be a little different from the American ones, as the african pigs were crossed with other hogs after they came to the US. 

The interesting thing about the Guineas is that they don't really root.  We were told that they will go after tasty roots if they know they're there (and we'd like to teach them to self harvest sunchokes and the like) but they don't just nose around in the dirt looking for things if there's plenty of greens for them to eat.  Originally how we wanted to use pigs is for soil disturbance in new garden spots.  But I have been told by different sources that pig rooting can ruin pasture in a hurry (farmer guy we visited had beautiful pastures and he said other breeds in previous years had turned them into mine fields)....and these guys don't!  They're like mini-cows! 

We might get one pig of a different breed to do the rooting thing.  That piglet will also cost a lot less money, and we'll be able to sacrifice him at the end of the summer for our first try at bacon/ham, etc.  These guineas are too expensive ($350 EACH! that's a rare breed for ya) to just eat a few months later, we're getting a breeding pair and will eat their offspring next year. 
 
Chelle Lewis
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That is so interesting.... who would have thought!... a pig that doesn't root!

Pricey... but as you say... can eat the offspring... and if it is best for you .... worth it.

Chelle
 
                    
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The people we're buying them from have no problems selling the piglets at that price.  I was told by one farmer there's a waiting list for gilts (females) this year because his litters were primarily boars and most everyone wants a pair to breed (for the same reasons we do).  A single mature female can have thirty piglets a year.  Sell a few of those piglets and eat the rest (we're told they're extremely delicious at 4-7 months....about the size of a roasting pan)....totally worth it. 

The high price of the piglets is also why we're so concerned about predation protection.  Big investments in those little piggies!
 
Chelle Lewis
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Sounds like a good deal all round! I wouldn't hesitate.

Chelle
 
paul wheaton
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marina phillips wrote:
Hey Paul, over at richsoil.com you have a photo of some pigs beginning to turn a huge compost pile.  Said you'd update it spring of 2002 with the results.  What happened? 


Utter failure. 

The pile was too deep for the pigs to find the grain.

 
paul wheaton
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If you give pigs lots of space, there is no smell.

And I prefer to give pigs lots of forest - because they are a forest animal. 

If you plant lots of pig food, you can eventually get to the point that you don't have to buy any pig feed - they can harvest their own food even in the winter.  sepp holzer doesn't buy any pig feed.

 
paul wheaton
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Vickie Hinkley
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I highly recommend the heritage breed Tamworth pig. Had them since 2005. Sold 99%  for breeding stock, now trying to grow and sell more pork.

http://www.tamworthswine.net/

also the little web site for NW breeders I made up - it's not very fancy and not very finished - - all photos are of my stock---
http://nwtamworthpigs.weebly.com/

I'm attaching a few links that I've wondered across over time - trying to figure this pig/pork thing out for myself:

Nice research on alternative feeds, complete with proteins, etc.
http://www.pork.org/filelibrary/AnimalScience/Alt_Feed_2.pdf

Nice research and formulas - all be it conventional - including soy - it does give you some ideas if trying to make your own - such as adding ag flour - lime - for calcium, etc.
http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/swine/eb73w.htm#Formulation

Compassionate pig grower and butcher - you gotta read some of this. Loving and eating pigs - not the easiest thing to do, but honest.
http://stonybrookfarm.wordpress.com/

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Irene Kightley
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Lovely healthy looking pigs Vickie and those piglets are (I hate to say this.  ) really sweet !
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Irene Kightley wrote:
Lovely healthy looking pigs Vickie and those piglets are (I hate to say this.  ) really sweet !


thanks!! I am a sucker for the babies - fortunately I get my fill - so when it comes to butchering older animals I don't get too messed up, even tho' the truly sweet at any age.  But I don't believe I could ever butcher suckling pigs.

 
Vickie Hinkley
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marina phillips wrote:
A single mature female can have thirty piglets a year. 


Hey - I don't want to rain on anyone's parade - but having done this - it's a little trickier than the pure numbers. 

A sow takes 114-116 days to farrow - nearly 4 months.  Then if you wean at 6-8 weeks, nearly another 2 months, then you're at 6 months from breeding to re-breeding before you know it.  So if my girls deliver two good litters per year I'm very happy.

One former commercial pig grower told me they'd wean the babies at 5-10 days so they could slam another breeding on sow - scoring almost 3 litters per year that way. {Don't even talk about the amount of feed they have to slam to those babies.}  I can tell you the "bottle babies" I've raised are easily 25% lighter than piglets on the sow at 8 weeks - the difference is significant.

Another way is to have the boar with the sow(s) 365.  Contrary to some information, sows can come into heat while still nursing. One of my Tamworth breeders will testify to this, re-bred at 6 days.

All the breeds vary in the number of pigs per litter - the Guinea Hog page says 1-14 - but average litter at 6.  So a high average might be 15 piglets per year.  Assuming no losses - which is a big assumption.

With my breed, Tamworths, they tend to average 10-12, the maximum I've ever had was 15.  Typically I lose one or two per litter, just the luck of the draw.

BTW - One thing that I've proven to myself - and confirmed with my vet - fat sows have smaller litters.  More than once - a perfectly good sow - that normally produced 10-12 babies - had 4 when I overfed her. This could also be a factor for the Guinea Hog...

In the old days I also wanted to give the girls a bigger rest in-between litters - having her nursing one day and bred the next - seemed too much.  But if you think of cattle - it's the same scenario - breed back at more than 45 days from calving is considered a cow to cull.  So now I probably take the girls back to the boar within the week of weaning off the piglets.

 
Alison Thomas
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Vicki, those piglets are indeed just gorgeous lil silkies.

I liked your pig quarters in your video.  Is that for year round living?  If so, how cold/windy does it get there?  We have to keep making new piggie-opolis places every time we move them to new pasture.

And piglets - woah, I'm hoping that my sow doesn't have 30 piglets in a year.  I only want her to have one litter per annum really.  I guess that means that I'll have to house the boar elsewhere?  With a little friend?  Would two uncastrated males get on OK together?
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:
Vicki, those piglets are indeed just gorgeous lil silkies.


thank you, thank you, I love'em too!
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:
Is that for year round living?  If so, how cold/windy does it get there? 


It hasn't been a year yet - but yest it would be.  This is all my first go at having the pigs not at the house - these are 1.5 miles down the road and off grid - so I have to keep an eye on the batteries that run the hot wire chargers. 

Anyway, I worked with what I had with the corral already in place - and still needing to use it for cattle - w/o moving the pigs, etc... I might like to change it up, so as to add a wind block - as the wind comes from the open side.  But with the corral as it is - I'd need another two panels - which I don't have at the moment.

Maybe once per year or every other year we go below 25-27 F.  7-10 days at 11 F is the lowest I've seen in 15 years here.

2 or 3 5-600 pounders laying side by side in straw - pretty warm!!

But they do hate walking on frozen mud moon scape!
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:
And piglets - woah, I'm hoping that my sow doesn't have 30 piglets in a year.  I only want her to have one litter per annum really.  I guess that means that I'll have to house the boar elsewhere?  With a little friend?  Would two uncastrated males get on OK together?


It depends how far away the boys are from the girls.  If you picture that nose and imagine how strong their sense of smell, the further the better.  The two big boys in the picture above - did great - at first living together.  We'd walk them one at a time to their respective lady - to keep two distinct breeding lines going - leave them there a couple months - and them put them back.  That worked great for the first 18 months - the boys living together. 

But the first time one of the boys broke out because someone was in heat - and less than 400 feet away although not visible - that I didn't want bred - and had to put him back with the other - who could obviously also smell the heat - it was a fight that we could not stop - I had to just walk away.  Nothing fatal but when you saw the wounds it was very, very distressing. I won't describe here - but the good news is they are tremendous healers and non of the wounds hit flesh - only cover fat.  You had to go looking for their scars to find them, and they were not small. Maybe that their paddock had a comfrey crop helped - smile.

I'd say keep one as your butcher pig and castrate.  Or put a steer calf in there - they will be great friends based on my experience - if I can find the picture of Colorado Joe - the older boar on the left and 89 [I know too rude], as youngsters, I post it.
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:
Would two uncastrated males get on OK together?


Boar and Steer - 2005 - our first Tamworth .  Actually we got two air cargo from Colorado but his brother herniated and had to be emergency butchered, maybe a month before this picture. Good thing we'd gotten two!

Colorado Joe and 89.

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Alison Thomas
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Ahhh they're SO gorgeous.  Is that a lil Jersey? 

But how sad about the other lil pig.  Was it because of the travel?
 
Vickie Hinkley
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:
Ahhh they're SO gorgeous.  Is that a lil Jersey? 

But how sad about the other lil pig.  Was it because of the travel?


Thanks!  Yup - Jersey.  We used to raise Jersey calves exclusively for meat.  A very nice, sweet, lean meat - but takes 30 months to hang at 500 pounds.  So I'm converting to small herd of 1/2 or 1/4 Jersey x Beef/Augus cows.  And my last two calves are out of that - one 1/2 Jersey x Red Angus - one 1/4 Jersey x Red Angus.  So I'll soon have one of them as herd bull and keep my meat at 3/8-1/2 Jersey x Angus - and hope to cut my finishing time - grass finishing - to 18-24 months.  We'll see.

Back to pigs - I don't think it was the travel - I think he was probably born with it - that's the impression my vet gave me - just so hard to notice when they are 5-6 weeks old - which is what they were when weaned and shipped.  Yikes - poor babies.

But Colorado Joe did great and his son - Joe Jr - is my "herd" boar now. He's the "silver back" in the videos.  In this pasture setting - I'm having a bit of trouble keeping any fat on him - but the girls are going well. So I think it's because he's "always" on patrol - walking the fence perimeter - getting way more exercise.

Here we are, Joe, 89, and me.  Joe's getting bigger.  He's not biting me or anything - I'm just talking as usual.
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Walter Jeffries
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Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:I just wondered if there was a more 'free-range' way of keeping pigs - like does this 'enclosure' thing equate to chickens being kept in a run? 


We raise pigs free-ranging on pasture using the same managed rotational grazing techniques we use for our sheep and chickens. It works great. We use electric fencing, four wires on the outside perimeter due to the sheep and then a couple of lines of polywire on step in posts to divide up paddocks. We've also done groups rotating in electro-netting. Clip the leads to the bottom two horizontal hot wires and keep the netting tight at the corners to tension the fence.

Alison Freeth-Thomas "heninfrance" wrote:And ideally what should pigs get in their diet?  Should soya feature?  We were told that they needed a fair amount of protein in order to put on muscle and not fat (guess that's similar to humans).


Higher protein when their younger and then gradually decreasing if you want to do it "by the book". We feed primarily pasture/hay and dairy. This makes up about 90% of their diet. We also grow some pumpkins, beets, turnips, apples, etc and get some apple pomace and boiled barley occasionally from a local brew pub as an extra treat. Bread is a great training tool when we can get it for loading.

CorneliusCauna wrote:For food we have a VERY good system. We worked out a deal with a local school and a local Elder home to take there food scraps that would normally go into the trash.


Do not use post-consumer wastes because not only can it transmit disease back and forth between humans and pigs but it is illegal almost everywhere. Stick with the pre-consumer wastes. Give the food scraps to the chickens or compost them. Don't feed it to the pigs. They whey is great. Stick with that.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Vickie Hinkley
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pubwvj wrote:
Do not use post-consumer wastes because not only can it transmit disease back and forth between humans and pigs but it is illegal almost everywhere. Stick with the pre-consumer wastes. Give the food scraps to the chickens or compost them. Don't feed it to the pigs. They whey is great. Stick with that.


I have to say I agree with that on a gut level - I've never wanted to feel the pigs kitchen waste.  But not because I knew about the disease transmitting, etc.  I just never wanted to feed my lovely pigs processed food.  Even unused pancakes/french toast straight off the grill, the extras a friend wants to bring by from his church.  I'd have to say - I eat way more white flour/processed food than I'd ever let my pigs have.  HA!! And that is sad - smile.
 
paul wheaton
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I uploaded a podcast I did with Maddy Harland, the supreme ruler of Permaculture Magazine.  She talks with me mostly about permaculture stuff, and just a tiny bit about the magazine and books in her queen-dom.

We start off talking about her visit the mighty, the glorious, the amazing Sepp Holzer.  She went to a desert in portugal where Sepp did his thing (tamera).  Once again he brings lakes to the desert, and shows how to grow all of your favorite garden plants without irrigation in a desert.

We talk about vegetarians keeping pigs.  And I tell my story about sepp holzer, pigs, blackberries and a vegetarian

We then talk about farm income models that Sepp advocates and Sepp's book that has recently been translated to English.

Maddy has a new blog at Mother Earth News.

We talk about the works of Ben Law and Patrick Whitefield.
 
Mariah Wallener
Posts: 167
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
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We raised two pigs last year and butchered them in the fall. They were out on pasture the whole time with a small shed for housing. We used portable electric fencing and moved it around every couple of weeks or so. We wanted them to clear some land and dig it up. They did an excellent job, including digging up many large rocks for us.

We supplemented their foraging with feed from a local supplier, the ingredients are locally sourced too. One bag was about $8 and overall we didn't spend very much on it relative to the savings of growing our own pork. I'd love to eventually not need the commercial feed, but even with it as a supplement to forage (and of course all our kitchen scraps) it didn't add up to very much.

They were Berkshire crosses.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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An old wisdom I learned in South America about hog raising:

Put their feeder 35 feet away from their housing.
(After eating, they cannot go 30 feet without "manuring".)
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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Growing up we raised pigs. I have to admit we did buy feed as well as raised feed corn which we fed the hogs stalk and all. We also gave them scraps from the kitchen but never leftovers (we never had any). We also at the end of the growing season used electric wire to fene the field in and let them have it. In spring we would move them back into the "pig area" which was rested while they were in the field. Between the 2 areas was the shed, feeding station, and a wallow we never let dry out so the pigs were not tempted to make a DIY one in another location. We had some of the best weed free crops because the field was always weeded and worked over by the hogs. The funny thing is with us having a larger area than most our hogs had a bathroom spot they all used well away from the feeding station (much more than 30 feet) and all we had to do was occasionally shovel up and remove the pile. I remember the year after we decided to eat or sell the last pigs we had we planted pumpkins in the bathroom spot and got the bigges and most I have ever seen.

Fast forward to a few years ago and my nephew traps a bunch of just weaned wild piglets from a couple locations. He chooses a male from one and 2 females from another and pens them up. He feeds them corn (which he purchases but could be grown) in a homemade on demand feeder (gravity fed top load) and all scraps and leftovers he, his brother, mom and dad, and anyone else willing to devote freezer space to a pig bucket. He has never moved the pen they are in since he put them in it several years ago. These original 3 piglets have now grown into full sized hogs and are as domesticated as they come (although look like wild boars) and very healthy despite him only checking on them about 3 times a week. They have provided him several litters which he usually either has a whole hog cookout inviting everyone who helps with feeding or butchers a couple and gives some meat to everyone.

I provided these examples to show how varried the methods and ways of keeping pigs are. Also in my opinion with my nephews case how forgiving keeping pigs can be. I also think though the forgiving part has a lot to do with the stock selection as my dad got ours from a farmer and they were pink pigs with not much hair (I cannot recall breed) and my nephews came from wild mixed up feral pig parents. I do know this if I ever get back into raising a few pigs I will see if my nephew will catch me a few piglets or at least I will get a couple female piglets from a one of his litters to start with. I think it would be a great alternative to getting an "older" more rare breed of pig.
 
Gravity is a harsh mistress. But this tiny ad is pretty easy to deal with:
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