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Best pigs for rooting

 
Anna Holmes
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Hello everyone, i'm a first time pig keeper and looking to get 2 or 3 weaners in the next few weeks to grow mainly to root up 1/4 acre of pasture that i can grow in for my market garden, but also to freeze and eat when we harvest them.

My question is, what would be the best breed for me to go for, to make sure they root the soil, rather than graze. And preferably be able to harvest at 6 months age, rather than slower growing.

I'm in the UK and have seen a lot of adverts for Gloucester Old Spot or Oxford Sandy Blacks, just want to make sure these will do the job. Thanks for your advice!
 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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I have heard it said that Tamworths, with their longer snout can work soil up better, but I think you're going to find that most any heritage breed will tear that soil up for you real good -especially once they get big enough to do some serious damage. This past year we had large blacks, berkshires, and large black/Tamworth crosses. I would say that they all rooted very well. They definitely rooted more when they were on the soft, nut covered forest floor than in summer on the harder hay pasture with, i guess, less sub-terranian foods available. But they still rooted some there, to my landlord's chagrin. Some people claim that they can keep them from doing much rooting by moving very regularly and managing their feeding a certain way. I haven't really played around with trying to prevent them from rooting, or tried hard to encourage it either.

Rotating them will probably give you more even digging results, healthier pigs, and better pork. If you can use electric fencing to split your 1/4 acre into 4 or 6 smaller paddocks, you would be glad you did. it isn't too hard, and if they are trained to that fence, you have to rely less on your physical fencing. They will also get fewer parasites, and they could dig each section more than once during their lifetime, which would cut back on weed issues in your garden, and give you multiple beneficial quick impact, then longer rest period cycles for better nutrient cycling, and a more natural buildup of soil biology.
 
Anna Holmes
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Thanks Luke, that's exactly what i was thinking of doing, in terms of subdividing the space into 5 or 6 areas and move through it slowly.

With the tamworths, I've read that they can be a bit hard for a beginner to handle. Something to do with temperament, or being a little boisterous, boar-like or something. Would you agree?
 
Luke Groce
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Location: Louisville, KY
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I think there are some pictures and youtube videos of Mark Shepard with some very tame tamworths (pretty anecdotal I know). My half tams were pretty tame. I would say more so than the pure blooded large blacks, but not as much as the berkshires. But this could all have more to do with the way they were handled when young, and how early I got them in their life. The pigs I had from a younger age (maybe 30 lbs instead of 50 or 60) just seemed to like me more, come to me for snacks and scratches, etc. If you get all barrows and gilts, and no boars, and slaughter early enough, you'll probably avoid the most undesirable teenage behaviors.

I would say that the moving schedule can be determined based on deciding how quickly you want to come back to a given paddock, and how much disturbance you want. Since you are going for tilled garden beds in the end (maximum disturbance), I would try to time the moving so that you have some sod or seasonally appropriate quick growing cover crops coming back into a pretty strong regrowth right around the time of the hogs return. The pork and pigs and garden will all be better off (haha. did I already say that at least once?)
 
Anna Holmes
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Thanks Luke, great info. What would you plant in that situation? We are in UK, no idea what zone, keep meaning to look it up! I was thinking a kale crop or something like that, but that would be probably more seasonably appropriate later in the year. I was wondering maybe about turnips which or beetroots... they both come up pretty quick here at that time of year, and the beetroots would have the extra benefit of leaves attached.
 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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I'm sure someone locally could help you with what grows at a time of year where you live. But pigs will eat most any cover crops. A fellow named John Arbuckle from Missouri has had great success with field peas in a rotational hog pasture. You can look him up where he talks about it in a recent episode of the Permaculture Podcast With Scott Mann.

But I would do things that grow decently in about 40 or 50 days (assuming 10 day rotations with the pigs). That kinda stuff could be kale (rape), turnip, radish, oats, buckwheat, peas, beans, soybeans, collards, etc (at appropriate times. you don't necessarily need a mature plant with seeds, but it wouldn't hurt much if you did.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Rooting is controlled largely by management and time on pasture, pounds of pig on pasture and what's under the soil (tubers, grubs, etc) as well as the soil type and wetness. If you want rooting, mob graze intensely but not so far that you get soil compaction.

-Walter
 
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