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Building pasture for pigs to graze

 
Matthew Rogers
Posts: 6
Location: Port Orchard, Wa Zone 8b
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Hello everyone, I am hoping for incite on how to replace my current lawn of grass, plantain and dandelions with leguminous soil building plants. The goal here is to rotationally graze our American guinea Hogs throughout the property. We are on 2.4 acres in zone 8B western Washington. I recently was given a 1947 Ford 8N tractor and though I know it's a bit excessive for such small land, I hope to put it to good use. We currently have four pigs and plan on having one litter at a time on an acre paddocked. In other words split rotate the pigs on the land to give it time to rejuvenate after the pigs. We have about 40-80 pounds of produce to supplement feed but would like to get them back to pasturing them along with this food. I have already noticed the beginnings of desertification in the area our pigs are currently in, it's about half an acre but we haven't been moving them off it for about 4 months. Recently I visited Brandon of the farmstead meatsmith's house and he explained the rotational grazing a bit to me. Sorry for the long winded intro, the question I have is how can I best go about converting the lawn with our resources to achieve goals? I am inclined to use the tractor with it's 7 shank cultivator to pull up the grass and re-seed it with something like clover/vetch/peas... Would this be effective to build the soil and introduce better pasture for the pigs,or would I be depleting it by disturbing the sub-soil life? Oh and I also have rabbit and chicken tractors that are about to be put to use for the first time.

Any response would be most appreciated Thanks for being a truly awe inspiring community!
 
Dave Burton
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Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Matthew, you're already part-way there! Rotational grazing is just about the same thing as cell grazing. Alongside proper grazing techniques, you could modify geoff lawton's Chicken Tractor on Steroids to work with pigs.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Matthew, like Dave says, rotational grazing is almost cell grazing just one difference really. We just got our first Guinea Hog Gilts and did a lot of quizzing of the breeder. Guinea hogs seem to really like eating Bermuda grass, so that should be one of the things you seed heavily in your pastures. Add in Brassicas, clovers, winter peas, field peas and some kale/ collards along with daikon radish/ turnip/beet/sweetpotato and you should be good to graze.

We are setting up our pastures now and we are going with 1/4-1/2 acre per paddock since we will have three adults (two sows and one boar) at all times on our pasture. We will be triple seeding the aforementioned plants in all the paddocks, that way we can move them for regrowth and other additions.

Guinea Hogs do not need grain, in fact to much grain will cause them to put on extra fat and not meat. Best to just graze them for as long as it takes (1 year) then they will be ready to breed.

I would suggest not worrying about removal of the current grass, just let it grow tall. If you are concerned, then mow it very short (1" should be good) and overseed with your selected plant seeds. Water well and in two weeks come back with a second round of your selected plant seeds. Diversification is very important to any pasture. The larger the number of different types of plants there are, the better the hogs will like it and if you move them every few weeks instead of months, your pastures will be able to recover. As the hogs deposit their gifts to the pasture and you increase the numbers of different plants, the pasture will continually get better and better at holding moisture and becoming drought resistant so you don't have to water it very much at all.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I could be completely off base here but why not just put the hogs on the area you want to seed. Let them tear it up and then seed it. Seems like lots of benefit there.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau elle, Guinea Hogs do not root, preferring to graze almost to exclusivity, they turned up their noses to our offerings of fresh carrots when we were at the breeder's place. He had two adults and 8 babies on 1 acre, where they had been for a full year, there was no evidence of any rooting. There were two wallows which he had started for them and they got them to the size they wanted. The feeder pigs he had across the road in another pasture had indeed rooted it up quite well, but the Guineas did not root at all that we could find. This was a pleasant surprise for us, since we are planning on having only Guinea Hogs for our pork needs.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau elle, Guinea Hogs do not root, preferring to graze almost to exclusivity, they turned up their noses to our offerings of fresh carrots when we were at the breeder's place. He had two adults and 8 babies on 1 acre, where they had been for a full year, there was no evidence of any rooting. There were two wallows which he had started for them and they got them to the size they wanted. The feeder pigs he had across the road in another pasture had indeed rooted it up quite well, but the Guineas did not root at all that we could find. This was a pleasant surprise for us, since we are planning on having only Guinea Hogs for our pork needs.


Interesting. I didn't know. That does sound like a nice pig breed.
 
Rob Browne
Posts: 65
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
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If you are getting into cell grazing make your paddocks the size so they are pretty grazed out in a week. You should have enough paddocks so they regenerate to a vegetative phase (not seeding phase) before reintroducing the animals. Sod seeding extra plant species is easy just after the animals have been removed to enrich you species mix. A few extra paddocks will mean you can let some go to seed for regeneration or to help in the leaner times.

Cheers
Rob.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Excellent Points Rob!

I wish we had enough of our acreage already cleared enough to create a 12 cell system, but we don't so we are having to approach it from the standard paddock method.
One of our particular problems is that for the Guinea Hogs, we need each paddock to be large enough that they don't graze it down to far, that tends to entice Guinea Hogs to think about escaping to "greener" pasture.
We have determined that if we went cell style, it would require almost twice as much acreage than going standard paddock style.
For our situation, this is the most doable at this time. Maybe later on we could make the change over, won't be hard to do.

Cells need to be sized, as you say, so they are grazed down in one week.
Cell size is also dependent on number of animals to be grazed per cell.
There is a cattleman near us that uses the cell method for 160 head, his cell paddocks are in 1 acre range and he runs 15 cells.
Most of his pastures regenerate between rotation with out need of more seed except for some of his annual crops.
This spring he added in a bunch of root vegetables to his cells, it will be interesting to see how they perform for his herd.
We don't do cattle and never will, the wife and I had enough of cattle and their particular problems when we were wee lad and lass.

 
Rob Browne
Posts: 65
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
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You actually get more out of a smaller area with cell grazing. The animals use all the plants, not just their favourite ones. The hardest bit in setting up are the watering points, you need lots more of them. The other drawback is you have to move the animals much more but its really easy when they get used to it. As for roaming, we use some pretty strong electric fencing to stop our cattle and sheep even thinking about moving themselves.

Cheers
Rob.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Again, I totally agree with you Rob. The cattle man I mentioned handled the water situation by using a "4 corners" layout of his cells. That way he has 4 cells served by one water line and faucet, pretty slick set up really the way he laid out his paddock cells.
If I had enough animals to work the cell system, I know it would be fabulous. Since we are just starting our Guinea Hog breeding, and will most likely be selling some of the little ones, it isn't likely I will ever have enough of them to effectively use it.
The Goats will be the same situation. I do have plans to common herd the hogs and goats at which point we will be going to the cell system. I can't wait but will have to, far to much work left to do for getting to build those extra paddocks at this time.
 
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