hey there, y'all!
from the get go i've been talking here and there about our desire to raise pastured pork here in France. France eats a LOT of pork products, but only a very small margin is free range and even smaller is certifed 'bio' (organic).
so a little update ... Mat, my partner, spent the last year finishing his Agriculture studies and i spent that time raising our baby, reading loads of books, and hanging out on permies.com absorbing as much as i could before we started into our venture. along the way we were offered some land (borrowed, but rent free!) to start our project. so here we are, installed on well established organic chicken farm and we welcomed seven pigs to our nest last week! whooopiiie!
I hope to share my experiences with you here on this thread. I have taken a lot of inspiration from Joel, Walter, and of course, all of you on this forum and I look forward to any ideas, comments, and even constructive critisisms you may have. we are learning! we are indeed all learning together. in the end i would like to have a rotation of farm grown cereals, porc, and meat and egg chickens. im particularly interested to see how the chickens and the pigs can compliment each other.
So last week we brought home seven pigs 25kilos each (so like two months i think?) variety Porc Blanc d'ouest, which is the basic ham around here. white as a babys butt, which i dont necessarily prefer, but they were super local and the grower has a good reputation, so we went with what we had on hand. we built a lean to attached to their water tank in the middle of a pasture. their area is a large half acre (for seven pigs, too big?) that is cut by a large hedge that we dug some 'hang out' spots in for shade and comfort. currently we feed them a mix of their old feed we bought from the grower mixed with organic grain waste we get cheap and locally (variety based on availability, so for now we have cracked corn and rice bran). as we transition out from the conventional feed, i would like to suppliment their diet with eggs from the farm. so their diet, in the end, will be local grain waste (organic and gluten free), eggs, and waste from the orchard, gardens, otherwise.
they do not have a closed in shelter as of yet, but we plan on building one before winter.
so the first few days were rough because the pigs had diarrea and became sunburned quickly. they were born outside but then put indoors after 4 weeks. so yea, transitioning to a outside pasture in full summer, they lost weight, had diarrea, and sunburned quickly. but not having organized a transition period for them (neither in food or in shelter) it was to be expected. they didnt show any other signs of sickness, and they have always maintained a good state of energy and interest in their new feild. They are doing better now, their backs are toughening up and they are gaining weight again. feels like a new mom for the first time... again!
next generation we buy (maybe in a few months?) i will look into finding some darker pigs, and/or ones that already live outside.
so far its been pretty easy and i dont have a whole lot of questions. but maybe thats a sign i need to learn more! your thoughts are welcome!
Welcome to the journey! We are in the process of building pasture for our Guinea Hogs, which we pickup on August 29,2015.
I love your pasture area and will suggest you get some brassicas growing along with some grasses and perhaps some root vegetables.
Our hogs are natural grazers so we don't have the issue of transferring them to some feed other than what they already know, so that is a little different from your situation.
IF you haven't already, do create at least one Wallow for your herd, they will use it for sunscreen, cooling off and bug protection.
The size of your area is pretty good for the number in your herd, you might consider dividing it or see about adding a second pasture area of approximately the same size.
That way you can rest one pasture, allowing it to recover and perhaps add new things to the food chain between grazing periods.
Our pasture has some native grasses now and this week we are planting Rape and seven top turnip (greens) over the full 2/3 acre we have as hog pasture.
We will be adding some paddocks back in the woods so our herd will have easy access to acorns and hickory nuts this fall.
Our shelter is made of woodpallets (1.4m square pallets) there is one on each end and two for the back side, the front side has only one pallet for more wind blockage. The roof is a shed type roof with triangular ventilation panels on two sides.
Good luck with your new animals, they are so cute they make you want to spend time with them. (which also means they get used to you and that makes it easier to deal with them as you need to).
Thanks RedHawk! Great to have some feedback from my native Arkansas!
We did build a wallow for them and they took some time to get interested in it. they never really used it as sunscreen but they do explore it for whatever reason now and then, casually, but that may change as they adapt to the parcel. also, when we picked them up we were in the middle of the hottest part of summer and now we are already having cool nights and average days (great for us, sad for the tomatoes and the black eyed peas im trying to grow!). nothing like arkansas! hey, on a side note, didnt you have a restaurant in LR in the 90s, the Vegetable Cafe i think? i remember taking meditation classes in the evenings there... it was such a wonderful project... and thank you for your input and advice!
So update, the pigs are adjusting well and now we are looking to add more protein to their diet. eventually i want to get some laying hens, but its project yet unrealized and so in the meantime we will look for other sources. we may be able to find a local organic (and very cheap) supply of split peas. would that be enough protein? should we grind the peas or feed them whole (dry)? we have access to a very large mill (onsite) where we could easily grind anything into more of a fine powder.
otherwise i am very intersted in seeding pastures as they are rotated. it is dawning into fall (here), im putting together a calender of what to sow and when, in order to decide what to sow now and what to do next year and so on. what i have access to now is Millet, Lucerne (alfalfa), mustard, beans? for forage? is that a good idea?
any advice on what to sow that grows quickly?
and how much time should i leave the parcel between pigs? if i move these dudes, sow seeds begind them, then how long should i wait until i put more pigs on the same pasture? if it only takes a couple months for the plants to grow is that enough time for the soil to recouperate?
i noticed too that this band of pigs works the ground pretty methodically. they are working their way, circular, around the parcel. each time i go visit them they move a bit farther as if they are plowing a perfect garden. would it be worth seeding now, even tho we wont move them for at least a few weeks? or would it be a waste of seeds?
Unless you could keep them from back tracking, I would wait till I moved them on and plant new behind them. Here it take most pasture crop plants at least 8 weeks to become established, once they are, they can be grazed for a week and they will come back in four to six weeks. Bear in mind our hogs don't do a lot of rooting, unless we have turnips, rape or carrots, beets planted in their pasture their urge to root will be minimal, which is one of the things that led us to choosing the Guinea Hog breed.
I don't think you need to concern yourself with grinding the peas, they have really good teeth and a very strong bite. I really like the planting selections you have made, your herd will love those pastures.
Millet is a great pasture plant and it will, if it gets to put out ripe seed heads, also attract birds like dove and quail to your land.
I am letting my seedlings get at least 8 weeks growth prior to putting hogs on the paddock and I plan for them to only be on a paddock for one or two weeks, but I could let them stay in one place longer I supppose.
For us the rotation goal is to have 8 paddocks and use a two week on rotation through, this will give plenty of time for recovery since a paddock won't be grazed for at least 10 weeks. (we will have goats going through on the same rotational schedule so more recovery time is better for us)
Don't forget to plant some grasses along with everything else, the grass roots will help hold the pasture together and it provides good graze as well. It is my goal to have a well balanced group of plants in each paddock for the hogs to graze upon.
When it comes to quick growth, it is my experience that the kales, once up grow pretty fast, mustard greens, turnip, all do pretty well for us once they are up and into second leaf growth.
Our soil is fairly rich in minerals and the big three at this time so stuff grows about as fast as it can for us.
On the Vegetable Café, that was not me, it was Robert Redhawk he is not of my tribe (Nakota), he is from one of the area clans. He is a kola of mine though we haven't seen each other in at least 15 years. Last I heard of him he had moved to the west coast somewhere.
im sort of winging it now ,but my plan is coming together and with a little experimentation and observation i hope to have a good program eventually.
right now im doing a lot of observation: the soil, how it reacts to animals (mainly chickens but now pigs), what weeds grow when, this and that... its been great fun! and studying permaculture alongside this project really helps enrich my experience. i dont think i would have taken the 'observation' part as seriously if i didnt read it a million times in permaculture studies.
Our Earth Mother is a great teacher, all we have to do is pay attention.
Observation is actually one of the three keys to being a keeper of the land.
One of our Elders ( a very long time ago ) told me "All is here for us to gain knowledge from, we must observe first.
From this one action we learn how the circle of life revolves.
Next we must listen, when we hear correctly we learn when things should be done.
Last we take what we have learned and put it into actions that benefit the great design of our Earth Mother.
When we do these things, Wakantanka will smile upon us and we will prosper".
I am here when you need answers to questions. If I have the knowledge, it is yours for the asking. If I don't, I will gain the knowledge and share it with you, or guide you to the path where you can find the answers you seek.
Be safe and well on your new journey kola.
So I hope this gets some attn despite the vague title but I decided to keep all my questions logged in this one message.
So recently, yesterday, we noticed one pig sleeping behind as we fed the others and today he doesn't seem to look much better. He doesn't seem unhealthy otherwise, no visible problems. He is lethargic and not eating any feed and only mildly nibbling on apples quite unenthusiasticly. Any ideas as to what malady this could be or how to revive him? What does one do with a sick pig short of calling the vet? Would he be our first candidate to be processed next (despite the fact that he is not the biggest and most choice piggie).
Otherwise, the first band of seven is great and almost ready for processing. This weekend we will welcome seven new babies, Berkshire. Pics and a better update to come!
hau, Danielle, That does not seem good so here are some guidelines I learned from our Vet.
Your first line of defense is to take the temperature of the pig. (This can be exciting, we use a rectal digital thermometer for this, be gentle, get the pig calm and two or more people make it easier)
Temperature should fall in the range of 99 to 101. Anything over the 101 should be considered a fever.
There are many things that could account for the pig not feeling well.
Pneumonia: Pig will stop eating and will run a fever usually in the 102 range at the beginning and can increase quickly if untreated.
Common pig pneumonia usually shows no symptoms other than the pig refusing to eat and running a fever.
No coughing or congestion in the early part and this one is easily fixable with antibiotics if given at the onset.
It can be life threatening if not treated.
There are other pneumonia's that are more difficult to treat like the mycoplasma strains but they are not as common.
Constipation or blockage: A pig that is constipated or that has a blockage will not eat.
They will strain while trying to go and its up to you to determine just how bad the problem is.
DO NOT give laxatives or oils to pigs until you know for sure that there is some fecal matter coming through.
Giving a pig with a blockage a laxative can cause major damage to the pig.
If there is some fecal matter coming through and it is hard to the touch then chances are good that your pig is just constipated.
This happens more with older pigs than with young ones and can be avoided by giving them some of the products out there for that purpose or giving them a half can of canned pumpkin every other day or low fat oil in their food daily.
Pigs don’t usually run a fever with either of these problems in the beginning.
If the pig has a blockage it is usually seen with an ultrasound and this is a problem for your vet as surgery is the best correction.
Pain: A pig that is in extreme pain from an injury or illness will not eat.
If this goes on for longer than a few days than you might try tempting them with the Ensure Plus or Boost that comes in a can and does supply them with some nutrition during this time.
The main concern with pigs in any of these conditions is fluid intake more than food.
Again the temperature will only be a little above normal in most of these cases involving pain.
There are other, quite serious things that will definitely need the attention of your Vet:
Pyometras or infection of the uterus: The pig will run a fever with this infection.
Benign tumors: There are many cases of benign tumors in unspayed older females. These are usually large and attached to the reproductive organs. The pig shows no symptoms at all until they quit eating.
By this time the tumors can be quite large.
There is no fever with this and unless the tumor is located more on one side of the pig it can be very hard to see with visual inspection.
There are times when its also missed with x-rays or ultra sounds.
Blood work does not give a clear picture either and can show normal range.
Surgery is the option.
Cancers: The same holds true of the cancers that holds true for the benign tumors. There is no fever and no symptoms beyond the pig refusing to eat.
The problem is reluctance by some vets to open the pig up.
Not just practicing vets but also large universities.
This is understandable to a point since pig is not showing any symptoms other than not eating and usually the test results are in the normal range.
BUT it is not normal for a pig to go without eating for long periods of time!!
Diarrhea is usually caused by to much fruit (when this happened to us it was to many plums)
Just take the item out of the menu for a few days and if it goes away, you know the cause.
Moderation is always best. We had to pickup the plum fall to stop this problem but then we fed them a few at a time and all was well.