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pigs & chickens, intensive rotational grazing, seeding

 
Gene Water
Posts: 12
Location: Northeast IL
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Wasn't sure where to post this, here or chicken section. Hi, first post here! I've lurked here and the Sugar Mountain Farm website a quite a bit, learned so much from all of you, thanks! I'm putting horse before cart here, as all of this is in planning, but we're aiming on a couple feeder pigs and a straight run of chicks in the near future, will have roughly 1.5 fenced acres to pasture them on. We're inspired by what we learned so far, and are thinking to subdivide into paddocks and rotation graze, and then reseed for their future meals. A few questions we have:

1. Seeding. When exactly do we seed? Seems the best use of the pigs is to mob seed and let them trample it all into the ground, no? But what of the chickens, if we let them into the paddock after the pigs, won't they be eating much of that seed? Or do we storm seed after the chickens have a go at the paddock?

2. Paddock fencing. I read much about using 2 or 3 strand elect. for pigs, or something sturdy like pig panels, and then I go on youtube and see a fella using chicken netting with his pigs, no problem. Is this guy an enigma? Must say, I like the idea lots if others have done ok with it. This would be to subdivide the paddocks only, the entire pasture is horse fenced already and I'm thinking welded wire stapled to it.

3. Hay. I'm thinking to grow my own, why not? There's an acre or so of lawn out back I could leave alone to grow out, seems that should be more than enough for bedding for everybody. But, am curious about training pigs to eat it. I'm in northern IL, it's mostly KY bluegrass here. Would pigs want to eat that or should my plan be to seed some other type of grass?

That's all I got for now, thanks a bunch for reading!
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Gene Water wrote:Seeding. When exactly do we seed? Seems the best use of the pigs is to mob seed and let them trample it all into the ground, no? But what of the chickens, if we let them into the paddock after the pigs, won't they be eating much of that seed? Or do we storm seed after the chickens have a go at the paddock?


We seed throughout the summer using storm seeding and mob seeding. In the late fall (now) after the temperatures get low enough to prevent germination we do frost seeding for next spring. The seed lay dormant over the winter and the frost action drops them into the cracks in the soil. With mob seeding we seed just before moving animals out of a paddock so that the animals trample the seed into the soil. With storm seeding the rain drops push the seed into the soil. We hand broadcast as our land is not conducive to machine working. To deal with chickens one trick is to seed in the evening. Small seeds also escape their attention. Moving the chickens out helps as does over seeding and simply accepting they'll eat some. Use what works for the situation. See:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2010/09/15/frost-seeding/

Gene Water wrote:Paddock fencing. I read much about using 2 or 3 strand elect. for pigs, or something sturdy like pig panels, and then I go on youtube and see a fella using chicken netting with his pigs, no problem. Is this guy an enigma? Must say, I like the idea lots if others have done ok with it. This would be to subdivide the paddocks only, the entire pasture is horse fenced already and I'm thinking welded wire stapled to it.


We use all sorts of difference fencing including cliffs, stone walls, poultry netting, woven wire with a single or more electric hot wire, polywire, high tensile, etc. All can work. It is key to train the animals to the fence, use appropriate wire heights (low and walking nose for most pigs), good grounding and sufficient energizer joules (>=2.5joules). The more predator pressure, the more animal pressure, the more risk (roads, neighbors) then the more strongly you need to fence. With the poultry netting keep it tight, hot, clip the bottom couple of leads and peg the bottoms between the verticals. See:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/11/17/pig-proof-fence/

and for better fencing see:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2008/06/12/poultry-netting-for-pigs/

and

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/tag/fencing/

Gene Water wrote:Hay. I'm thinking to grow my own, why not? There's an acre or so of lawn out back I could leave alone to grow out, seems that should be more than enough for bedding for everybody. But, am curious about training pigs to eat it. I'm in northern IL, it's mostly KY bluegrass here. Would pigs want to eat that or should my plan be to seed some other type of grass?


If you've got the land, skills, time and equipment it gives you control and potentially saves money. Haying requires a lot of equipment. If you grow it then it might work best to have someone else harvest it for you, perhaps for a portion of the hay. I considered growing hay and have for now decided to buy hay because it is something I can get cheaper than I can do. It means I can use all of our fields for pasturing during the warm months instead of devoting some to hay. That expands my farm space. A single acre you could harvest by hand. To teach pigs to eat hay, first teach them to eat pasture which is far higher quality than any hay and more palatable than hay. In the fall as pasture wanes offer hay in addition to it. Feed any supplements in the evening so they have the day to eat the pasture/hay. KY bluegrass is good. Legumes improve that (clovers, alfalfa, etc). See:

http://www.sugarmtnfarm.com/?s=feeding%20hay

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Gene Water
Posts: 12
Location: Northeast IL
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Thanks, Walter! Also big thanks for you various posts on this forum and your farm website, I read many of them. Can I ask a few followup questions?

Seeding in evening, meaning the chickens don't chase after them as you toss them and will likely not notice small seeds the next day when out grazing? Another thing I was wondering, how beneficial is it to the soil to have the chickens follow the pigs' rotation on the paddock? Would we be better served keeping the pigs rotating on separate paddocks and mob seeding, while doing storm and frost seeding (I learned all this seeding stuff from your website, btw) after the chickens on their own paddocks?

Do you think 1.5 acres is enough to subdivide into paddocks for 2 pigs and 20 something chickens w/o it turning into a mud pit? The patch of lawn for hay growing is a ways away from the fenced pasture where all that would be, so that was my thinking of utilizing the land (else I'd have to herd them there, or worse...mow the lawn). Processing the hay, I'm thinking all low tech / high labor stuff and just stack in the barn sans baling. I'm sure I'm underestimating the process, but is it by much or just a little?
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Gene Water wrote:Seeding in evening, meaning the chickens don't chase after them as you toss them and will likely not notice small seeds the next day when out grazing?


Yes, that's the trick.

Gene Water wrote:Another thing I was wondering, how beneficial is it to the soil to have the chickens follow the pigs' rotation on the paddock?


Our primary use of the chickens is their organic pest control feature. They eat bugs. They also eat some snakes and mice. A side benefit is they lay a lot of eggs which we cook and give to our smaller pigs to get the most nutritional leverage. The chickens also break up manure patties and clods of dirt.

Gene Water wrote: Would we be better served keeping the pigs rotating on separate paddocks and mob seeding, while doing storm and frost seeding (I learned all this seeding stuff from your website, btw) after the chickens on their own paddocks?


I run the pigs and chickens together. This is easiest for me. Chickens don't like storms so they go in under cover. We often storm seed just with the storm. By the time the chickens are back out the storm has already buried the seeds.

Gene Water wrote:Do you think 1.5 acres is enough to subdivide into paddocks for 2 pigs and 20 something chickens w/o it turning into a mud pit?


Yes. I would make 10 to 20 paddocks. Many small paddocks are better than fewer smaller paddocks. You can find details of a quarter acre 10 paddock managed rotational grazing system here:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2013/09/25/south-weaner-paddock/

Currently there are 41 weaner pigs running through that. They just moved into paddock number nine and in a few days will move to ten. Then they'll creep to the bigger fields to graze with other pigs. It's been a warm fall so we fortunately still have pasture to graze.

Gene Water wrote: The patch of lawn for hay growing is a ways away from the fenced pasture where all that would be, so that was my thinking of utilizing the land (else I'd have to herd them there, or worse...mow the lawn). Processing the hay, I'm thinking all low tech / high labor stuff and just stack in the barn sans baling. I'm sure I'm underestimating the process, but is it by much or just a little?


With a hand scythe one could do that small an area easily. Practice small, build up.

-Walter
 
Gene Water
Posts: 12
Location: Northeast IL
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Thanks, Walter!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The photo of the little paddocks is very inspiring! I won't be raising pigs, but I can see raising chickens or turkeys in such a system.

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Aye, it's a general principle that can be applied to many different species.
 
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