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Please Help with My Pasture Plan

 
James Colbert
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Hello all you lovely permies out there. I am trying to plan for a small business raising pasture pigs and chickens initially and goats, sheep, and ducks sometime in the future. The basic idea is to manage the pigs and chickens on pasture. I want to employ rotational grazing for the obvious reasons of pasture health, soil building, and animal health and well being. I also plan to use imported organic matter to build compost piles in each paddock and allow the chickens to work it over for insect thus producing compost for the paddock or bedding material for composting worms. I plan to seed pasture after the animals leave with fodder trees, bushes, and herbs like paulownia, tagasaste, and comfrey. One or two of the paddocks will also be put into fruit and vegetable production while not permitting animal access. These animals will go to feed myself, family and friends and will be a part time job as I do work a day job. My questions are about management. How much electronet fencing (paddock space) will i need for a heard of say 10 hogs and 30 laying hens moved a couple times a week? How much "emergency" feed should I have on hand? Can you recommend and good brand of charger and electric fence? Pitfalls? Things I have not considered? Any help will be appreciated. Thanks!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau James, where are you located on our earth mother?

On Asnikiye heca we raise American Guinea Hogs, these are pasture hogs and we are continually building more pastures. We use a mix of grasses, clovers, buckwheat, brassicas, daikon radish, kale, seven top turnip, rape, oats and will be adding barley and several other plants to the mix this coming spring.
For pasturing hogs it is important to have a broad variety of plants growing in the pastures, rotation should be done so no pasture is taken more than halfway down before the animals are moved on to the next paddock.
We are building broad areas that have a permanent perimeter fence and then we use cattle panels to define the paddock areas, it makes it less expensive and easier on us to move them around this way.
Chickens do well free ranging with the hogs, they would also do well free ranging with goats. our paddocks are all about 180 feet per side (we move them once a week) so you are looking at being able to build a space that uses 720 linear feet of fence (tape) per run and for electric tape you need three runs.

Goats, being browsers don't really need pasture as much as they need fodder trees and vines. If you try to do combinations, you will be able to have the shrubs for the goats provide shade for when the hogs are on that patch.
the shrubs also provide shelter from predator birds for the chickens and ducks.

While electric netting works well for chickens it will not perform so well for hogs or goats, they will tend to just charge through the netting. We have seen this at some of the other AGH breeders places. Electric tape works far better for both hogs and goats, it is stronger and three lines will keep both these critters well contained.
The hogs don't go near it once they have been shocked a couple of times, one breeder didn't even have his tapes charged when we were there and hadn't turned them on for over a week but the hogs still gave the white tape plenty of respectful room. Goats will test this several times but if you were to use the peanut butter trick on the tape, it would probably only take them one or two zaps to learn to give it respect.

If you are going to have 10 hogs (the chickens will use the same space with no hassles) you will need to figure on a paddock the same size we are using (@3/4 acre), you could use less by moving them more than once a week but then you will need enough paddock area to not have them back on the first paddock sooner than 3 months so the pasture can fully recover between grazing times. If you were to have hogs and goats, you would need to increase the size of each paddock to around 1 acre or perhaps even larger. We are going to add goats but we won't be doing that for another year and we have forest paddocks and pasture paddocks going in so we will end up with 25-35 paddocks when we are ready to add goats to our animal mix.

For a charger you want one that can charge the fencing and still have some spare. A 6-10 joule energizer would be good for that, keep in mind that any grass or bush that touches the fencing will ground it and it won't be able to deliver the shock to an offending animal. This is why we are using real fencing now, to many things to ground an electric fence at our place plus we have a pack of coyotes that run the fields behind our farm, so the only electric line we use is at the top of the perimeter fencing.

As far as supplemental feed, 80% of your animals feed will be from your pasture. Currently we give each hog about 2 lbs. of pellets per day and about 1.5 lbs of vegetables and grain combined and these are hogs that are weighing in at 100 lbs. now. They are our breeders and will end up being around 250 lbs. each. We will be keeping them for at least 10 years. When we get our goats, we will start with 2wethers then we will buy a billy and 2-3 milkers, that will be the breeding/milking stock. from that point kids that are males will become food wethers and girls will either be sold or replacement milking goats.

We are planning on having hogs, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, goats, rabbits (not in that particular order).
 
Bob Blackmer
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Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
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I think growers should always have access to feed. Any bulk feeder you can come by. Something you can pretty easily keep track of their feed intake. As soon as you notice an increase in feed consumption(checking daily), it's time to move. They have eaten all the good stuff.(this will change as they grow) And generally haven't rooted too much yet. The only time this doesn't make sense is if you've made the paddocks too big and they are spending more than 3 weeks in one paddock. You want to try and stay ahead of most common parasite life cycles which is about 3 weeks. When its time to move, open the gate that you have already installed between the two adjoining paddocks and move the feeder, water, and shelter (if they have any). If they don't follow, leave the gate open and check on them later. They will most likely have moved. 10 pigs eat a lot. Even on pasture. They will grow slower and on less feed if you ration them, but it is something to consider.

As for fence. Double strand at pig height (nose and knee?) is the way to go. Galvanized steel is cheap, easy enough to bend by hand if you have to make a repair on the fly, and carries a good spark. Here's a list of links for products we use. Some you can probably find locally. I think the energizer is a must. They are simple and durable. If you go with a solar and battery set up it can be in the field up to 4 weeks without having to charge the battery. It also comes with an A/C plug.
Solar
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insulators
tester
gates

Other things to consider.

10 Hogs will lead to a pretty large processing bill unless you are doing them yourself. Keep that in mind.

If you are running this as a business, consider the difference in labor and even infrastructure of managing 30 egg layers as opposed to 100 or even more. Not too different. Your'e already there feeding them and collecting eggs. Whats a few more minutes?
 
Darrell Fitzgerald
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How so you keep the pigs from rooting up the pastures?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Some breeds are more prone to rooting than others, all breeds will root if there isn't easy food available, they are looking for protein in the forms of worms, grubs and other bugs, minerals is another reason hogs and pigs will root as well as making a wallow.
If you are raising pastured pigs then the more often you move them, the less likely they are to root to the point of destroying the pasture.
If we want our AGH's to root up an area to improve the soil and get the rocks up for us, then we let them stay in that area for a minimum of 4 weeks. This of course does mean we will be giving them more feed during that time but they are awesome plows.

By the way, just about any pig can and will eat pasture, you just have to give them good items in the pasture menu and they will do fine.
We continually improve our pastures by adding more plant types to the just left pasture every time we move them to new ground.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Darrell Fitzgerald wrote:How so you keep the pigs from rooting up the pastures?


Rooting is controlled by a number of factors including what is underground (tubers, grubs) vs on the surface as forages, how wet the soil is, the type of soil, pig experience and most of all rotational grazing management. If they're rooting on a pasture that has had them pass through before then it is likely a sign to rotate. See:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/rootless-in-vermont

-Walter
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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