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Mom Just Bought A Farm: Pigs

 
J.D. Ray
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My mom just bought a farm. No, not "the farm"; she's still with us. It's large (173 acres) in the mid-Willamette Valley in Oregon, and primarily covered in plantations of trees, mostly hybrid poplar. There's some pasture, which is being dedicated to her herd of horses (more on that later). Next Spring, my sister and I want to try our hand at raising some pigs, and I want to make a plan now so we're properly prepared when the little critters arrive.

There's a lot of information on this forum about pigs, some of which I've actually contributed to in the past. I'm going to spend a lot of time reviewing that info, and don't want to be asking people to re-hash things that have already been discussed (forage blends come to mind). I'm more or less starting this topic as a diary that I hope people will contribute advice to.

The area that we're probably going to dedicate to pig raising is in one of the stands of poplar, planted about 100 trees to the acre over about eight acres planted in 1994. The floor of the plantation is mostly grasses, with whatever the wind blew in. A seasonal creek touches one corner of the area, but it's dry most of the year; I was considering trying to dig it out enough that it held water through the hot summer, but it's also on the corner of the neighbor's property, and I don't want to get cross-wise of them early on, so maybe I'll table that idea for later years.

The area is around 450 x 900 feet (Google Maps measurement), so it's going to take 2700 feet of fencing to surround it. What's a good fence type to use that's inexpensive enough that I won't go broke setting it up, but will be reasonably strong enough to keep Hammy and Pork Chop from escaping to start a legacy of feral hogs on the back of the property?

Also, for the first batch of pigs, would it be OK to just let them run on the whole eight acres, or should I cross-fence it to confine them to paddocks? Presume that there will be forage planted across the entire area, but it'll be shade-tolerant plants because of the poplar trees.

On a side note, any advice on getting hogs to fall trees by digging out their roots would be appreciated (I hear burying corn at the base of the tree gets them to root under the tree, tipping it over).

Cheers.

J.D.
 
Tyler Ludens
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J.D. Ray wrote: A seasonal creek touches one corner of the area, but it's dry most of the year; I was considering trying to dig it out enough that it held water through the hot summer


I think it's best not to try to make a pond in a seasonal creek, but to dig a channel (swale) which will divert flood water from the creek into your pond.

Our upstream neighbor tried to make a pond in the seasonal creek and the dam blew out in the first flooding rain. Just a bad idea.

 
J.D. Ray
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A quick update: I've just read Walt's blog entry on "How Much Land Per Pig" (http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2007/10/12/how-much-land-per-pig/), and see that cross-fencing is definitely in order. Also, eight acres is evidently plenty for far more than the one litter of pigs we're planning to start with, so maybe we'll just surround two acres with sturdy fence and make a bunch of paddocks with electric fence.
 
thomas rubino
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Remember that your pigs will root under your new fence...especially where the wet area is. Try to bury it at least 1' down. I have found that used (free) metal roofing buried horizontally makes for a fool proof outer fence., by the time they can see over it they are to big to bother trying to get to the other side.
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J.D. Ray
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We picked out a spot yesterday, and it looks like a good one. It's just over two-and-a-half acres (2.55 according to this tool). The perimeter fence is primarily solid, and only needs a little repair and some hot wire. The plan is to run the horses in there for a couple weeks to eat down the existing grass, fertilize just a bit, and scratch up the soil. After that we'll plant some forage, divide the area into a number of paddocks (Walt suggests between four and ten, with more being better), and wait for next March when the weaners arrive.



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Pig Pasture
 
Marco Banks
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I'm familiar with your area, as my parents lived in that area for years. I would imagine that you've got a slope to your land (as everything in that area is hilly). You should be able to incorporate a swale that would then feed into a pond.

There is a fantastic thread here on this board about a guy who used pigs to seal a pond. His soil was nothing but rocks and sand, yet he got the pigs to seal the bottom of the pond and then as the water began to fill it, they continued to seal it as the water rose. I love it when he updates his progress.

http://www.permies.com/t/38201/ponds/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs

With the wet Oregon winters and a bit of a slope to your land, I think that you might be able to create a pond (with the help of the hogs) relatively easy. More than that, the swale would add fertility to your land --- not just water retention. Locate it as high on your land as possible. If you have a neighbor's land above yours and he's not catching his water, thankyouverymuch --- I'll capture yours and mine.

In permaculture design, always improve your land in order of greatest permanence. So earthworks like ponds or swales go in first. Then stuff like fencing and trees follow. If you subdivide your land into smaller paddocks first, it'll be harder to come in after and put in earthworks. Ditto for trees --- hard to move a tree once it's been in the ground for a year or more. You could use electric fencing and then move the pigs around according to grass supply, etc. So the order of greatest permanence would be earthworks, followed by trees and fencing, followed by your annual herbaceous plants. The hammock gets hung last.

One last thought about using the hogs to dig out trees -- it's not as efficient as you might think, but it can be done. The difficulty is in drilling the holes into the ground. Many garden stores sell a simple auger bit that fits into a standard drill. I've got one -- it makes about a 3" hole. I use it with my cordless drill when I've got a ton of stuff to transplant. It's maybe 2 feet long from the drill to the end of the auger. If you had one of those, you could drill down under the stump, fill the hole with a bit of corn, and then let the hogs go crazy trying to get it out. If you ferment the corn for a couple of days first, they'll like it even more.

 
J.D. Ray
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The land is almost entirely flat. I'm going to hunt down the Lidar data for the parcel, though I suspect the trees will make it somewhat inaccurate. At any rate, the slope across the 2.5 acres we've identified for pig pasture is barely enough to make a muddy wallow at one corner, and frankly it would be the wrong corner given the shape of the plot.

Currently there's water at the upper left corner of the pasture in the image above. I need to figure out what to do for paddock layout so there's water in each one. Alternately, I could leave a lane open at the end and put a large water trough where they can always access it. Or are watering nipples the better way to go? I think I like the idea of nipples because standing water attracts mosquitoes, which are already a problem. But are they more of a maintenance nightmare than they're worth?

Advice would be appreciated.

JD
 
thomas rubino
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Definitely go with a lane and a water trough, it will be way less hassle for you. Consider a central spot that is sort of home base for the piggys , with a shelter and water. Have a path or gate to each paddock from there. As far as the mosquito issue, the piggys will be drinking that water ... only a few if any larva will survive.
 
J.D. Ray
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Thanks. In the upper left corner of the pasture is a corral. The previous owners had goats, and there's a shed and (conveniently) a scale with gates to control in/out. It's a perfect starting platform overall.

There's a water spigot adjacent to the pasture, and I've drawn in a blue rectangle where I expect (based on your advice) to put a trough. So, steel or plastic? There's a plastic one there of about 150 gallons, but I think it's too tall for pigs. Perhaps a shorter one or partially bury the one that's there.

Thank you again.

JD


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thomas rubino
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Steel will last , the plastic one should work for awhile but... piggys like to bite things (attempting to eat it) they will drag , chew , root and ultimately flip it. I bolt things to immovable objects or bury them. My water runs all the time , so I can use a 14" round rubber tub that is outside their fence and also wired to the fence. They must stick their heads thru the fence to drink. They still, manage to flip it from time to time. If you bury your trough be aware that the pigs will climb into it and of course while all that water is nearby...what a great time to pee ! Yes they will ... and then... they get a drink ! So in the long term steel is better. Bolt it to a fence , keep it full , give them a platform (or a large flat rock) to stand on when they are little and take it away after they can reach the water. Possibly cover most of the tank,only leaving room for their head to stick in.
 
J.D. Ray
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I went and pulled tansy in the field on Saturday, and my back felt it on Sunday (a trip to the beach helped).  In a couple of hours, my sister and I pulled two tractor bucket loads off of a 2 1/2 acre field; some of the plants were almost my height and more than two feet in diameter.  I'm sure there will be more to pull in time, but we got the worst of it.
 
thomas rubino
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    J.D.:  My entire pig enclosure and all 4 paddocks were covered in ... yup Tansy...  Pigs ate almost all of it the first year and the little that came back was gone quickly the next season. It's never come back...  Pigs will root up almost anything and fertilize it at the same time.    
 
J.D. Ray
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My sister is going to run horses in that pasture this week to eat down the hay, scuff the soil some, and put down some fertilizer in preparation for us broadcasting forage seed for the pigs arriving next Spring.  She doesn't want the horses around the tansy, even though they probably won't eat it. 

It's all part of the plan.
 
Brie Robb
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Just sharing our favorite no escape fence is to fold a "hinged" portion flat to the ground.  As they stand and root the bottom of the fence to lift it - the hinge portion lifts around their legs,  this is super good for gates!
 
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