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Vegetarian Family Getting Pigs to Prep Garden Space  RSS feed

 
Lauren craig
Posts: 6
Location: Clifton, OH
chicken duck forest garden
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We live in an earthship home on 5 acres and are now in a position to begin focusing on our land and food production now that our home is done(ish).  We want to spend 2017 amending the soil in the areas we plan on growing annual produce and are seriously considering getting some pigs to do some work for us.  We live on old farmland that has been resting for at least the past 5 years without being bush-hogged.  Thus, we have waist-high grasses, trees, shrubs everywhere and could use some serious work-horses (or pigs) to prep our food production areas, clear out some poison ivy and honeysuckle and seal our pond for us. 

I know that most people who use pigs for such purposes slaughter them when they've reached weight.  However, we're vegetarian and while we aren't opposed to eating meat humanely and sustainably raised, we're not huge fans of pork and have no desire to slaughter them ourselves.  So, my question is, would it make sense from a cost-perspective to have a couple hogs permanently to do work for us in helping to heal our land even though we wouldn't be eating them?

I know our land is full of insects, critters, clovers, grasses, thistles, etc. that they would gobble up and could make up the majority of their food.  I can also contact several local breweries to try to obtain their spent grains as I hear pigs love them as well as give them all of our household rubbish.  If I wasn't concerned about weight, could I get away with raising happy, healthy, working pigs on these things alone?

If the answer is yes, how many would you recommend for our land?  We'd have them in and out of about 2 out of 5 of our acres, I imagine.  What breeds would you recommend for our climate? (Yellow Springs, OH Zone 6A).  Any other considerations would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!
 
David Livingston
steward
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Location: Anjou ,France
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I think you may need to factor in the cost of fencing too . Otherwise the pigs will just pick good stuff and also what are you going to do with the land after and how much land  can you cope with at one time .
Have you thought of goats ? Would you use some milk ?

David
 
Lauren craig
Posts: 6
Location: Clifton, OH
chicken duck forest garden
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We'd be moving them often, so we'd be plotting out the areas we'd want to tractor them around in; first focusing on our future food production areas and then moving them on to do other work on our land.  We have lots of spare materials on our land that we'd use to construct their shelter and the portable fencing that would surround them.  Once the area was prepped for annual food production, we'd add in some compost and then mulch it prior to planting in it.  Once they had taken care of those areas, we'd move them on to the other work...

We have a quarter of an acre of woods that is essentially comprised of honeysuckle and poison ivy that we'd want them to clear out as well as a pond we'd love them to seal (we have clay soil so it shouldn't be too difficult for them to accomplish).  We'd probably run them through different parts of our future two-acre food forest to prep for large plantings of fruit and nut trees and bushes, etc.  Basically, we have a lot of work for them to do but also know that plantings and land planning can take some time.  Thus, we don't want to take on too many at the start.  We'd rather be waiting on them to do the job as opposed to be trying to keep up with them.

We would be interested in goats though we have a very particular neighbor who would lose his absolute mind if one of them was found on his property eating his boring lawn.  And so, they are on hold for the time being.  That is, until our living, thorny, hedgerow grows up enough to keep them from climbing over   
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 940
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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From my own experience, pigs can help clean up land like yours. And they do a really good job at sealing ponds, creating rice patties, etc. But they can also overgraze areas and compact the soil, so management is really important. During my first experience with using pigs, I unintentionally created soil compaction problems which were a pain to fix. I learned that I could do better by using many smaller pasture enclosures rather than just a couple of larger ones. This means more fencing and being mindful to move the pigs on time.

I installed "pig proof" perimeter fencing (which didn't turn out to be pig proof afterall) then used electric fencing to create the smaller pasture paddocks. Importantly I also trained the pigs to come to me every day in order to get their treats. Pigs will escape most fences at one point or another, so being able to call them back is real, real handy.

Since you might keep the pigs as adults, perhaps pigs of more manageable size would be an option. Something like kunekune, American Guinea, pot belly, or a mini type. I personally find that the standard breeds are too much pig for me to deal with by the time they are 6 months old. But the smaller pigs and I get along just fine.

How many pigs depends upon how much feed your land is capable of producing. If it's just weeds and brush, then less pigs. If it's lush solid pasture, then more pigs. Personally I'd start out with two. It's easy to add more pigs if you need them. Keep in mind that most pigs have not been bred to thrive on pasture alone. So plan on supplementing their diet. I always cook up a pot of Mom's  Famous Slop & Glop as their daily treat. Often it's kitchen waste, garden discards, and grain of some sort all cooked up together.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1317
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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If you are not opposed to human slaughter,  you could keep them till they got too big or you no longer needed them. At that point, I am certain you could find someone to harvest them.
If your neighbor would go crazy over a goat munching his lawn, he will really lose it over a pig rooting it up.

One Permie posted here about the pig he trained to be walked on a harness,the idea being that fences are too resource intensive now,more so in a post collapse world.
If you are concerned about biting off too much at a time,clearing the poison Ivy and honeysuckle by hand is a built in governor on how fast you go. You will also be certain to treasure every square foot you prepare .

The poison ivy is something that chickens will eat.
While chickens will not up root honeysuckle, the honeysuckle will burn hot,and might make good biochar.
Infrastructure for chickens is not resource intensive.
The honeysuckle will provide plenty of material for a dead hedge. Chop it back to a
few trunks and use the trunks as posts and the trimmings as fill in between.
 
Lauren craig
Posts: 6
Location: Clifton, OH
chicken duck forest garden
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Su Ba-   Thank you so very much for your response!  I appreciate the training and size considerations you mentioned.  We were thinking of using the electric tape fencing option and putting two rows of it low to the ground.  I believe this is a low cost, easy-to-move fencing option recommended by Joel Salatin.  I will look into the breeds you mentioned to see if I can find a local breeder to obtain our pigs through!

William-  We have chickens in our tree line now and they aren't doing a very good job of clearing it out, so it'd be great to add in some more voracious, sizable eaters to decimate it!  I got poison ivy in the eye this past Summer and so to say I'm in a hurry to get rid of it is a huge understatement .   We hadn't at all considered chopping the honeysuckle for biochar.  How interesting!  We'll have to look more into that option.  Thank you for your response.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1317
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Poison Ivy in the eye!
Yeah,  all bets are off, bring on the pigs,hell bring in rhinos if you have to!
Chicken that are free ranging seem to search out bugs and other primo stuff.
My birds dont like their warm dry run as much as a rainy cold day out in the yard, so I wouldn't want use them as a destructive force.
It takes confinement to a small space for some time to get them to devastate the foliage.

I have honeysuckle in my suburban plots, turns out the foliage  ain't tasty to chickens,or bunnies,and the wood  isn't good for building, but it burns well.

I cut a twenty foot honeysuckle down to 4 feet ar the beginning of the summer, and it's already about 8 feet tall again!
 
thomas rubino
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Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Lauren:  Welcome to permies ! Raising piggys to clear land is a great idea. If you plan on keeping these pigs for more than 6 months then Su's suggestion of small piggys is a  good one. Once a piggy gets to #300 live weight ,they get sort of pig headed about things and can be a handful, they also really eat and sleep a lot at that size. Training them early that you have treats is a good way to go. Kune Kunes stay small but are not big rooters, so they might not be a good choice,  pot bellys seem to me, too be best as a pet but check into them,they  may be rooters as well , I could be wrong. American guinea might be your best choice to accomplish the work you have planned.  You most likely are going to have containment issues. I hear of people who manage to train weiners to an electric fence ... they say that the pigs won't cross the line even after it has been removed...  My personal experience is THEY WILL escape until you have a secure fence system. Weiners are the hardest to keep in, they fit thru small openings and once one gets to the other side the rest will want to follow !  Your neighbor will really blow a gasket if he finds piggys tearing up his boring lawn . He may make your piggys into sausage....  I have found that the best containment for weiners is used metal roofing , laid horizontal and partially buried, with a low field fence behind it . Weiners can't see over the roofing so have no interest in getting to the greener grass on the other side and by the time they are big enough to see over its to much work . You may want to consider  the option of raising full size pigs (they would be the best rooters) and just sell them live after they get to be 6 months old. Organic almost vegetarian piggys are a valuable commodity!  Then you just start over with new weiners. When I first talked about raising pigs I received bunches of (Oh don't do that they smell ! ) or you'll be sorry they escape all the time or the cougars will get them or the bears will get them...Geez  I have been doing this for ten years now and guess what,  no loses to predators , after learning about fencing no more escapes, and since I feed 2% diamatetious  earth with their grain there is very little smell and very few flies.  I love my pigs , they have more personality than most doggys.  I miss them every winter and can't wait to get new ones in march!  I only raise three , one for me and two to sell to friends. Cost to me, besides my time is the cost of butchering. The neighbors cost covers  all three pigglets and all the grain. Its a win win for everybody.  I get my friends for the summer and we all get mouth watering organic pork to enjoy all winter. Until you have eaten organic almost vegetarian (its almost vegetarian because they eat grubs and any other small meat sources that they find )  pork raised properly you can't imagine just how good it is !  This year one friend only wanted 1/2 a piggy so I put out the word and quickly had the other 1/2 sold. That lady was amazed at the taste ! She even went so far as when having relatives over (ones she liked )  instead of sharing HER bacon she ran to the store and bought some so hers will last longer ! I never laughed so hard when she sheepishly admitted it ! 
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rotational pens
 
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