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ADVICE PLEASE: Pigs & Goats or Sheep to "reclaim" land and soil improvement??

 
Glyndower Brea
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HI All

I have joined this forum in the  hopes of gleaning some priceless information. My partner and I have just brought our first farm, only small at 42 acres but a lot of work and very run down... but you know how it often goes, you buy what  you can afford and you do the best you can! Currently we can't afford a tractor so I have some Pigs on their way (8  Berkshire females with more on order) I hope to have 20 girls before to long.
Now, 10 acres or so has been cleared of pines and its not really land that you can currently drive over as it has old stumps and is a mess basically plus the scrub and weeds are taking hold and of course due to the pines the soil is depleted... in time I want to fence that off  and keep it stocked with Goats to get rid of and keep the blackberry away... some of it would make lovely pasture so it will just be the little gully that the Goats need to roam.
What help will Pigs be in this situation and how many roughly will we need?
I also want to have the Pigs rotated all year round (we breed horses) to keep rid of bracken patches and root up the dandelions n stuff and just generally dig about rather than getting someone in to plough and I can seed crops after them if that makes sense?
If I want this to be their job, how many pigs to the acre will I need to keep?
 
Glyndower Brea
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P.S a Fox won't try to kill a five week old piglet will it? We have a fox that hangs about and our Border Collie likes to share her dinner with it. It's NEVER around when there is a gun  on hand 
 
                          
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I am nearly completely ignorant about most of what you're asking, but I did just happen to meet some folks who raise pigs (met the pigs too, some 10 day old cuties and one very large sow!)  They informed me -- the humans that is, not the pigs -- that pigs are WAY better at clearing and keeping clear blackberry thicket.  Pigs apparently totally do away with blackberries, even grubbing out the roots.  I was told this as we walked over the relatively bare ground between pigs and human household...... and that where we were walking had once been total blackberry thicket, before the pigs were given that area to graze and root around in.......  A fenced off area to the right still contained blackberries the pigs had no access to.  My friend who was showing me their place said goats only nibble, in comparison to pigs.  They move their pigs around to clear certain areas.....

I guess it depends on the degree of blackberry removal you're interested in accomplishing!
 
Irene Kightley
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Location: South West France
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Glyndower Brea,

Goats will clear blackberries but take a while to get the pasture really fit for horses - they will also clear it of internal parasites which affect horses but which don't affect them. The reverse is also true so horses and goats together in the same farm are complementary.

Pigs will clear an area really quickly but you can't use it for grazing until you've reseeded or it's regenerated naturally and be careful about not having too many pigs as you'll have to feed them something else once they've turned the land over !

We used these two to clear a field of about half an acre and had to move them in under ten days.



I have no idea about stocking density but someone else might know that.

Irene
 
                            
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Uhhh.. what are you wanting to do with your land? The pigs and goats will definately clear it for you, but unless carefully managed (controlled rotations), I think that they will most likely destroy your soil texture and eventually productivity.

Vickie, also on this group has owned pigs for a number of years if she doesn't notice this thread you could probably send a private message to her.

I have approx 30 head of nigerian dwarf goats, and 40 acres most of which is forested and connects to many miles of private forest land which then connects to public forest. During the summer months my goatie girls are allowed to free range (permission granted from adjoining neighbors) and so frequently are not even on my property. During the summer they eat Fend (Fend for yourselves), with available mineral salts and also some grain and black oil sunflower seeds. During the winter I keep them confined as with the snow depth they would not be able to escape predators. I bring in hay and provide their entire diet for them. Even with eating Fend, so that my property isn't providing much for them, I am now seeing huge differences between now and five years ago. Some of the differences can be attributed to weather patterns, some is to excessive browsing.

Are you familiar with Joe Salatin?
 
                            
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Got interrupted and didn't finish my thought..

I think that it's critical to make a management plan for the land once the livestock clears it. The clearing is just the beginning and can be a really negative, destructive process IF it's not followed up on.

It seems to me, that diversity is the ideal, when you get too many of the same types of critters (as in my 30 head of goats), it is similar to monoculture.... and not a good or sustainable plan.
 
Irene Kightley
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Location: South West France
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Feral, you're absolutely right about the long term plan - pigs on land are particularly destructive.





 
                            
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But they can also be a marvelous tool. I've got Sepp on the brain right now, so.... have to say, even Sepp uses them. But he does seem to do it with a plan in mind and they are just one piece of that integrated plan.

My property actually has an old area of compacted damaged soil from where owners several decades ago experimented with hog raising. After all of these years it still hasn't recovered. Prior to knowing the history of the property, I entitled this very dried out area with minimal vegetation as "the Sahara". I still refer to it as such. It could be improved, but I've got tons of other projects going on, so it's not a huge priority right now. One of the issues withit, however is that the plants there are shallow rooted, start out great in the spring, a couple of months later the area is dead, dried, brown and a fire hazard. This is not a good area to be having fires in. I have considered reseeding the Sahara with a variety of plants including thistle and lupine to help break up the soil compaction while not breaking my back with a lot of unnecessary work. I really got off of topic here. I don't know how to minimize damage from lots of pigs, just know that like just about every thing... they are good in moderation!
 
Irene Kightley
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Location: South West France
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Yes, but the problem is always the same - if you have to make a living from farming then it's very difficult to apply what you know is good sense to the management of your land while at the same time keeping you creditors happy. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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In my experience with sheep they are as likely to eat the things you might want to keep, such as young hardwood trees, as those you don't, unless you carefully fence each tree or group of trees you want to keep.  So, from my own experience of losing many trees to sheep, I can not recommend sheep for clearing.   
 
Glyndower Brea
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Thank you for all of your input and advise. I can see the pigs are going to  be a wonderful help at least for the next few years anyway.

Irene, thats exactly the result I want to see in my bracken patches! For some reason the burs are as thick as thieves there too! I can not wait to get the baby girls out there with their little snouts sterilizing the soil and eradicating the stuff.

In this part of Australia ragwort, bracken, dock, cape-weed, etc are a big problem. Because our place hasn't ever really been looked after as it should have (too small an area for a serious farmer) I can't even begin to imagine the seed bank in the soil... as they say "One years weed, ten years seed" Despite the fact I have just spent the last two days spot spraying out a group B herbicide to get a bit of control on the situation for this summer while I have no stock on the place I'm not keen to keep it up for so many reasons... I hate sprays but everything in its place and something drastic needed to be done.
I used to Dairy with Dad and the Pigs will be run on a similar rotation program to the cows and be constantly moved. I have no desire to keep them on one area of the farm until the soil is so compacted and depleted that nothing will grow as that would totally defeat the purpose too.
After the pigs have done "Gods work" in one area I will move them off, harrow, lime and EM (effective microbes) and scatter seed about including deep rooting vegetation to ensure all the goodies become more readily available and the soil stays healthy, a lot of them that I want to plant are also very beneficial herbs for stock anyway. 
 
Suzy Bean
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Hey folks! I just put up an appropedia page on pig-help. Here it is: http://www.appropedia.org/Pigs_turning_compost . Feel free to add your wisdom to it!
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Pigs on the land are not destructive if you manage the grazing properly. This is the same as with sheep, goats, horses, cattle, chickens and people. Look up managed intensive rotational grazing techniques:

http://www.google.com/search?q=managed%20intensive%20rotational%20grazing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_intensive_rotational_grazing

We graze pigs, sheep and poultry together. They do a wonderful job. Our pig's diet consists almost entirely of pasture during the warm months and hay in the winter plus about 7% dairy for lysine (a protein). We also raise some beets, pumpkins, apples and other things and occasionally get a bit of boiled barley from a local brew pub and dated bread from a local bakery that makes a great training treat for loading (weekly task) to go to butcher. We have about 300 pigs on pasture. Works great.

Start by setting up a very good four wire (or more) hot perimeter fence. Then run division fences off of that to sub-divide the fields into grazing paddocks. As the forages get grazed down seed with alfalfa, clovers, kale, rape or what ever your choices are to improve forage quality. Rotate to leave parasites behind.

The chickens are our natural pest control. They break up manure paddies, smooth the soil, eat insects and provide eggs for weaner pigs. The poultry naturally tend to follow the bigger livestock just like in nature so they do not need to be fenced.

See:

http://flashweb.com/?s=rotational+grazing

for more about how we manage it.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
 
Stonewall Greyfox
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Interesting topic here that I've been considering for about a year now.  I have approximately 1-1.5 acres of 30yr. bamboo that I'm wanting to remove. 

Anybody have any experience with goats/pigs on destroying a bamboo thicket?  The bamboo has near choked out all other greenery and is spreading rapidly...once cleared out, the plan would be to go back in and seed/plant for errosion control.

Paul B.
 
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