Rotationally Grazing Pigs

You've probably noticed that we're big fans of rotational grazing. The goats, the cows, and now the pigs are all rotated around our property inside their own electric fences. While gaining in popularity, this method of livestock management is very uncommon. Yet it makes a lot of sense, if you have the time and resources to make it happen. 

Rotational grazing ensures that the animals are not living and eating amongst their own excrement. It also ensures they have fresh grass to eat everyday. In addition, the land benefits by getting some rest in between grazing periods. The farm (and the farmer) benefits by having healthier and happier animals. It's an all around winner, but it takes the time and motivation to make it happen.

Rotationally Grazing Pigs on Pasture

Rotationally grazing the pigs makes a lot of sense. Those little rooters will get their snouts running and completely destroy perfectly good pasture in no time flat. They have to be moved frequently and the land needs a long time to rest and recover.

Currently, our two gilts are rotating through new pasture every 2-3 days. They are allocated a small parcel of pasture that is dense with unwanted forages (i.e. broomesedge and other less-nutritious 'weeds'). As you can see in the pictures, they literally eat everything in sight. People seem to be surprised that a pig would clean it up that well.

First, the pigs start with the roots. They slowly unearth the entire plant and then proceed to munch down the roots. Next come the stems and leaves. After a couple days the paddock will turn into a mud puddle, especially if we get a little (or a lot) of rain.

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Pig Pen Expansion

Pig Maze?

While we're on the topic of letting wild animals loose, I might as well write about what the pigs have been up to. They aren't yet roaming in electrically fenced areas like the bucks (and the rest of our animals), but they're getting there. 

A few days ago I expanded their pallet pen for a second time. This time I wanted to create a chute so I could easily sort them and also give them a little more space. During the rennovation I realized it was a great time to test their willingness to plow through the electric fence.

For a little background on the pallet pens you can check out my prior posts: Pallet Pen for the Piggies and Revised Pig Pallet Pen. If you haven't read about The Great Ossabaw Escape, you should start with the Ossabaw? More Like Lostabaw post.

During this particular pen expansion I left the interior electric fence in the same place and I removed one pallet from the wall. The removed pallet will serve as the "chute" and also as the fence testing area. Right now there's a whole separate area of pasture that the pigs can see, but only the electric wire stands in their way.

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Revised Pig Pallet Pen

New and improved pig pallet pen

A few weeks ago I wrote about the temporary pallet pens that we built for the pigs to train them to the electric fence. My expectation at the time was to release the pigs into larger paddocks within a few weeks. To my dismay, that hasn’t happened. I wrote a bit about the frustration with the pigs in a couple posts during my weekly column on Farm Dreams. You can find them here and here.

The short of it is that the pigs remained very small and tightly wound. I wasn’t making a lot of progress with getting them to calm down and/or respect the electric fence. Sure, the electric fence was inside the pens and it would zap them if they touched it, but I noticed they were touching it a lot. At first I thought they might not be respecting it the way it was intended. I figured I’d give it a couple weeks and see if they learned better.

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