As I mentioned yesterday the hills are alive with the colors of spring which you can see in the background of this photo looking across the south field pasture. The sows greeted us at the upper divider fence hoping we had some treats. In this photo you can also see some piglets on left just beyond a rock and the goose in the middle. Sheep are off in the distance. A beautiful day for grazing.
The fence that is visible this photo is three strands of hot electric polywire on step in posts. This is a quick an easy way to put up a fence. This line runs from one end to the other of the south field dividing up the field into paddocks. At each end the polywire attaches to the high tensile fencing. We are about to put in more lines to further sub-divide the south field for the summer. This will concentrate the livestock’s’ grazing into a smaller area which is more efficient. While they are grazing in one section the others have a chance to re-grow and parasites die off. Once an area is grazed down we move the animals to the next section.
I like these black step-in posts better than the white posts which break in the cold weather. The white step-in posts we have used in the past have a large headed nail for the spike at the bottom. In cold weather the differential thermal expansion between the fragile plastic and the steel causes the plastic to break off at that point. For this reason I take the white posts in to the cellar in the winter. The black posts don’t have that thickening which causes the problem with the bases of the posts breaking. Another problem with the white posts is they have snap on clips for the wires. The clips break easily. On the black posts the attachment points are non-moving so there is a lot less breakage.
The sheep and pigs make good complementary grazers. They both eat the grasses, herbs and brush. Pigs love some plants that the sheep ignore like burdock, thistles and brambles. That’s a mouthful! Sheep browse the brush and strip the bark much more than the pigs thus killing the saplings. The pigs then tear up the dead brush and trample them into the soil which helps to rejuvenate the section of the south field that used to be woods. We cut that area back to the original stone wall boundaries a few years ago and let the brush grow up. Now they’re bush hogging it.
The guineas, roosters and a few hens who are out with them also help. They aren’t visible in this photo but do an important job running around breaking up poops and clearing out parasites. The mix of animals, intensive rotational grazing and letting the fields rest is part of a natural organic cycle of improving the soil, the plants and minimizing parasites like worms, ticks and other pests. Another thing that the poultry do is scratch the soil smooth after the pigs. This gives the pasture a light tilling and discing. Interestingly, the pigs till much more in the brushy areas than in the lush grass pasture sections.
While the goose does graze he is really is an extra on this set. Or maybe he is security for the crew. His favorite thing is to follow the little piglets around. They start out as his many small charges and quickly grow to out weigh him by an order of magnitude. The goose is quite protective of the piglets although he has learned not to mess with the dogs – they are lords of their herds and flocks. The goose challenged Saturn, once. Saturn promptly pinned the goose’s head to the ground with a paw and growled once – Social rank resolved.
Also see: Keeping Pigs for Meat
63째F/55째F Sunny, Hazy