Winter Trails


Winter Pig Trail

While technically, by the calendar, it may be spring, it is still winter here on the mountain. As such, the pigs are sticking close to their winter trails where the snow is packed hard making travel easy.
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All livestock, and wild animals, naturally spread their manure out over the landscape. This contrasts with a penned situation they might pick one corner of their confined space as their toilet. The manure being evenly spread across the landscape is better for the soil and better for the plants.

Plants count on this quirk of animals as a way to spread their seeds. A little bit of cooperative co-evolution. Seeds are inside a hard coating that lets many of them pass through the animals such that they are spread around and deposited in warm, wet dollops of fertile manure where they can sprout.

I use this behavior by setting up the livestock’s winter sleeping areas distant from their water and food areas. This creates paths that I set to primarily move with the contours of the land. The action of hoof, nose, wind, rain and frost creates terraces along the lower fence lines of paddocks and trails. These catch water and nutrients preventing erosion and keeping our fertility on our land. The manure and urine is thus captured in the flats created by the paddocks and in these boundary zones which can ideally be double fence lines to create forage buffers that seed pastures, protect fruit trees, act as creeps for the smallest animals and provide habitat for wildlife.

During the winter the long trails means that the animals do much of their toiletry out away from their bedding, water and food zones which helps to keep things cleaner and spread the valuable nutrients across the side of the mountain where they’ll be needed in the spring.

White snow reflects about 80% of the light so that it does not melt as quickly in the spring sun. Dirty snow is more like dirt at about 20% reflectivity and thus about 80% absorption. This makes the paths melt faster so the nutrients can then start soaking into the soil.

The trails are some of the first areas to melt due to their lower albedo. Since our soil has little frost depth due to early and deep snow the nutrients are then able to soak right into the land where they’ll benefit the spring flush of growth. Because the livestock use narrow trails, just like animals in the wild, the root damage is kept to a minimum. When they shift to the next paddock these trails immediately spring back with fresh growth.

Outdoors: 44°F/9°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: Don’t eat brown snow.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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5 Responses to Winter Trails

  1. Andy says:

    Daily spark ,add yellow snow to that list.

  2. Cindy says:

    Hello Walter, My husband and I have been subscribed to your post for a fewonths and enjoy al of your posts

    We are just getting started with pigs. We work with someone who is raising them and every once in a while we get a runt to raise. I was wondering what you use to feed them until they can eat pasture?

    Thank you!

    • Are you asking about piglets who have not nursed? If so then they need colostrum. If necessary purchase commercial colostrum mix at the feed store. This is very important for the first few days of life. Better yet is grafting the piglet onto another sow, hand milking or supervised visitation.

      After the colostrum stage they need milk to about 21 days, better yet to six weeks. Yogurtizing the milk, adding dextrose (white sugar), molasses, a half adult human vitamin ground up, some fish oil and a lightly scrambled egg all blended together is good. Once they’re doing well on that some bread is good.

      The simplest thing if you’re unsure about nutrition is to buy a commercial piglet feed at the store as that will be balanced with everything the growing pig needs. It can start on solids as soon as it is willing to eat them, typically in the first week to ten days in addition to the dairy mix.

      Out on pasture our piglets often start nibbling on soft grasses, clovers and such at the snout of their mother during the first week. By the time they wean at about six weeks they’re fully eating pasture. We give eggs to the younger ones as available and we also feed whey. See the Pig Page for more about diet and follow the food links.

  3. Sally H says:

    Where do you encourage them to wallow, and how do you do the encouragement?

    • In the winter the pigs don’t tend to want to wallow. Their reasons for wallowing are to coat their skin with mud to protect from insects and sun as well as to dump heat, to cool off. None of these are problems in the winter so they don’t tend to seek wallows then. More about wallows here.

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