Spring Pastures

Sow on Spring Pasture

This sow is grazing in the lower south field just below an aspen grove. The pigs mow the grass, clovers and other forages to a almost lawn like consistency. They do very little rooting. The rooting they do is almost exclusively to make a nest so they can get good skin to soil contact to cool themselves. They like the savanna style pastures because places like this small grove of aspen provide shade from the mid-day sun. The trees are space enough that ground cover forages grow under them quite well.

The south herd is almost ready to be moved from the lower south field to another pasture. I just walked the far south field which is up to almost a foot of forage growth. We’re far behind the fields in the valley below us partially due to our altitude which lends us to late snows. The other component is most of our farm faces east rathe than west. We get the early morning sun but less total solar gain.

In the distance past the aspen trees you can see the Ark where the pigs sleep in the winter. It is an open covered area of 38’x96′, a greenhouse frame with a tarp roof. With a deep bedding pack of composting wood chips and hay it produces both heat and food all winter long keeping the pigs fed and warm during our cold months. Rather than being locked in, the pigs freely go in and out.

During the summer the Ark is mostly empty. The bedding composts reducing in volume and the last bit gets used to enrich our poor mountain soil, a boon for our gardens and future orchard areas.

Outdoors: 81°F/60°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 72°F/66°F

Daily Spark: On the topic of the high cost of good food: If you think pork is dear, try venison.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to Spring Pastures

  1. Don says:

    What would you consider to be the ideal tree(s) for a Pig Savannah?

    • A mix of species but it is going to depend on your local climate and soils. For us:
      Oak – I’m planting these as we have none

      The evergreens provide cover in the winter.

      The maple has antibiotic properties.

      The fruit trees produce fruit.

      The nut trees produce nuts.

      The Aspen are fast growing and can be topped to produce forage.

  2. Steve Zavitz says:

    Hello Walter,
    We have a 60-acre homestead, up in the hills just north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
    Moving here 7 years ago from the city, we had little country life experience and virtually no farming background.
    Early on someone suggest that pigs are a great animal to raise so I went for it…starting with five our first year….and I went hunting online to learn all I could about raising pigs naturally. I found your site way back then and spent hours reading all I could. Since then I regularly come back to your site when I need to figure something out. So thank you very much for so generously sharing your knowledge and experience. I regularly refer to you as my pig farming mentor…even though we’ve never met.
    This past winter we kept the nicest of our females from last summer’s herd and one of her brothers (to help keep her company and warm) and I bred her artificially myself on new years day. Turns out it was successful….just three weeks ago (115 days later) she gave birth to 11 healthy little pigs lets…out in the hut on pasture…with just a deep bed of hay and no heat lamps and little help from us….not bad for a first-time mamma eh? So now we’re debating whether to castrate the males or not….and I’m writing to seek your advice pigs and rooting…
    You mentioned in this article that your pigs rarely root….and that amazes me since our pigs root like crazy….Alice, our mamma, is a rooting machine…she seems to love digging up the pasture and finding and eating the bugs and roots (we have quack grass all over). Sometimes I like the rooting….for example when I use the pigs to turn over a new garden plot or to help work up an old field to prep for seeding a cover crop….but most of the time it just really makes a mess of the pasture. So what’s the trick to having pigs that don’t root? Is it breeding or pasture quality or training?
    Thanks again…hope you and your family are doing great and enjoying spring.

    • Rooting is controlled by a number of factors such as the pig’s experience, the forages that are above ground, the forages that are below ground (grubs & tubers), soil softness, clay content, soil moisture and quite importantly the rate of rotation. See this article for thoughts on rooting behavior and how to have the pigs graze more: Root Less in Vermont.

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