Ah, and here you have my solution for carrying the double decker spinning jenny plus two spools of high tensile wire from one corner of the south field to another. When I’m just carrying a couple of spools of wire I can sling one across each shoulder or crosswise like a bandolier. Combined with the jenny it gets awkward. Putting it on my back centered the weight again. This is much easier than trying to carry it the two tenths of a mile through the brush in my arms. A piece of my old webbing from rock climbing comes in handy once again!
Today we pulled more wire and finished fencing the south field. Most of our posts are stumps and trees along the stone wall. The trees with eye bolts make excellent end posts – good thing since in most places we can’t dig more than a few inches down so setting posts is often not possible. In such situations I have alternatively placed granite posts or set pins into boulders, something we have lots of.
Speaking of posts, the plastic step-in posts break off very easily at the base where the metal spike is. I suspect that this is because of the differing thermal expansion ratios of the materials. The result is a lot of posts with no step-in spikes. Sometimes I use these by poking a hole with a PV in the soil. Another very good use for broken plastic posts is as spacers on long runs of high tension wire. Even if all the clips break off they can still be used by tying the wire to the insulating plastic posts.
That is Kia in the background, sister to Kita. Lili, Cinnamon and Kia tagged along as Holly, Will and I worked along the stone walls. I think a large number of foolish chattering chipmunks met their maker. Silly critters, sitting there screaming “Eat Me!” at the gods, er, dogs.
Here the pigs, sheep and the goose celebrate the freshly opened pasture. They had eaten down all the brush in the other two sections and were quite happy to move to fresh grass and browse. They ate up the previous two acre sections in about three weeks each. It will be interesting to see how fast it takes them to go through the rest of the denser brush further down the pasture.
On a clear day in this direction we can see all the way past Bradford to New Hampshire. Today we could see across the valley and the mists curled around the peaks of Sugar, Knox and Butterfield mountains. At one point it sounded like a horse was coming up the road and then I realized who was crossing, from the logging trail down to the marsh – the moose! But he slipped away before we could see him.
Pigs Fixing Fences
Fence Lines 2
Poultry Netting for Pigs
Moving Pigs With Fence Panels
Dumb Pig, Smart Pig
Night low: 49째F, Day high: 59째F, Misty
Great pictures and an informative post today about your continuing adventures.
I enjoyed your description of what you can see from there and the local high & low temps are a neat idea.
Also that nice looking dog Kia is a blast from my past.
A girlfriend 30 years ago had a dog named Moonshadow that was the spittin’ image of Kia, red bandana and all.
Always nice to hear from you at our blog.
But why don’t you have Kia carrying something? She just gets to gambol and eat chipmunks while you do the heavy lifting?
*grin* Actually, the dogs often do carry things as well as fetching tools from one of us to another. Additionally, when we are on walks along the road the dogs pickup trash. It is much easier to send them leaping the ditches into the wood to gather up the beer bottles, soda cans and water bottles. Sometimes the objects people throw are a bit too large, such as the rusty old house boiler, the two truck tires, the bicycle wheel or the three bags of trash we came across this week. Apparently they must have blown out of someone’s truck on the way to the dump…
Walter how much does that fencing on your bak weigh?
Each spool is 55 lbs and the jenny is about another 40 lbs (?) so the total is about 150 lbs.
Great solution for hauling spools – I’ll have to rig one up for myself next spring when we re-fence the other side of the pasture across our little creek. It was a true pain carrying the fence and the jenny across last time – steep banks meant three trips. Your solution means one trip will do!
Hi Walter, my name is Steve Ault, my Wife and I own 95 acres in Virginia we have about 35 acres in pasture, we are currently raising broilers for meat, we have about 20 head of cattle and about 100 laying hens all are naturally raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones. Our laying hens roam the entire farm and help sanitize our pastures our beef is grass fed and grass finished. Our hogs a on pasture and I do supplement with grain, some organic some not but all are open pollinated no GMO’s
All of my interior fencing is portable wire charged with a good 50 mile charger. I am using 17 gage wire, I noticed in this part of your blog that you are using high tensile wire, is there a reason for using such a large gage wire. I only use 2 strands and have not had any trouble with escapee’s unless the charger goes down or a deer may blow through it on occasion. My hogs only get 2 wires close to the ground. We are going to introduce lamb and goats to our farm this spring and may have to add a third wire but for portability the 17 gage wire works. I roll it up on cheep plastic electrical cord spools from Lows.
I was looking into poly wire, its a little more expensive but for a visual effect may be more noticeable for the deer. Its always good to see how somebody else does it and why. Any way fencing seems to be very labor intensive and if I could cut down on strands it would save me a few steps. Anyway keep up the good work and we will be in-touch.
Hi Steve, we use the 12 gauge high tensile for the outside perimeter as well as garden corrals (winter spaces) that would suffer higher pressures. The reason for the strong perimeter fencing is that a moose would walk right through light fencing. This way they learn it is there and step over it.
Additionally, with lighter fencing, if the charger were off for a length of time sheep and big pigs might walk through it. We get about two weeks of no electricity per year. They also might panic through it when it is on.
We have four wires on the perimeter because of the sheep. For the pigs two wires is enough. Most of our interior divisions (paddocks) are just two wires.
I don’t worry about piglets going through as they’ll not go far and come back to the sows. This allows creep feeding.
I love your website. Now why didn’t I just find you years ago and live vicariously instead of “buying the farm”? You do it all so well. I’m an artist with a farm in the Piedmont of North Carolina and have been having an adventure too – but with milder weather. Thanks for your chicken coop plan – I’ve been searching the web for days to find something that was fast and cheep! You’re is the best, and good for a 60 year old farmer-lady-dude who has low carpentry skills. My *too many* chickens will be very happy to have more room and I won’t have to listen to all that swearing.
Happy Day – Jaye
Hi Walter, I love your site and how you run your farm.
I own 40 acres of fallow pasture in Eastern Ontario. I will be moving in the land this fall/winter (hooray!). Next year I want to start pasturing animals to a) grow my own meat and b) improve the pasture. As much as I would like to immediately get cattle, pigs, goats and chickens right away I am only going to introduce one species per year so I dont get over extended.
My fields are really weedy, mostly red dogwood ossier — a type of willow, goldenrod, wild carrot, and russian thistle, with some hardy grasses holding on for dear life. This fall I will be installing high tensile electric fencing around the perimeter and automated waterers.
I am trying to decide between putting pigs, highland cattle or goats in there the first year.
What would your advice be? Would pigs be able to get enough to eat in those kind of fields
Good idea to go gradually with the adding of new species. With each one you'll have many things to learn about. We too did it that way. Additionally, going from buying summer pigs to gestation our own was another learning experience as was advancing to winter farrowing.
The animals will improve the pasture. It may be that you'll want to mow the pastures initially until the animals are keeping up with them. We haven't done that but I think we would have better pastures faster if we had. What we've done, which has worked very well, is intensive rotational grazing. The trick is one needs enough animals to mow down the available pastures – hard to do at first.
Pigs love thistles and many other herbs. Sheep are excellent co-grazers with the pigs. Between the two they eat just about everything. I have heard that goats and Highland cattle are excellent.
My experience is that the fields are enough for pigs but they'll grow a little slower taking a few extra months to get to market weight and being leaner. This is because the pastures are low in lysine, a limiting protein, and low in calories – thus the leanness. If you can get a source of dairy that is one solution that we found works well. We free feed whey in addition to the pasture which results in excellent growth rates and tasty pork. Other things to add are what ever you can grow such as beets, turnips, pumpkins, sunflowers, etc.
We're adding new pasture too this year so we'll be faced with this same question again. I don't like mowing, doing it or the waste of time and fuel, so we'll see what we do.
Thanks Walter. Pigs first year it is. What spacing of electric wire would you recommend to keep weaners to breeder pigs contained?
Also I was researching Queen Anne's Lace as a pig food cause Ive got a lot growing wild. It should be a good source since it is the plant from which carrots were breed from. However I found this http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/cont.html.
Apparently their seeds are a natural contraceptive (who knew!) but the sow would have to crush their seeds in in its mouth before swallowing. Do you have much Queen Anne's Lace in your area and do you think it has affecting your sows success at getting bred?
On the fencing spacing think of low and high nose heights. This will vary somewhat with the size of the pigs. When in doubt, add another wire. Having a visual or physical barrier outside the fence helps a lot. Having what they want be inside the fence helps even more. Training to the fence is important. How tightly you must fence will depend on how important it is to keep the pigs in. For example, along a busy highway or with close neighbors you'll want to fence much more tightly.
On the contraceptive qualities, I hadn't known that. Pigs are not really good about chewing their food so seeds tend to pass through. Pigs are good at spreading seed for us. We don't have much in the way of wild carrots, fennel or queen anne's lace so I don't have observations on that. Interesting to know.
What do you recommend for perimeter pig fencing? Should you have electric plus at least two wires? thanks
The four hot smooth wires running along a stone wall seem to work very well for our mix of animals in our location. Even a single hot wire over the stone wall is highly effective for pigs where there isn't much on the other side. If you you have closer neighbors you would want tighter fencing, perhaps netting or such. Around gardens I do mesh fencing and hot wires.
as ever i find your posts an insperation ,i was wondering about pig rotation and fencing ,,,for example if i had an acer of land fenced off ,,,would i sub devide said land into three or four paddocks ,as i remember you saying that the pigs are best moved every 10 days and not to return them to any grazed land for at least 32 days,also should i leave said land fallow for one year in every 3 or 4.or if rotating not at all
thank you best regards
The 10 days on is not a religious figure. Instead watch the forage. When it gets low then move the animals.
The off time is primarily set by the parasite development cycle. Generally 21 days does it so boosting to 30 days is almost sure. There are some things that go longer but not much. The idea behind leaving the land fallow for a year or more is to break some of the longer parasite cycles. We live in the north where winter kills most everything. He’s a harsh master.
Than k you what you say makes sense ,still not got any pigs but hoping over time to get every thing done before getting any ,fencing being one of the big things,every time i read your posts it makes me want to do it faster,
thanks again Good luck and best regards Dan
Just found your blog and i am loving it and learning so much! I have a question about pigs and fencing. I have 2 approximately 2 acre pastures fenced w/ field fencing. is there any reason i can’t raise 2 pigs in those pastures w/ my other farm animals rather than keeping them in smaller areas using electric fencing? i want to get started w/ pigs but can’t quite wrap my brain around using electric and rotating the pigs. i live in a very rocky area and the ground is so dry in the summer that i have not had much success using my electric poultry netting. i can’t get the stakes in the ground and if i do, the fence doesn’t charge very well. given the fact that i would only have 2 pigs in such a large area, maybe i wouldn’t have to worry about them getting through the field fence? thanks!
We graze multiple species together. We have an outer perimeter fence and then use a variety of fencing including polywire on step-in posts and poultry netting to divide up paddocks. See Poultry Netting For Pigs, Pig Trap and Calibrating Pain. With very dry soil you can enhance your electric fence by stringing a ground wire out around the perimeter and then periodically grounding that wire to the earth such as with a metal T-post. This will greatly enhance the energy transfer. Good grounding systems are critical to getting good fencing. Another very important aspect with all types of animals is training them to the fence. Do that in a physically securely fenced area with a hot wire inside it for a few weeks. Pigs train very well to electric.
Walter, what do you think of Premier’s new line of Pig Qwikfence. Does it solve some of the issues with the poultry netting? Would it be a good choice for interior paddocks? Thank you for your time, great blog.
I haven’t tried it so I don’t have an opinion, yet. If you try it, let me know how it works for you. I’m curious.
Hi, I just love your website. You have so much good info on pigs. I stole your pig plastic hut thingie plan. I stole your idea on rotation. I stole a bunch of other ideas, too, I’m afraid. It’s always very entertaining to see what you guys are doing next and your kids and the stuff they do… WOW.
Have you ever tried tires for fencing? Just curious, as it’s a free resource and I wondered if they are stacked earthship style (staggered, not one on top of the other) and filled with dirt, if the pigs would be successful in rooting them up. They even move the hog panel around here, and I have to check every few days, in case they got bored.
Glad to help. I’ve never tried tires for fences. You’re right that they can tear apart a hog panel if they’re big and bored. Bigger spaces help. We have so much fencing that it wouldn’t be practical. For us the electric fencing works wonders, especially backed by brush, trees or stone walls.
Okay so I have a couple of questions. Don’t know if you’ll have the time, but I really like your blog and thought you might be the best person to ask as you always seem to have a logical explanation for why you do the things you do, so I thought I might ask and see.
In the future I would like to work as a teacher in an Area School and buy some land out in the whopwhops. I would like to buy a cheap property that’s between 5 and 15 acres. This is some time away as I’m taking a year off at the moment to get a break from studying but I would like to have some idea if I’m way off track with my thinking…
I would like to buy a property with an existing house/cottage/barn as I know building your own house can take a long time and often ends up being just as expensive as buying a house in the first place.
However I was wondering – how hard/long does it take to build your own house with one other person out of cob and straw or masonry like you did? I mean as minimalistically as possible with maybe 3 bedrooms. Sorry, I have little understanding of house building but would like to find a starting point somewhere and learn more.
I live in New Zealand so it rarely snows, except for in the south island and I probably will end up living in the north island. The problem we have here are floods and earthquakes, so those are the main environmental related issues a house here might run into. It rarely goes below 5 degrees celsius (that’s about 4 f) and usually goes to about 30 degrees (86 f) in the summer and is very humid. What would you recommend would be the best material for someone on a tight budget who lives in the sub tropics to build with? Or is it just cheaper just to do up an old building? (If this question is too hard to answer because you live in a different environment – don’t worry about it! Just was wondering).
I am also thinking about keeping some livestock but after reading through your blog I found out how bliming complicated fencing can be for the typical hobby farmer. So I started thinking of a cheaper ways of creating strong fencing for pigs.
One of the ideas I had was to make 5 paddocks which are between 1/2 to 1 acre each (depending on how big the property is). If I make the whole outer perimeter of the fences out of cob and straw and then build three wooden fences with an electric wire put in a bottom and top would that keep in pigs well?
Again New Zealand doesn’t have any major predators. Perhaps feral dogs or wild boars would be the biggest problem out in the middle of nowhere. There are also ferrets, stoats, and rats that might harm animals like chickens. Am I being to ambitious wanting to build cob walls? They do seem to take a long time to create but seem very strong and sturdy once they’re finished, so I thought they’d stand up to the strength of a pig. What height would they need to be anyway?
I was also considering always keeping 3 out of 5 of the paddocks occupied. One with a milk cow and 3 sheep/goats. Another with 2 pigs (a boar and a sow). The last with chickens and ducks. Then rotating them whenever the paddocks seemed worn down. I guess I would need to build a small shelter for each of the animals which is easy to carry round, or something.
Then in the summer when we tend to get drought I could substitute their diet with excess vegetables from the garden or perhaps excess dairy from the cow or goat, and in winter there would be enough paddock to rotate them if the area got too muddy.
Would this work? Or do I need to keep the boar and sow separate? Would it be better to keep the chickens together with the pigs as that would mean more free fields or do I not need so many paddocks? Is 1/2 acre enough space for 2 pigs? If you have knowledge about cattle and sheep – would 1/2 acre be adequate for 1 cow and 3 sheep? Also, do you need to separate the boar from the sow when she has her piglets or can they be kept together?
Lastly I remember being a bit scared of pigs when I was a kid as my friends had a huge boar who used to run towards the gate at full speed whenever we came to visit. While I’m not afraid of them anymore (just cautious) I still do not really want to be mowed down by a huge hog. What would be the most gentle meat pig to keep and how much do you need to socialise them to stop them from knocking people to the ground when they throw their weight around? Or is it unavoidable? Is it better to buy the breeding pair as piglets or as grown pigs to know their temperament?
Apologies if I’m rambling on too much. Most of my friends have never lived on farms with pigs, even though nz is largely agriculturally based, so I thought you might be the answer.
Hello to the other side of the world. We’re about as separated as we can be yet still be on the same planet Earth. :) Ironically, I’ve read that Vermont and some of New Zealand have some very similar climate. On to your questions…
On pig temperament, select hard for good tempered pigs. Temperament is highly genetic. Eat the mean ones. Eat the hesitant ones. What are left are the nice ones who are easy to herd. Also do taming and training, that is socializing, to come when you call and to herd. Genetic selection plus good handling results in good livestock of all types. See these articles.
We keep our boars and sows together. We have never had our breeder boars harm piglets – part of that may be selecting for good boars but I have heard other people say the same. We run boar centric herds where there is a dominant boar and sub boars in each herd and they have a territory. Then there is an empty space between them and the next boar territory such that there is double fencing and a no-man’s land. This keeps the peace. Sows are moved between the boar herds to control breeding timing and genetics. See Sows To Underhill and Moving Sowth.
I figure that on our pastures we can sustainably managed rotationally graze about ten hundred weight pigs per acre. A sow needs about an acre since she’ll have piglets. It is key to do managed rotational grazing and not just turn the pigs into free-range on an area. See South Weaning Paddocks and as always, follow the links from that article to more articles about the topic.
We have a lot of stone walls. They are good indicators of the boundaries and the pigs don’t tend to cross them but they can. An electric fence just inside the stone wall is highly effective. Electric fencing is quit easy and fast to setup. Other things can be used as the visual physical element such as logs, brush, etc.
On the housing question, it took us two months to go from bare ground to closed in and livable for our cottage which is built of a poured concrete slab, block walls with rebar and core fill and then a ferro-cement 1.5″ thick roof. Total cost was $7,000 for materials. Labor was two adults, two teenagers and a kiddling. See the story of the building of our cottage and follow links for details. I like masonry – stone, brick, concrete – for construction because it is something we have readily locally available, it is easy to work with, it is low maintenance, durable and lasts for generations. I would suggest doing some small projects to build skills. e.g., start with table top models, animal shelters, dog houses, etc.
Wow, this is a blast from the past! I just got a notification in my email telling me there was a new reply to this comment section. Thank you so much for all your advice!
I am actually now a teacher that works at a country school in the middle of nowhere. :) The community here is very alternative and I am currently saving for my dream house/properly. For my first woodwork project I am learning how to make a ‘mud kitchen’ for my wee students.
Will need to come back here more often for advice! Thanks again!
Walter, you’re a legend. So much to learn just from the replies you kindly provide! Thank you.