Pigs on Pasture 2006

Today is a little tour in the south field. You’ll need to click on the image above to get a larger view in order to see the details. As usual, bonus points to whom ever can count all the dogs!

The leaves are starting to change but the hills aren’t really flaming with color yet. I took this panorama in section three of the south field with my back to the road and looking south-west up hill. Actually, I panned from south-east to north getting a more than 180째 view. You’ll notice that there is a fence line to both the left and the right going away from the viewer in this image. That is the same fence line as if you turned your head to look at it both left and right.

The field is divided up into a number of paddocks. This allows us to do intensive managed grazing. Each paddock typically contains open ground forages such as grasses and legumes like clover and alfalfa as well as some brush which provides other forages and shade and then some trees too. This is a savannah style pasture rather than the lawn like pasture of the story book castles and paintings of farms.

The idea with paddocks is to put the animals into a smaller area for a short period of time. Ideally they would be moved every three to seven days or so but we are using a slightly longer schedule of about two weeks because I am pushing the pigs and sheep to clear out some of the brush.

Then after they have finished a paddock, and they’re just about done with this one, we open the fence to the next one which has been resting for a month or more. The new paddock is filled with lush fresh grass and the livestock eagerly move in. After they’re out of the old paddock we close the fencing so land can rest for a month.

This controlled rotation between paddocks rests the land, stops soil compaction and erosion, lets parasites die off by going for a cycle without a host, favors the re-growth of clover, grasses and herbs that are good grazing and forces the animals to chew down even the less desirable forage like the brush which makes for less weedy pasture. This is a good easy way to reclaim old pasture, transform woods to pasture and improve the quality of pasture without a lot of machine intensive work. If you look up the hill you can see paddock number four where the herd was a couple of weeks ago. It is already turning bright green with new grass growth.

As needed, especially when reclaiming old brushy pasture, we’ll seed behind the herd. By the time they get to that section again there is new growth in the loosened soil. This is a great way to adjust the mix of grasses. Right now we’re increasing the white clover content of the pastures.

Looking to the far left you can see down the south field to the brush that the pigs have not taken out yet. They enjoy the shade of those saplings on hot days. This used to be dense, almost impenetrable brush and briers but now you can easily walk through with a canopy of well spaced saplings overhead.

I took this photo in late morning and most of the herd is laying down. In the middle left you can see one of our boars as well as a few sows that are still grazing. Bonus points if you can spot another boar. Extra bonus points if you find a third. In each case say what color the boar is and where he is in the photo.

Our pigs are primarily the classic heritage Yorkshire Large White pig that originated in York, England around 1769. They are known for their large meaty frame, durability, mothering ability and doing well on pasture. These are the oldest heritage breed and the mother breed of modern pork. In addition to the dominant Yorkshire genetics we have a mix of some Glouster Old Spot, Berkshire, maybe Tamworth and possibly other breeds as demonstrated by the occasional other colored pigs that pop out once in a while. Directly in front of us, in the middle of the image, is a pair of piglets looking at Kia. One of them is a red haired and skinned piglet. We get this coloring occasionally as well as the occasional spotted piglet like the one named Mark a little to the right of the red piglet and further up the hill.

At the bottom of the panorama and just to the right of the red piglet is Kia, one of our livestock guardian dogs. She is keeping a watchful eye on everyone as the piglets eye her. Kia is the mother of three of our other dogs.

Off to the right are some of our Montedale sheep near the whey feeding tub by the stone wall and hidden by the pigs who are drinking from it.

In the distance, beyond the stone wall and line of maple trees are the winter pig dens carved into the hill. These are basically three sided sheds that provide shelter from the elements and a wind block during the long winters. Most of the year the pigs prefer sleeping out in the pasture.

Also see How much land per pig.

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