WARNING!If you are a person with too sharp a pencil please put it down. You can not take numbers from one situation and misapply them to other situations willy-nilly. Each pasture is different. Pig sizes and ability to digest forages varies. Pastures vary with the season. Things change over the years. Management techniques are adjusted. How I do things in 2001 is not going to be the same as I do in 2011. How many acres we have open for pasture does not stay linearly smooth with how many pigs we have – e.g., in 2009 we cleared a large new section of fields but we didn’t all of a sudden quadruple the number of pigs we had. There are too many variables to apply numbers as absolutes and expect graphs to all look smooth. Instead, use the article below as a guide to give you a feel for one situation. Now relax and enjoy…
On the post “Keeping a Pig for Meat” Bill asked:
Some questions: I understand you have plenty of land for pasturing, so smell in minimized and the rooting and damage is not spread beyond the land’s capacity to continuously rejuvenate. How much would you think is the minimum to pasture a single pig?
The pigs don’t smell bad out on pasture. The association with stink probably comes from pigs that are confined. The same happens when you confine cows, sheep, chickens, people, etc. Additionally, pigs on pasture eat a great deal of fiber which is high in carbon and I suspect that the carbon in the grasses binds the nitrogen and other chemicals that cause the smell associated with manure. This is important to conserving the valuable fertilizer. If you can smell it you’re losing nitrogen and other useful elements to the air – fertilizer that farms pay big money for.
On the rooting and sustainability the key is rotation – Moving the animals to new spaces frequently. Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing are some of the key words to google and see this article.
Rooting is not very deep, typically only a few inches, and is actually good for the soil. If you’re looking to have a fancy suburban lawn then pigs are not ideal. But they will to a wonderful job of renovating old pastures like we have, gradually improving them without ever bringing in a bulldozer or bush-hog. Combine them with sheep and chickens and you have a great grounds crew.
As to how much land for a pig, we currently have about 200 pigs of varying ages on about 10 acres divided into paddocks. The pigs, divided into two herds, typically get access to one paddock at a time. That is right up at the current limit for our fields and we’re about to create more fields so we’ll have a lower stocking density which makes management easier. Our pigs range in size from little piglets of three pounds or so to big sows and boars of about 600 to 800 pounds. I would guess the total herd weight at about 40,000 lbs right now. It could be significantly more although it is biased toward the younger ages at this time. That is about 4,000 lbs per acre or about 20 finisher pig (200 lb) equivalents per acre. Remember they’re moving, not sitting.
Note that in addition to the pasture our pigs also get whey from cheese and butter making at the rate of about 2.5 gallons per hundred weight per day, some cheese trim, excess milk, cottage cheese, the occasional bread, occasional spent barley and excess from our gardens. Thus they are not getting 100% of their food from the 10 acres of pasture. If I only had the pasture I would probably only have about 25% to 50% as many pigs on it, so about 10 pigs per acre.
Another important consideration is the quality of the pasture. Forage varies greatly from scrub to lush legume pastures that are high in protein and that will make a big difference in the carrying capacity. Our pasture is about half brush and regen (young sapling poplar trees) with grasses beneath and over seeded with clovers. This is savannah style pasture rather than lawn like pasture many people picture. In time I expect to gradually further improve the pasture which will increase its capacity. The animals improve the pasture through their grazing, rooting and fertilizing. Liming also helps to raise the pH of our acidic soil to something more hospitable to grasses and high protein legumes.
Some interesting math:
1 acre is about 200 feet x 200 feet
10 acres is about 400,000 sq-ft
200 pigs on 10 acres is about 2,000 sq-ft per pig
or about 10 sq-ft per pound of 200 finisher pig equivelant
or about 20 finisher pigs per acre on average.
Again, remember this is a moving herd, not sitting in one spot. For figuring stocking densities I tend to use the number of ten pigs per acre. Note that gives our average pig size at about 100 lbs which is probably about right with a distribution of some in the large sizes (sows & boars) and many in the small sizes (piglets & growers). Currently our herd is a bit skewed in sizes as can be seen in the recent photo above. That changes over time, of course.
The (il)logical extrapolation of all that is 10 square-feet per pound of pig if you are giving supplemental feed – Thus for a single finisher pig it would be 2,000 sq-ft per pig or about 20′ x 100′. That is about 1/20th of an acre. I suspect you’ll get soil compaction and too much rooting with such a small area. I would suggest an eighth to quarter acre or so if it is done with four to six managed intensive rotational grazing paddocks. Depending on the season and the quality of the pasture you may or may not need extra feed.
As I mentioned before, our pasture is running at about it’s carrying capacity right now. This is because we have fairly poor, acidic, low quality, thin mountain soils. Things are getting better. As we lime the soil it increases the pH which improves the growing conditions for grasses and legumes like alfalfa and clover. As the pigs graze they are also pooping and urinating which spreads fertilizer over the fields. The whey and other good food they eat gets turned into pork but also about 75% of it passes through them and gets excreted adding to the fertility of our soils. In time our soils will improve. If you have rich soils and good pasture you can probably have a higher density of livestock than we can.
Of interest: In concentrated feeding operations (CFOs a.k.a. Factory Farms a.k.a. the Evil Dark Lords of food production) they allow that the “generally accepted space per pig during finishing is 8 square feet. That is a 2′ x 4′ closet. The average finisher pig is about 4′ x 1′ x 18″. Modern office cubicle workers are allowed slightly more at a typical 5′ x 5′ or 25 square-feet per worker (averaging 5′ 9″ x 14″ x 14″). Our tiny cottage is 252 sq-ft for the five of us or about 50 sq-ft per person. Fortunately, we, like our pigs, don’t spend our lives indoors all the time and we have shared spaces. Unlike the pigs, we monkeys make use of vertical spaces too. :-)
Realize that 75% to 80% of the time, at least 21 days and preferably 30 days per grazing cycle, the land is resting and re-growing. The livestock are only on a section of field for a short period and then they move on to greener pastures. When we move pigs we truly are taking them to a better place.
You might also be interested in the article South Weaning Paddock which describes a weaning setup that is 100’x100′ divided into ten paddocks. That’s a quarter acre and large enough to raise two or three pigs all the way to finisher size using the managed rotational grazing. It is an example of doing it on a very tiny scale.
Some Related Reading:
One Day of Rotational Grazing
How Much Land Per Pig
Pasture Post Pig Grazing
InstaPigs and Animal Units
North Home Field Sow and Piglets
Sugar Mountain Farm Pigs: Feeding and Grazing
Vet Visit Field Tour
Painted Probed & Pierced Pigs
Sorting and Driving Pigs
On a totally different topic, I had an interesting temperature reading today
on the tiny cottage. The temperature is normally in the mid-60’s to low-70’s F which is due to the massive nature of the concrete and stone construction (100,000 lbs). Today the tiny cottage high was 55°F and the low was 53°F. Admittedly we haven’t had any sun for a few days but that seemed oddly low. Then I discovered that I had left the bathroom window open for two days and nights… Oops. I had been ventilating after using silicone. What is amazing is that the outdoor temperature dropped to 38°F and the tiny cottage still only went down to 53°F. Pretty good for an unheated shell.
Thursday-Friday Outdoors: 57°F/38°F Overcast, 4″ rain, high winds
Farm House: 68°F/63°F
Tiny Cottage: 55°F/53°F Window left open over night, attic forms work
Thanks for answering my question on your blog so thoroughly. I realize you must get the same questions over and over, but you have a great blog and provide a source of interesting, timely, and useful news which is of great use and enjoyment for your readers.
We appreciate the time and effort and patience you put into maintaining your post. You’re really quite good at it.
I was wondering about the rooting the pigs do. You mentioned that it generally isn’t deeper than two inches. Do you use the same pastures each year of the hogs, or do you move them around to different land that you would like to improve? What does the land look like once you move the pigs (I realize you are a fairly quick rotation)? Could you graze cattle after the pigs had been off of the area for day or week or two weeks or month (how long before it would sustain grazing)?
Thanks for posting such informative blogs!
Warren Wrote: If I was wanting to have a acre at a time runted up to get rid of goat weed & other weed in a hay meadow that was not taken care of between the time of the last owner death & I got it Plus I not done any thing in the last 4 year to get what chemcials there was out of the soil so I can go all organic. there was 3 ton of chicken litter per acres put on the hay meadow last year. I plan on using chicken geese ducks & guineas to fritizer the soil. But right now I get info on renevating the hay meadow & pasture using pigs to runt up the soil eating any & everything to the point I have to drag it & reseed it after I sale all the pigs want have moveable pens of 210 x 210 I plan on having a few cows & my 7 horse on the hay meadow after it is fence from Oct to April start this Oct. SO would 30 pigs in a 210 x 210 area plow it up using pigs.
Warren, I don’t have an exact answer like that. The article of mine details how it works under our conditions with our type and size of pig. Other conditions and management styles will give different results.
Some basic rules of thumb are:
1) more pigs on fewer square feet root up the soil over a shorter time.
2) fewer pigs rotated faster graze rather than root.
3) soft soil (e.g., spring, rain, etc) will get rooted more.
4) larger pigs root deeper than smaller pigs
So, if you want to get it plowed up for planting spaces then put a larger number, perhaps 30, of larger pigs, say 100 to 300 lbs each, in a small space and they will root it up. As soon as they have, move them to the next space and put chickens in where the pigs were. The chickens will smooth out the soil to a large degree and they’ll weed it.
Most importantly, observe and adjust to conditions.
When you move them, how do you keep them there? How do you move them? If there isn’t a lot of supplemental feed how many per acre?
To move animals from one paddock to another it is as easy as opening the new paddock and then closing the old one after a few hours.
If we want to move them faster we can lure them with a treat of bread or something.
If we want to move them faster than that or round up stragglers we send out the dogs and they’ll move animals right quick once they know who and where they’re taking them.
To keep animals in we use electric fencing. Under very low pressure situations even just the stone walls around the perimeter are good enough 90% of the time. But electric fencing is far more secure. For the outer perimeter we use four lines of electrified high tensile smooth wire.
For interior paddock divisions we are currently using polywire on step in posts. I would love to have that be high tensile too but that hasn’t happened, yet.
We also use electrified poultry netting – clip the leads to the bottom two horizontal wires to minimize grounding. This is especially effective for small pigs, chickens and such but also will work with bigger pigs and sheep once they’re trained to it. The netting should be at least 32″ high for big pigs – they can jump.
See these posts for more on fencing.
They also do require more space on pasture than if they have supplemental feeds. We don’t supplemental feed commercial grain (just the occasional treats of bread for training and such) but we do get dairy mostly in the form of whey which provides essencial lycine which is lacking from the pasture. Without the dairy the pigs are protein limited by the lack of lycine and grow about a month slower to get to market weight – not a big issue.
One person wrote me that my numbers don't work for him, pigs can't be raised on pasture, eat hay, can't get enough calories, etc. Something to keep in mind when worrying about feed and pigs per acre is don't think the problem too hard. Real life isn't as exact as the Swine Science book would like us to believe.
We've raised three batches of pigs 100% on pasture. They took a couple of months extra to reach market weight and were leaner with less marbling and less back fat. Adding dairy to that mix brings the growth rate up and the time to market size about the same as if they were fed grain. This flexibility is a great thing about pigs.
Keep in mind that this is not a scientific study with control groups. I'm just reporting our results and have no vested interest in anyone doing it any particular way. Raise your pigs in a way that fits your climate, terrain, resources and schedule. They're great animals that are very flexible and robust. They thrive on many diets and under many conditions.
Don't think the problem too hard or you'll miss the forest for the trees.
Our 4 young ladies have been devouring 3 or 4 forkfuls of hay a day for about 4 months now so I thought I would agree, they most certainly do eat hay and they love it.
Hi, I have two questions for you. First could you update me on your stats for how many pigs per acre you are currently grazing (I realize it is winter but generally). As from what I have read you have around 20 pigs per acre on 10 acres in your 'how many pigs per acre' article from 2007. Yet, I read that now you are at 10 pigs per acre- with 20 acres of pasture in a comment left in 2009. Why have you chosen to have less pigs per acre? Also, when you order a 'whole pig' from your store- what is the weight? And third do you pasture in the woods at all? Or only on grass. I am looking towards setting up pigs in my forest but am unsure about my limits on grazing. Thanks
Frank, your situation will be different depending on what you have for pasture, forest, nuts, fruits, supplemental feeds, etc. Don't try to figure things too exactly. Over time things change. Different pastures, even on the same mountain, have different total available forage. Over seeding with legumes and such improves the pasture. All of this varies tremendously with the season and the size of the pig as well. It isn't like accounting and often I'm reporting what we happen to be doing at a particular time – that changes month to month, year to year. For example, in 2009 we added over 40 acres of new pasture yet we have not added a proportional number more pigs. Things happen in steps, not as a smooth incline. Experiment. Find what works for you.
i was reading some of your info on pasturing pigs and was curious about your fence set up. does the high tensile run behind the pasture in the wood line. our farm has a five wire electric fence that was installed along the pasture but there is no access to forest (although it abuts the fence on the other side), which from what i understand the pigs really enjoy. i am considering running a two wire fence across the pasture and moving the pigs up along the pasture as they eat, trying to avoid deep tillage. do you allow your pigs any access to forest? i am curious on your thoughts.
We have some brushy or wooded areas in most all of our paddocks to provide shade. With the expansion of our pastures that we did this past fall we now have a lot more pasture, planning for the next 10 years. Around that recleared pasture we have included a bit of forest while fencing so as to give the pigs access to nut trees and shade. We also left some shade trees within the new pastures.
I got here from a link where some guy claims you feed only hay but what I hear you sahying Walt is that you have fed only pasture a few times and it worked but what you usually feed is pasture and whey (milk okay????) and other stuff. So what is this about feeding hay? Which is it? Do you just feed hay or pasture or something else? Thanx.
I have never claimed I only feed hay. There is a very unpleasant person running around the Internet saying that. I have no clue as to why. He has taken quotes off of my blog and distorted them by changing words and then making a lot of noise. I think he is a publicity hound trying to get attention. Mostly I just ignore him.
But on to pig diets: We feed ~90% pasture/hay (depends on season), ~7% dairy (whey, milk, cream, butter, cheese, etc) and about 3% other (pumpkins, turnips, beets, kale, rape, sunflowers, sunchokes, apples, occasional boiled barley from a local brew pub and a little dated bread from a local bakery for training treats (e.g., loading)). Note that these numbers change with the season so don’t take them too hard and fast. Life isn’t black and white but rather shades of grey and hues of color. e.g., Our pigs eat local and in season too.
I have raised three groups of pigs on just pasture. They grew more slowly and were quite lean. After researching swine diets and what was locally available for other feeds I hit on dairy which is something we can easily get from local cheese and butter makers in particular. This provides lysine, a critical limiting protein, for faster growth and more calories for better marbling (e.g., fat). As a side benefit the dairy raised meat tastes delicious – slightly sweet. Local chefs rave about it. See the letters of recommendation on our Lit page up in the menu bar above. Thus we added dairy to our pigs diet for the marbling and faster growth.
The pumpkins, beets, turnips and other things we grow provide extra food especially in the fall as the pastures wane and into the winter. My goal is to eventually grow enough veggies to provide food for our livestock through the entire winter until new pastures are ready. I have the challenge that each year I plant more but our herd keeps growing. Last year our pumpkin crop failed with the weather – these things happen. Other plants did very well so over all we were okay.
It appears you run all sizes and stages, boars, sows, growers, gilts and babies together in a herd. How often do you move paddocks? How do you deal with farrowing and allowing a sow to feed for 4-6 weeks to they move also or do allow them to stay behind? Is more communal approach as efficent as a more managed approach with seperate herds for breeding and areas for farrowing?
At different times we’ve done things one way or another. During the winter it is more important to sort the pigs by size and segregate out farrowing mothers. During the warm seasons with large paddocks it works quite well to run multi-age herds which is also quite easy. This is somewhat climate driven.
We tend to segregate as they get towards finisher age, separating ones we’re watching for potential breeders from those who will go to market each week. As we begin to utilize the new fields we are planning a rotation that will result in more age segregation. With a lot more pigs together on pasture this becomes more important.
Currently we control this by having two breeding herds and then some smaller groupings such as weaning pigs, finishing pigs, etc on separate pastures.
How do you decide when to segment a group off? do you set up a separate paddock with electric? How do you accomadate a mother who’s feeding for several weeks when you’re moving weekly+/-? Do you casterate the young boars early or favor not casterating? Have you ever had Hog taint?? After an animal’s been bread do you still sell meat as premium cuts or do you make sausage? sorry for the barage but i’m in the process of laying out our program and trying to learn as much as possible.
You can do things in a variety of ways, such as grouping sows off and not rotating them as fast or leaving them behind. How may depend on season and paddock layout. We use electric for paddocks. The outer perimeters of fields fenced hard and the paddocks are more lightly fence. See the articles about fencing.
We don’t castrate and don’t have boar taint. Boar taint is actually very rare according to studies. Some breeds have it. Breed it out. Some feeds cause it, corn/soy being mentioned by the researchers. Some feeds help prevent it – high fiber, etc. See all the articles I’ve written about boar taint. The taint is more the stuff of legends and myths than reality but when you do actually get it then the smell is rather unpleasant from what I’ve heard. An old time solution is to use the lean of a tainted boar mixed with the fat of a cow, barrow, gilt or sow. Of interest, even sows can have taint and poor slaughter technique can cause what people think of as taint. It’s a complex issue.
Breeding does not destroy the quality of the meat as cuts or even a roaster. In fact, some customers specifically ask very older sows for making specialty products like prosciutto, pulled pork, etc. We’ve eaten sows as old as six years old at our home table – delicious and four pound loin steaks (I hesitate to call such massive hunks of meat a pork chop) the size of dinner plates. Large dinner plates. For sale in the stores of loin and such we use finisher size pigs but that has more to do with the expected size of the cut – most consumers don’t want to buy pork chops that are 12″ across and weigh four pounds each. I have some photos I’ll post soon of a recent set of these.
In the right sidebar is a search box you can use as well as a tag cloud that will get you to articles about various topics that cover all these questions and much, much more. Alternatively, what some people do is start at the beginning of the archives of my blog which go back to 2005 and start reading from there. A good book is “Small Scale Pig Raising” by Dirk Van Loon. It is out of print but a gem. Look on Amazon or such places for a used copy.
Your info is amazing!!! How productive is your herd? How many litters/yr/sow and how many surviving piglets per litter approximately??
That is an ever changing number set and varies with the sow. Since we are breeding up our own stock, selecting the best of the best with each generation, things change. Gradually we’re increasing both the count per litter and the numbers of litters per year. At the top end, our goal, are the sows like Blackie who wean large litters of robust, large fast growing piglets and maintain their own condition. Blackie does three litters a year and has had as many as 19 piglets in a litter. We have some others who are close to her but not quite as enthusiastic. Most are not that productive but in time we will see more and more sows like her as we select the best of the best. A typical farm pig sow produces 8 piglets in a litter and farrows a little bit more than two times per year. When selecting your replacement breeding stock, count teats and keep records of their ancestors litter counts.
In an earlier message you talked about expanding your farm greatly. I would suggest being cautious about expanding too fast. Expansion involves skills, livestock genetics, markets, infrastructure, finances and other factors. Don’t go so fast that you stumble. Better to expand slowly and find your way in each area. I’ve seen too many cases where people made huge investments into something only to find it didn’t work for them, they didn’t have the markets or they simply didn’t like it. Small steps make for smaller errors. This is the same in anything, not just farming.
He..he…funny pic! I rise pigs at my farm in France.. We have also goats and cows.. We use refil-lands to get some “meal” for our animals.
Update to the litter size question: a sow named Emma that someone had bought from us gave them three litters of 12 piglets, 20 piglets and 22 piglets. That’s 54 piglets total. Those are most impressive numbers. I didn’t get the exact dates of the litters but if that were over the standard 15 month period for a sow’s three litters that would come to an average of 41 piglets per year which is a very superior sow. Offspring from such sows are excellent candidates for breeders. As I say, breed the best of the best and eat the rest to improve your herd genetics. This is how the various breed genetics have been improved over the years.
i appreciate all this dialogue regarding hog farming and pork! thanks!
i’m learning from 14 acres, 10 sows, 5 boars, and, currently, ~30 little guys from summer and fall farrows. i’ve lost 30% of the recent farrows with apparent parasite infections, the runts and little guys start kicking at their bellies, then drop to their sides with convulusions and siezures, and eventually they’re dead. over some wks.
these animals are followed by turkeys, chickens, and geese. on 3 acres the small pigs have access to pasture belonging to 2 milk cows. (my pigs get milk)
i have used wormwood and mugwort for vermifuges, effective, but i didn’t use the artemesia’s last summer or this fall, and i’m seeing some morbidity this winter.
i’m heartened however, as i’ve seen some goats survive barber pole worm infections, and others die. only the living get to breed.
the same for the pigs. the 30% losses are loses for the individuals pigs, but not the herd. the weak weaners are going to my dogs. seems the runts and little guys aren’t resistant. but their bigger and thriving siblings are.
anybody got a scoop on parasites? i have a huge annelid collected from my tamworth boar’s poop a year ago after using the wormwood. great to pull out the jelly jar when folks come by for a visit!
the best for all, mike
Check out ThePigSite.com which has a disease diagnostic tool – currently part way down the page in the right column. That may help figure out what is going on. You may also want to do a fecal – either yourself or through a local vet. These are possible to do yourself with a simple child’s microscope to check the eggs as well as skin scrapings.
Hi Walter. I am so encouraged by your blog. Do your pigs sleep outside during the milder months? I’ve raised two lots of fatteners (Old Spot x Berkshires for the first and British Lop for the second – wonderful), but was convinced I needed to give them commercial feed, topping everything up with apples from the orchard and free grazing amongst the trees. I was also convinced they needed an arc to sleep in. Am I pampering them too much? Would it be a good idea to have the arc mobile, perhaps? I’m in the south west UK and we can have pretty miserable summers here (raining 6 days out of 7 some weeks). Also, what do you do about water supplies in your various fenced off bits? I’m asking all of these questions because I’m of the There can be no stupid question school of thought, so apologies if some of these seem a bit basic.
During the warm months the pigs sleep out in the fields. That’s their preference. You’ll see them in groups of three to a dozen or so, seven being pretty typical – plus piglets of course. In mild weather they don’t need any shelters and ours distain them. But, realize we’re not in a place of intense sun. During the heat of the day in August our pigs are in the shade of the brush, so that is the equivelant of a shelter, just their preference. Provide an arc and then let them choose. With your loads of rain drainage would be key – so a slope is ideal. Here, virtually everything is sloped.
For winter we have open sheds but much of the time the pigs choose to sleep out in the open under the stars. They like plenty of hay, sleeping on a built up compost bed is great because it heats up. They don’t like wind and will seek out places in the lee of wind blocks. They like sun. They tend to sleep in larger groups in the winter.
Our water comes from springs out of the mountain which we run through a series of pipes to waterers and ponds. It runs continuously from one waterer to the next down the slope and then to the last pond, the pig pond where they bath in the hottest times. If you don’t have a good situation for something like that then look into the nipple waterers. They work well as long as you don’t have freezing weather.
We recently bought three piglets and plan to pasture them in a rotational system using electric netting. We have a small flock of dairy goats and Icelandic sheep and chickens. Our plan was to pasture the sheep, goats and chickens together and then the pigs seperately and keep rotating the pigs into the paddock lately vacated by the first three species. Do you pasture all of your animals together? And, if so, how do you keep the pigs from devouring the poultry, lambs and kids – a concern raised by the Amish gent whom we bought the pigs from. Also, how do you keep piglets from ranging right through your fencing and out into the wide world? We’ve tried to plop our porkers into the paddock defined by the electric netting twice now and they are just barely small enough to fit through the net with some wiggling. Once they are half way through they just keep going, shock or not, and then we have full scale piglet capturing posse launched. We live adjacent to a really wooded area and if they got free up in there it would be all over but the crying at that point. We do plan to get them in that paddock once they put on a little size in a couple weeks so they just will be incapable of slipping through the mesh. For now, we have them in the old barn in their own spacious stall.
We pasture all the larger animals together. During lambing time we separate the ewes as a newborn lamb is too tempting for the pigs to play with, bite and one thing leads to another. Similarly the chicks and ducklings need protection when young but very quickly they get to a stage where they can out run larger animals. The key is not to have them in a confined place. Pigs that grow up around other animals accept them as part of the scenery.
It is very important to train animals, including pigs, to electric fencing. It is a psychological barrier. You touch it and it will hurt! For pigs that haven’t had electric exposure start with a securely physically fenced area when they get home. Inside that fence there should be hot wires like you’ll use out in the field. After a couple of weeks let them into a small paddock that is fenced with many wires (say 4 or so) of tight hot wires. Outside the hot wires have a good visual indicator (boards, logs, brush, stone walls, etc). Next move on to larger pastures. Many of our fences are a single wire or two for paddock divisions. For our outside perimeter I like four wires or even more. Walk it regularly to keep it in repair and test the voltage daily to make sure it is hot. See the link above.
I appreciate the info provided here. I am working through a project for some pastors in Belize. We are trying to get them set up with pastured pigs.
Here, we have a problem with bats biting the tits of the sows, making them unable to produce milk. Thus, the pigs need to be enclosed at night. I am planning to have a square shaped pasture with a thatch roofed, screened shelter where the pigs will be locked at night. This will also provide a center source of water. I would then make the paddocks in pie shaped wedges rotating around this center shelter. I am thinking I would divide the square in half, and rotate the sows with their young pigs in paddocks on one half, while rotating the finishing pigs through paddocks on the other half.
Since we are in the subtropics, receiving 180+ inches of rain yearly, vegetation grows quickly. Would it seem reasonable that a one acre patch could sustain five sows and their offspring, or is that too small?
Thanks for the information!
Who is doing the tit biting? In confinement feeding operations they clip the teeth of piglets to prevent damage from tit biting but this is not necessary. Out on pasture the piglets quickly dull their teeth on dirt. Even in the winter we don’t have a problem with that. I am wondering if you perhaps have larger piglets that should be weaned doing the damage. How old are the tit biters?
The setup you describe is what I call a nine-square and it works very well. I also call this a wheel of life or tic-tac-toe board setup. This gives you scaleable managed intensive rotational grazing around a central home spot.
The high rain is not something we’ve dealt with. I have heard of people doing ten sows on an acre but I don’t know how much supplemental feed they were giving.
Great blog and amazing comments and responses! :)
I’m in the Canary Islands and am thinking of getting into breeding a rare local variety of pig for meat. I’m also wondering about density… While we have more land much of its is mountaneous and unfenced… I’d like to start with 1-2 acres and see how it goes, even if it means supplemental feeds. The climate’s nice enough that something will be growing year-round, but what worries me is the waste/environmental issues. Do you think that’s be doable at least for a few years (while I manage to get some other bits ready)?
Definitely doable and 1 to 2 acres is plenty of room for a few pigs. Properly managed rotational grazing could give you 20 pigs on that land in our climate. The “waste” is not waste but fertilizer – both the manure and the urine. In fact, after you slaughter the animal the parts you don’t use such as the manure from the gut, offal, bones after soup, meat scraps or skin pieces, etc can all be composted to produce rich soil. Manage it to improve the soils. Some plants are heavy phosphorous and nitrogen feeders and in turn they are excellent feed for the livestock. Utilize the cycle of life to your advantage and your environment will improve.
As to mountainous land, that’s what we have here too. It is harder to fence than the flat lands but very doable. We use trees and boulders for a lot of our fence posts since ledge is so close to the surface. Since we have a lot of stone we build stone walls, adding to what the people before us have done for hundreds of years. Rock picking. This makes a good visual barrier under a hot wire. Significant stone walls alone are often sufficient.
I have about 60 head of Berkshire -Hampshire crosses on pasture. My goal is to sell meat under my own label. I feed a grain mix and the prices our getting out of control and we are going nowhere fast. I would like to graze dairy cows and feed the milk to my hogs. The main question is how much milk do pigs on pasture require? Is there a general rule of thumb and what works best for you? I appreciate any information you can give me.
We free feed our dairy which is mostly whey, thus a lower fat content than milk. The diary is our way of sourcing additional protein which tends to be short on pasture/hay – specifically lysine. We are typically using about 1,000 gallons a day for 300 pigs who vary from piglets up to 1,000 lb breeding animals. Since we free feed I can’t give you exact numbers on minimums and maximums they’ll eat. It also changes with the season. Typically when the pastures go through spring flush the pigs slow down their consumption of dairy.
Dairy is also a good source of additional calories. When we were getting milk alone for a while, not whey, I think it was about a maximum of 3 gallons per hundred weight that they would drink in addition to pasture/hay. That does not mean they needed that much, just that they would drink that much. One person who buys piglets from us feeds their pigs whole Jersey cow milk. That is about 8% butter fat. The pigs end up very fat with about 4″ of back fat. That is too much. If we had such a high butter fat milk I would cut it back since I want about 0.75″ of back fat ideally.
Pigs can do very well on just pasture/hay plus dairy with some added minerals. In our case our soil alone has the right minerals but not all soils have it. Selenium is one concern. If you can also get other things then that is also great. Variety is the spice of life.
See: Feeding for more details on what we do and also see Pigs for more about their diet.
Hi, great site! I live in Queens right now so no pig raising here but Im moving this spring to South Jersey with my job in healthcare and I have access to a couple acres. As a first timer, planning on buying two young pigs to grow out and harvest myself in the fall.
My dream within the foreseable future is to start a farm in the tropics that involves a closed loop system of perrenial crops (sugarcane, bananas, etc…), pigs, biodigesters, fish ponds. Similar to this
My question is when it comes to the use of biodigestors, the pigs are usually kept in confinement for maximum collection of the manure which produces energy as methane gas and odor&pathogen free, improved fertilizer which is then used to fertilize the fish ponds as a complete fishfeed. Is there any reason this couldn’t be combined with a free-range system? as in paddocks arranged like spokes in a circular design around a central shelter. The animals would then be let out to range only every other day so that a large amount of manure could be easy collected every two days for the digester located adjacent to the central shelter. Each paddock eventually could be completely “tilled” and then planted to annuals and the pigs rotated to the next. As someone who has a lot of experience with pigs, what do you think?
Unfortunately I don’t see the grazing and digester as being compatible. The confinement aspect required to capture the manure is something that makes biodigesters outside the scope of what we do here since we do managed rotational grazing. I value the animals freely spreading their manure and urine out on the pastures where it naturally fertilizes the fields. This points out a fundamental conflict between needs. On the one hand producing energy from the manure, on the other hand producing fertilizer. By having the animals do all the work it saves me a lot of fuel, time and labor of having to manage the manure so I figure I get a bit of pseudo-fuel equivalency there. You could try it using some sort of balance between them, such as every other day, but I think you’re going to find that your just increasing your capital infra-structure costs while decreasing your benefits from each system. Sort of the worst of both worlds.
I posted previously about the pigs in Belize. For clarification, the tit biting is done by vampire bats, so I need to enclose the pigs at night in a screened area for protection.
Very interesting! Not a problem I would have thought about. Each climate and local has it’s own special issues.
Have you ever fed your pigs coal? They go bonkers for it! My Dad used to give his hogs small pieces as a “treat” every now and then. Not sure what they get out of it nutrient wise, but boy they sure love it.
Actually, yes, sort of. When you say coal I take it you mean charcoal from burning wood rather than fossil coal. When we have bonfires out in the fields the livestock love to eat the cooled charcoal, the blackened burnt wood pieces that are left over. I would guess that they are getting minerals from it.
No, I mean real coal as in the stuff that is mined….
Huh, no, we haven’t tried fossil coal. I wonder what they’re finding in it that they like. Probably minerals again. Since this is granite country rather than coal country I don’t think I have actually seen a real piece of coal in over 25 years.
Got to be something…This might shed some light on it:
Fascinating. Magnesium and iron are two of the things they identify as the pigs getting from the brown coal. Our soil is rich in these and in the winter I dig up soil to feed to our pigs, especially the younger ones since we’re up on snow pack for many months of the year, nearly a life time for a pig. So coal would be another option. Or charcoal. Now you’ll see me and the pigs sitting around the bonfires… :)
First off, thank you for your very informative website.
Secondly, I would like to know whether you think the following scenario would work well for a first-time pig owner:
We have a little over half an acre to devote to pork. We’d like to divide the area into three or four paddocks, and buy two shoats in early spring (not necessarily this year).
Rotationally graze them through the paddocks on some very lush pasture that is overgrown with grasses, clover, and weeds and has a mature chestnut tree as well as a few mature apple trees (our land hasn’t been farmed or used in at least 20 years), supplement them with whatever spoiled dairy we can get from local markets and dairy farmers, and feed them all our garden scraps, leftover bread, and extra eggs. Do you think this would be enough to fatten them up to be butchered in late fall? I’m open to the idea of planting root vegetables, such as jerusalem artichokes and beets, in the area if you think additional fodder would be necessary.
We are absolutely new to this and want to start small with just a couple hogs to fill our freezer and share any excess with family and friends. If successful, we might expand to a breeding pair and devote additional pasture and root crops to them if need be.
Thanks in advance for your wisdom!
Starting with summer pigs is the way to go. That should work well. Right now, seed with more clover and if appropriate for your climate then with rape and kale. The sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are also excellent as are beets and turnips. They tend to graze the tops in the warm months and the tubers in the colder times. If you have some dairy and eggs that’s really good for more protein, lysine and calories. It’s all good food.
Protect the apple and chestnut with a fence around them. Divide the space into at least four paddocks. More is better. You want to move the animals quickly.
Do this for several years before you try breeding. That’s a whole other experience.
Great, thank you so much! Good to know I’m on the right track.
Walter, I really like your site and had a question for you about rotating pastured pigs. I have some property in north Florida that I am thinking about using for rotationally grazing pigs. Right now I am grazing cattle on the property. I have about 7 acres that I would like to set aside for this. My plan would be to create seven 1 acre paddocks. I would use 6 of these to rotate the pigs maybe keeping them on each paddock for a week and then use the other acre to grow grain, etc. to feed them with. I figure that each paddock would rest for at least 30 days before putting pigs back on it. I would also plan on rotating this acre of grain each year. This would be more of a hobby probably than anything else. Maybe raise 2-3 sows plus litters for home use and to sell. My question is that in reading more information on this, I have read about keeping pigs off the same piece of ground for up to 5 years due to worm issues, etc. Does my plan sound feasible or do you think I need to set aside more acreage to accomodate for more pasture rotation. I really appreciate any insight in advance.
Your plan sounds good. Up to ten pigs an acre is good. Rotate out based on forage eating. Rotate in after 30 days or more. Have the pigs follow after the cows. Follow the pigs with chickens. I would just free range the chickens – they’ll naturally follow the cattle and pigs, enjoying the flies and patties.
In your warmer climate parasite issues are a little different than they are for us here in the north where the winters kill the weak. Parasite life cycles are broken by snow. You may well need to worm them with Ivermec or Fenbenzadole. The rotational grazing will help a lot to break the parasite life cycle. Feeding garlic helps too. I think that feeding dairy helps too by changing gut pH. The 5 years isn’t necessary in our climate because of winter and rotational grazing. I suspect it isn’t necessary even in Florida if you do as above.
Experiment. Observe. Report back.
i came across this site on pig tractors: (http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2006/RaisingOrganicHogsbytheTractorMethod/tabid/212/Default.aspx). based on your experience, do you think this is an efficient method for pasturing pigs? what would be the pros and cons? thanks again.
I have a low opinion of those “pig tractors”. They are Confinement Animal Feeding Operations and highly misguided. It is far better to do real managed rotational grazing on much larger paddocks than to confine the pigs into such tiny spaces. I advise not to do that.
I saw you mentioned doing a book on your kick starter thing. I would be interested when it comes out. I assume you will have it for sale here. I have found your down to earth writing and info very very valuable.
I really appreciate your insight in the article. I understand the inherent difficulty of trying to apply your specific experience to other people’s situations, but, nonetheless, I would like to seek your advice as to accomplishing significant soil turn over and plant removal in this particular instance. I am purchasing a large plot of land but for the time being I am interested in converting a six acre portion of the land into pasture and would like to use pigs to root and clear the land. The land is mostly brush with sandy soil, trees, bushes, and briar and contains a small densly grown in stream located in the midlands in SC. If I were to fence off an acre of the intended land at a time, what would be your best guess at how many weaners would be needed to really root the land to a level of tilled soil so that I can seed it with grass, and with that minimal number, how long would it reasonably take? How much feed would be required per pig per pound to keep the animals healthy, but not take away the drive to root?
Thank you for your help. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
This deserves a post. Watch for an upcoming one… I’ve actually been gathering together the photos to answer your question and will be ready soon.
In your post you write: “Our pasture is about half brush and regen (young sapling poplar trees) with grasses beneath and over seeded with clovers. ” I’d like to convert a patch of woods, full of briers and saplings to pasture. Can I simply broadcast grass/clover seed on the paddock after the pigs have been moved? Any particular clover better than another? My farm is in a cold climate (northern Adirondacks). I’m sorry if this is a dumb question – I’m new at this. Thanks!
Yes. The best times to seed are with mob grazing, just before a hard rain (as we just did) and just before frosts. See Frost Seeding. We seed a variety of clovers, alfalfas, grasses, kale, rape and other things. Your climate is much like ours. The cole crops do well in the mix. If you get bare spots, just broad cast seed as above. In time the pastures get more and more ground forages and less brush and trees.
I noticed you recommend a lower stocking density than I have seen in other articles on pigs. Why?
I suspect that the recommendations for higher stocking rates are based on feeding large amounts of commercial hog feed or other grain. My recommendations are based on the actual feeding in our pastures with just free fed dairy to supplement the amino-acid levels for lysine. Adding vegetables, fruit, nuts, grain or other supplements would make it possible to do higher stocking densities. I would recommend faster rotations.
You’ve answered a lot of questions about rotation but not one that was what we were interested in doing, so I apologize for asking you another rotation question.
My husband and I are interested in purchasing pasture to accommodate 1 dairy cow, 1 cow to harvest each year, chickens for harvest and eggs, 2 pigs to harvest each year, and some sheep for wool. We want to rotate the animals on the pasture so that after the final animal is on the pasture we can use it the following year to garden, then the following year to bring it back to pasture and then start the animals on rotation again the year after.
Is this a feasible plan and if so in what order should we rotate the animals?
I don’t have experience, yet, with rotating cows with the pigs. I have heard that the pigs may nurse on a lactating cow out in the field. This could be a bug or a feature. We rotate our pigs, sheep and poultry together. We manage the rotation of the larger animals and then the poultry naturally follow them. We used to manage the rotation of the poultry with fencing but that was too much work and unnecessary to boot. They naturally follow the larger grazing herbivores like the pigs and sheep. If I had to separate the cattle I would rotate them ahead of the pigs. If I had to separate the pigs from the sheep I would rotate the sheep ahead. We do separate the ewes from the pigs during lambing for about a week. Once the lambs are on their feet and active they’re fine with the mixed herds.
Thanks for all your detailed useful how to type posts. Our family has recently bought land and we want to produce more of our own food and the food for our own animals. Your sight has been invaluable for this journey. You should write a book. I love the site but it would be great to bring it all together in one cohesive volume. I would buy.
In the works… Probably due out in late 2013 or 2014.
Hi. Great website! My question is about how you manage the pigs in the winter. Do you leave them to feed on pasture when there is snow? If so, does that change the duration of time you leave them in each pasture? I thought pigs would have to be brought indoors and fed on hay? Thank you for your time and the informative website.
In the winter the livestock come in towards the center of our farm to winter paddocks which are summer gardens. We have a variety of open sheds they use in the worst weather but for the most part the larger livestock seem to prefer sleeping on hay out under the stars. The biggest need in winter is a wind block and dry bedding. In the lee of a wind block, in a court yard, in an open shed it can be very pleasant while the winds howl further up. The other thing we do is replace the forages of warm weather pastures with baled hay which is a mix of grasses and legumes.
If I have only a small amount of pigs…say one to four…is there any reason why I cant let them just graze two acres? Do paddocks have to be used?
Managed rotational grazing through paddocks makes sense no matter how many animals you have. It is about protecting the plants and soil as well as naturally managing parasite loads. See these articles about rotational grazing.
Yes, that and eventually you will see an increase of unpalatable plants rather than palatable plants if you just set them out to graze on a large area instead of the rotational paddock system.
And thanks a bunch Walter for doing this blog. I’m learning a lot from just reading this one post and it’s comments already. In the next couple years I hope to get about 20 acres in the central (Ca) valley on the foothills to raise some livestock and do an aquaponic farm. I’m still deciding on how big the pigs will be a part of the whole deal. I look forward to curing many hams and Italian deli meats in the future.
That’s where occasional mob grazing is very useful. The unpalatable plants tend to not hold up well to mob grazing whereas grasses, legumes and such thrive on it. People with flatter land go in and machine mow their paddocks time to time for this same reason but with our steep, rocky, stumpy land the mob grazing achieves the same benefit.
I’ve always wanted to try aquaponic farming. Have fun with that. I can see a number of ways that it can be integrated with the land agriculture.
Newbie here, I just got my kunekune/guinea crosses 4 days ago, and will be using electric pig fencing to rotational graze them. I’m a single gal so I choose a smaller (200lb) breed :-)
My question is about size/feeding/weight – I see wild pigs are more compact, while farm raised for meat pigs are very obese looking….. Can I keep my breeders more lean and still have healthy active breeding pigs? And what would you recommend to achieve a less ‘fat’ pig?
Wonderful blog, thank you for allowing us to follow along. Your very inspiring.
200 to 250 lbs or so is about finisher size for most types of pigs. From what I’ve read Kune Kune get up to about 400 to 500 lbs at adult size after two to three years. I have no personal experience with them thought.
As to farm pigs looking fat, that really depends on how you feed them and how much exercise they get. Pigs of any sort fed on the high calorie commercial corn diet end up with a lot of extra fat (2″ to 4″), most of which gets trimmed off and thrown away at butcher. Keeping them in a pen where they don’t get much exercise – standard at CAFO’s – means even more fat unless the diet is very carefully controlled. Our pastured pigs are farm pigs and even the breeders who are up to eight years old have only about 0.75″ of back fat since their diet is low calorie. Just like with people it is really a diet vs exercise thing.
Kune Kune are what is referred to as a lard type pig so do be careful not to let them go too heavy on the calories.
Hi there! Just curious, I am in the Pacific Northwest and the soil for the property we are looking at passed with flying colors. We are looking into getting a variety of farm livestock and poultry and grazing our animals together and rotating them possibly between two separate pastures. That includes our possible future pigs. We were told originally not to because they will trample more ground, and will bother the other animals, but when we told them we were looking into miniature cows, they said it shouldn’t be a problem (something about the udders?)
Anyway, is it possible to put other animals with pigs? We heard some people saying that it depends on the breed since their pigs don’t bother their cows. Any recommendations?
Also, if only raised as forager/grazer with no supplemental feed, how many acres would one pig need for a month?
Is it realistic to put all of these animals together on a large enough parcel of land for one month then transfer them to another pasture for a month, so the first can rest, then go back? Or should I prepare for more than two pastures that they will be moved around?
We don’t have cows so I can not comment from experience on cows with pigs. We have kept sheep grazing the same pastures as our pigs for years and that worked fine. They are excellent co-grazers. We also keep chickens, ducks and geese with our pigs. I have read of concerns of the pigs learning to milk the cows and damaging the cows’s teats. The pigs did not do that with our sheep though.
With very good quality pastures containing plenty of legumes, soft grasses, kale, rape, beets, pumpkins, etc I would expect to be able to keep at least five pigs per acre and then rotate them strongly through small paddocks using managed rotational grazing. The pumpkin paddocks and such to be saved for fall strip grazing as the regular pastures wane by which time the larger tubers and pumpkins are ready.
Alternatively, if the co-grazing does not work out you can do serial grazing where you put the cows through first, then sheep or goats, then pigs, then chickens. Lengthen the grazing off cycle a bit.
What type of pigs do you have?
For a beginner with pigs, what do you suggest starting out with? There would be 3 or so grazing acres. We would also probably be grazing cows and or goats besides chickens on the same pasture.
Would you start out with some piglets in the spring and bucher in the fall? Or is it economical to keep a sow and boar over winter?
When you mention rotational grazing, how often do you move them, and how much pasture do you give them at a time?
Thanks SO much!
Ours are Yorkshire, Large Black, Berkshire and Tamworth. See the Pig Page and the Breeders Page for more details on their breeding. You may also want to read the Keeping A Pig For Meat article. My suggestion is to start with spring piglets. Reserve early, even the previous fall, as breeders tend to sell out early in the spring since that is when most people want them. See the Piglet Page for more information.
Keeping a sow is a lot more complicated and expensive. I certainly don’t recommend it the first time around. Get your feet on the ground and infrastructure in place by raising summer pigs for a few years before you try a breeder sow. Keeping a boar is even more expensive and only really economically justified if you have a minimum of three fully on pasture or six sows if you’re feeding grain.
Managed rotational grazing is not so much based on the calendar but rather a combination of forages, parasite life cycles and adjusted seasonally. As a general rule of thumb, move out after a week or so and don’t move in until at least 21 days, preferably over 30 days in order to break parasite life cycles, give the soil time to rest and the forages time to grow. But really base it on watching the pasture, how tall the forages are, etc.
How large the pasture paddocks needs to be depends on the size of the pigs and herd count – for example we have some paddocks that are only a thousand square feet or so for use by weaner pigs for a week. Shoats would graduate to paddocks twice that size, for example. By the time they’re market size pigs there might be a hundred 250 pound finishers on a few acres which is around 100,000 square-feet or about 100 times more area than the weaners had. (See the FAQ for terminology.)
This is the single best article I’ve read concerning pigs and land. Thanks so much!
Can you give a recommendation for electric fencing? I’m thinking of using the tape. Not sure how much zap I need for pigs.
We use electric fencing extensively in our fields. See these posts about fencing. It is important to have a strong energizer and good grounding. I would recommend a minimum of 2.5 joules but more is generally better. I have not found the tape to be favorable as it tends to short out to itself. The polywire is better.
Thanks so much for going in depth on all these subjects! If you were to substitute raw jersey milk for the whey in your system. What rough estimate for amount needed per day per pig would you give?
I don’t feed Jersey milk, which is very high in fat, so I can’t comment from direct experience. People who have bought our piglets and feed Jersey milk told me that in eight months their gilts put on 4″ of back fat. That’s rather too much – I aim for 3/4″ to 1″ of back fat including skin thickness at slaughter. They didn’t say how much Jersey milk they were feeding per day or what else.
We feed about 3.6 gallons per hundred weight per day of dairy. Thus a 200 lb pig drinks about 7.2 gallons a day. What we are feeding is mostly whey which has most of the fat removed.
Thus I would think you would want to greatly water down the whole milk to avoid ‘over conditioning’ which is to say too fat pigs. To hazard a guess I would suggest trying 0.5 to 1 gallon of Jersey milk per hundred weight per day. Watch the condition of the animals. If they are putting on too much back fat, getting too jowly then reduce the fat levels. In winter I would boost the fat levels for the extra energy.
Note that corn is fed commercially for the energy content, the calories, so if you’re feeding whole milk you can skip the corn.
Keep good notes on what you do. I would be interested in hearing back on your results.
hi sorry to bother you guys, I have 80 acres of cropland that is planted to corn for my cattle to graze in the winter and then I rotate the corn to my other field and leave the grazed one to fallow, I was wondering how many pigs It would take to keep that 80 acres ’tilled’ and black all summer. I figured the pigs would eat the leftover corn and cultivate it all for me. so how many pigs would it take do you think?
If it were our land I would figure on about 10 pigs/acre x 80 acres as our sustainable rate of managed rotational grazing but that is based on our pastures and year round. I’ve never had corn fields like yours to compare so I don’t know how much food they would have from the land – a lot less than from pasture I suspect. if you figure this out I would be very curious to know what numbers you come up with that work.
Is it possible to raise pigs on a heavily wooded (cedar, fir, red alder) Pacific NW acreage?
There is quite a lot of undergrowth, but very little cleared land.
Yes but there is generally less food value in forest unless you are fortunate to have oak, beech, etc.
Thanks for this post. I’ve found it really interesting reading how much area one should have to raise pigs predominantly on pasture. Of course it depends on the growing conditions and the food available to the animals.
It’s great to get some ideas off you – and the comparisons to human working conditions is really revealing. Thanks again and I’ll keep reading your stuff!
I love reading your bog since I’m thinking of raising two weaner pigs for meat next year.I have a pen that is 40 by 75 is that big enough for two pigs for six months or would they have to be moved to another pen in that time. I would take them on walks every day since I don’t work. Thanks .
I would consider that to be too tight. I would suggest a quarter acre which is about 100’x100′ divided into ten paddocks so you could do managed rotational grazing as described in this article. Even a small space can be managed for rotational grazing which will improve the land and provide more food for the animals while breaking parasite life cycles. Taking them on walks will help with the small space, and is a great idea, but won’t replace the rotational grazing. Many small paddocks moved more frequently are better than few larger paddocks for their space.
Thank you for sharing this great information, it helps me to add to my reference for my assignment.
-Faculty of Animal Husbandry – Sam Ratulangi Univ. Manado, Indonesia
Hello, I have been raising American Guinea Hogs for about 18 months now and currently have a gilt about the same age. We also have a Kune Kune/potbelly boar about the same age, he is unproven as a sire so far as he has yet to figure out a mating ritual. We have also added two AGH boars that are currently about 6 months old. My question and concern is I have read that if a gilt is not bred before a certain window she may stop being fertile. Another problem is I question if the stubby legged Kune can physically mate with her as we harvested her sister weighing in at 210 pounds hanging weight. Do you think that the young boars will be better fits and if so, is there a recommended window in which breeding is more likely. Sorry for so much info just want to give a clear picture. Thanks for your wonderful blog! Matt
Correct, it’s a use it or lose situation. Females lose fertility if they don’t breed. The female reproductive system is complex and can fail at many points. If she and the boar have been together for 18 months and there is no pregnancy I would assume she is infertile. It could be him but the male reproductive system is far simpler so it makes me doubt he is the problem. It could be the combination of the two of them – size incompatibility – however I’ve seen small boars mate large sows.
With our Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth, Mainline, Blackieline and Redline (non-Tam) crosses we see the gilts typically come into fertility at about eight months and take then – that is to say get pregnant at eight months and farrow (deliver a litter) at about one year. Occasionally we’ll have a Lolita take as early as six months. There is extensive sex play before that. If a gilt does not delivery or is at least visibly pregnant by fourteen months or so then I cull her as infertile. About 95% of our gilts are fertile – infertility is not common. In the industry I’ve read that about 25% are infertile however that could be because I have a tighter selection criteria (only about 5% of our gilts get tested as breeders) and I’m more patient (waiting longer). These differences could easily explain the difference in fertility rates.
Short answer: if they haven’t bred by 18 months I’m incline to think one of them is a dud.
We live next door to an 50 acre open range pig operation in Fl, and it smells like a landfill! I do see them open ranging, but there is a worn penned area closer to our property where I think the odor accumulates. I wouldn’t imagine it’s a good condition for the pigs either when it smells that foul?
And there in lies the difference between a confinement feedlot type operation and pasture. If they were using managed rotational grazing this would not be an issue. You might direct them to this page for some tips on how to pasture which will eliminate the smell problem.
I have a 7 acre old hay field that I want to put pigs on. We’ll have approximately 50 weaners ready to go out in early spring. We have whey and I know the forage isn’t great, so we will have supplemental feed. (We want to wean them off grain over time) We want to improve the pasture so we’re thinking about letting them root up the field so we can then plant more legumes,kale, rape etc. We have more land to move them to if we need to let this field rest. I guess the question is what would you do? How many paddocks? Size? Stocking rate (I know it’s hard to say). Any other suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks Walter,
I would setup a strong perimeter fence and subdivide the field into many paddocks. You don’t have to do all the paddocks at once but can do the divisions over time as you have the resources (time and money). I would suggest aiming for ten to twenty paddocks. You may want to have one or more central feeding stations for water, whey, supplemental feed and wallow. Topologically this could look like a double wheel where the inner rotation is slower for the feeding station zone and the outer area is faster for the grazing zone. Depending on your land layout you may want to use lanes to gain access to paddocks or if you have flat land then it might actually look like wagon wheel. For some notes on stocking density see One Day of Rotational Grazing.