Pastured Pigs, Green Grass, Blue Sky

Pastured Pigs, Green Grass, Blue Sky

Just a photo from a walk in the field…

We’ve been having some lovely early fall weather. The photo above of sows from the upper paddock of the south field shows some of the variety within our herds: Yorkshire, Berkshire, Tamworth, Large Black, Mainline, Blackieline, Redline and crosses.

These sows had been raising litters in the south field. Most of them have now crossed over to the north field to breed with Spitz, our Berkshire boar. They’ll be farrowing piglets in early winter for next summer’s pigs.

You may note there are a few chickens in the photo. They follow the herds of grazers through the rotational grazing of paddocks. We don’t try to fence the chickens in because they naturally follow the larger animals just like birds do in nature. The grazers kick up insects and other interesting things which the chickens eat. They are our natural pest control as well as breaking up manure patties and scratching the soil. Done this way the chickens can get all their feed from the pastures so we don’t have to buy any commercial chicken food for them just as we don’t buy commercial corn/soy based hog feed for the pigs. As a wonderful side benefit the hens produce tens of thousands of eggs which we cook to double the available protein and feed towards the younger pigs which maximizes the nutritional leverage. That is to say, an egg for a piglet is much more meaningful than an egg for a 600 lb sow.

Outdoors: 74°F/44°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/60°F

Daily Spark: I can’t decided if I’m an Agnostic.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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14 Responses to Pastured Pigs, Green Grass, Blue Sky

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Walter, do you provide shelter for your pasture-roaming, pig-following chickens? Do they just use trees to roost in and depend on your LLGDs for predator protection? And do you make any nesting provision to make gathering all those eggs easier? You’ve mentioned chicken centers and their effectiveness radius before when talking about tick suppression.

    Had a smidgen of rain a few days ago, well under an inch, but after six dry months, very welcome. Temps have finally dropped to high seventies. Blessed relief. Love seeing your fall color photos. Anticipating some of that here in another month or so, but nothing like the extravaganza you enjoy.

    • There are shelters the chickens can use, both those intended for them and the open sheds and open greenhouses. Many of them roost at night on fence lines, in trees and on pigs. There are nesting boxes which they use but some hens pick their own nest and we learn where. Sometimes we let them hatch those eggs if they’re in a good location. The dogs are their protection as the dogs eat any predators they can find as a regular part of their diet.

  2. Bill Harshaw says:

    You got the delivery of hay for the pigs for winter the other day–what do the chickens eat in winter?

    We’d use artificial light to keep our chickens laying during the winter–how much does your egg production drop during that time?

    • We find that lights help immensely with egg laying. In the winter our chickens do eat some hay but mostly they eat pigs. That is to say meat trimmings, fat, kidney, liver, etc from our weekly butchering. Odd bits that don’t sell go to our working dogs and the chickens to replace the insects they catch in the warmer months. They also continue catching mice through the winter. Woe is the mouse who wanders into the sight of the flock.

  3. Vaughn Peters says:

    Hi Walter,Thanks for the courage and knowledge to raise
    pigs on rotational pasture ! I raised 4 local (coastal Maine)
    old spot pigs on poor quality pasture with waste milk and
    8 – 50 lb. bags of grain per 250 lb pig. I supplemented the
    poor pasture with garden waste/surplus and apples. Not
    terribly impressive, but comparable in price to local commercial
    pink pig prices (except my pigs contain the daily recommended
    allowance of happiness)
    My question to you, Walter ,is this,
    One of the females is bigger than the others, has 16 nipples,
    likes to eat grass (even when there is grain,milk etc. in the trough)
    is very good natured ( I can put my fingers in her mouth) and now,
    2 days before slaughter, appears to be in heat .
    I would like to keep a sow in my barn and raise my own
    piglets eventually , but I am not exactly ready to take that big step.
    Am I eating an exceptional mom, or is a pig with these qualities
    I’m fast on my feet and learn quickly , so I could accommodate
    a sow now if she warrants it . What do you think ? I have felt this
    pig is exceptional all along but I’m not a pro, your input would be
    welcome !

    • She sounds good. How is her conformation? Her body shape? Watch how she lays down – does she do it smoothly or flop hard? Smooth is good. Is she attentive without being easily startled? I would be incline to give her a try if she were mine.

  4. Vaughn Peters says:

    thanks for the response ,
    I,m not qualified to judge her conformation, she looks
    like a pig ( she is a little longer and bigger than her siblings)
    She does lay down nice, I forgot to include that
    in the first post. Will I regret eating this pig , how likely
    are these traits to show up again?
    As a sign from the gods, I fed the pigs in the transport
    trailer today, and closed them all in (4 pigs) it was a little
    crowded in there with the trough , so I eased open the tailgate
    to slip out the trough and the female in question protested
    the confinement and jumped out! ( She later apologized)
    So I left the trailer open,there is always tomorrow .
    Giving up a pig for slaughter is half my booty ,this
    is a big decision for me. I’m considering getting 6 piglets
    from the same breeder (and sow) next year , would I
    be likely to see these traits again? The breeder offers
    breeder piglets for $ 100 extra but how can you see
    these traits in a piglet? Sorry for all the Questions but
    I’m just trying to asses the rarity of this pig .

    thanks for your help,

    • It would cost some feed perhaps but the meat stays fresh on the hoof and you can always eat her later. Hard to say if the traits will coincide again to you or not. Teats you can count as a piglet but the fast growth, laying and other things take time to see.

  5. Vaughn Peters says:

    Thanks for your input,Walter .
    I ultimately opted to eat the pig.
    My barn has no power or water yet
    and I’m just not ready (too many irons
    on the fire) . I want my farming efforts
    to be enjoyable, not a chore.
    The pigs were a joy to have, so
    cooperative , I miss them already.
    I’ll definitely have more next year,
    but for now i’ll enjoy making sausage,
    soppressata ,and capicola! When the
    time comes to get a sow , I’ll do what it
    takes to find a good candidate .
    That promising pig will just remain
    infamous as the one I let slip by ,having
    never put her to the test!

  6. Farmerbob1 says:

    I just realized something, Walter.

    Your chickens do so much on your farm already, but with so many of them, I wonder…

    Have you discovered that they also perform decoy duty? I imagine that most predators that might go after a piglet would grab a chicken instead, if the opportunity presented itself.

    Your dogs are good, but I imagine that every now and then you find a pile of feathers in the woods near the farm.

  7. Lauren says:

    I’ve been deep diving into your blogs and find them inspiring and informative. I’ve been at my first apprenticeship at a successful regenerative farm for about 1.5 years and I hope to start raising my own pigs and broiler/layer chickens in a couple years. While the farm I work at now is very good at what they do, I’m very interested in the wide range of differences in your values/practices like no grains at all, as well as your natural methods of worming, medical attention and letting hens brood naturally.

    my question related to this post is that I heard that on our farm we used to keep the pigs on a deep bedding system in a hoop house for winter housing, and the chickens were kept with the pigs, roosting on tall slatted wood platforms above the pigs. Apparently it worked fine enough for a while until chickens started getting eaten by the pigs themselves every now and again. not sure what the general age of the pigs were that were kept with chickens but i assume 200-300 lbs. It sounds like you’ve never had this problem with your chickens and pigs out on the pasture, do you think that the small enclosed space was the biggest factor? or something in nutritional requirements that encouraged the hunting? (we feed grain mostly, then weed/veg scraps, then hay, occasional chickens)

    Also, do you think it necessary to wait a couple days for the chickens to follow in the pig paddock for pest control via poop scratching? we have chickens behind our cattle but there is always a 4ish day lagtime for maggots to be present. I don’t think the farm or myself considered the chickens following the pigs.

    thanks for having such an involved forum. I hope to take advantage of this as this is my first (of many?) questions. :D

    • Pens with corners may be allowing the pigs to trap chickens. A simple solution is to make chicken sized exits in the corners, or go with rounded corners or round pens.

      Once the pigs have figured out they can catch chickens you need to train them back so they don’t do that anymore. This is where my electric chicken comes in. It is highly effective at training predators to leave my livestock alone and it works on pigs too.

      The other thing is make sure your pigs are getting sufficient feed. Hungry pigs are more prone to hunt. Satiated pigs are lazy.

      No need to wait on the rotation. Doesn’t hurt either.

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