North Home Field Sow and Piglets

Nine Piglets in North Home Field

A Piglet-Fix for those in need. These little piglets are hitting that maximum cuteness stage designed to pull the heart strings of mammals everywhere. It’s a good evolutionary strategy.

Following Their Sow

Here they were a few days ago and much smaller. Sow’s milk is very rich at 6% fat and full of protein. It is the ideal food for rapidly growing baby pigs out on pasture.

Sow on Move-in Day

This sow had farrowed further south on the strawberry level. Will moved her north to the sorting pen for privacy and then we moved her into the north home field about a week later once the piglets were highly mobile.

Piglets in Swale

Even at just seven days old they immediately began eating soft grasses, clovers and other forages with their mother. We do managed rotational grazing with our pigs just like with sheep, goats, cattle and such. This simulates natural migratory patterns of land use, breaks parasite life cycles and prevents soil compaction while improving soil quality and forages. The little piglets digestive tracts won’t be up to par for digesting pasture as their full diet for another two weeks but they’re already getting some nutrition and learning what to eat at the snout of their sow.

They’re also enjoying exploring the swale will dug out with the tractor backhoe. This makes it so the water flows south along that terrace in the north home field, over to the sow’s small wallow and then through the stone culvert under the northern troll’s bridge.

Not Their Sow

This sow is not their mom but rather one of the ladies who lives in the north field with our big Berkshire boar Spitz and his sub-boar Sox. Spitz is perhaps 1,200 lbs and Sox is about 300 lbs. It is a no-contest situation. If Spitz says jump Sox does not even wait to ask how high. Fortunately Spitz is pretty gentle. His son Spitzon who now has the south low field as his domain is much closer to Spitz’s size and Spitzon is now big enough that he considers himself to be a heavy weight contender. He’s right. Thus they have separate boar territories and the ladies move around between them for control of breeding.

The fencing equipment is a spinning jenny for unspooling high tensile wire. Will is working on putting up the fence line along the west side of the north home field road. This creates a truck wide path out to the north field.

Wallow at Troll Bridge

By the troll bridge is a small wallow for the north home field pigs. The troll is still quite small so he doesn’t bother pigs. The sow is walking north along the road that Will built in June that connects our driveway with the north field. There is a temporary fence that keeps her on the road and out of the work area where new fencing is going in now.

Woodhenge in Vermont
Click for Big Picture

The reddish orange thing is the rake for the tractor.

The double row of posts are the start of the east side of the foundation for the new north greenhouse we’ll be putting in this fall for Spitz and his ladies.

See if you can spot the piglets in the pan above. Click the picture to get a much larger version. Hint

Near the swale

Can you find the 4′ level?

Did you spot the shovel?

Is that the same sow?

How about the big slab of granite Will hasn’t used yet?

Can you find Will in the photo? He’s almost out of it.

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

Outdoors: 80°F/60°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/64°F

Daily Spark: Buy from local pasture based farms. Vote with your wallet. It is a great power you have.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to North Home Field Sow and Piglets

  1. eggyknap says:

    Do you have any idea if milk from your sows differs substantially from that of “factory farm”? I’d imagine it does, but couldn’t guess in what way, exactly.

    Also, what sort of posts do you use for fencing? Out in our corner of the desert west, we use juniper, which lasts forever even if untreated, and is easily available.

  2. Farmerbob1 says:


    Whenever I come across one of your ‘find things in the picture’ post, I want to call you Waldo.


  3. Farmerbob1 says:


    Seeing this fence that Will is putting so much work into, I figure he might appreciate an extra shovel.

    I have provided a video link to show you a work sample of someone else working on a fence line, who would be a big help, and would probably work for peanuts if she was willing to come out of retirement.

    Watch that amazing shovel technique!

    • Very cool. Interestingly, our pigs will investigate things but once they’ve determined they’re not food they’re not interested. Had this happen yesterday when Spitz stuck his nose in a bucket of tools. He knocked it over, rooted at it for a moment and then was uninterested. Sex, Food, Territory/Herd. Those are the things that matter to a pig and in that order. They do mouth things to explore them.

      I know that in confinement operations they give bowling balls and such to the pigs to give them something to engage in but out on pasture these sorts of things seem to hold less interest, perhaps because the natural world is filled with so many things that are more interesting to a pig.

      Our dogs on the other hand will pickup tools and bring them to us, carry them from one of us to another and go find things. I’ve seen them sometimes try to use them and they clearly know the names of different things. A lot of this I think comes from paying attention to what we’re doing and hanging around us as well as having a shared simple language. What they lack is thumbs. They can grip with their jaws and have simple opposition with their paws by holding them together – imagine wearing mittens with no thumbs. They can rotate their wrists and use their claws to grab stuff and such. But they lack hands. The elephant trunk is a big step up for manipulating things.

  4. Morgan says:

    Hi Walter, I am really impressed with your work and thankful for your teachings What is the sub boar all about? Does Spitz also get a sub boar? Thanks

    • A boar territory has a main boar who is the largest. The main boar typically has an understudy, a smaller, younger upcoming boar who may only weigh in at 200 to 500 lbs. A sub-boar would never challenge the main boar because the bigger boar is two to ten times the sub-boar’s size typically. You just don’t challenge the mountain. Think of it as being from your point of view, would you try and fight a pickup truck? The reason for the sub-boar is he acts as a backup to make sure sows all get mated and he’s learning the ropes. At some point the main boar goes to meat and the sub-boar becomes the main boar, if he’s performed. Because the sub-boar and main boar are different I can tell who’s the sire of each piglet even if they both are fathers on a single litter. It makes managing the boars a little more complicated for tracking but works for us.

      Spitz’s sub-boar is named Sox. He’s about 300 lbs or so. Spitz is about four times his size so they get along fine.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        I am now imagining shenanigans when the sows go into heat, with Spitz and Sox acting out scenes from the Benny Hill Show with Yakkity Sax playing in the background.

        Spitz decides to take a nap, or wander down to the whey trough, and the music starts.

  5. Jake says:

    On this fence set up, I see the woven wire looks like what, maybe 24″? I like the idea, but you don’t have any issues with bigger pigs being rough on that woven wire or is there an electric strand I don’t see there? I was thinking (if you could find it) like a 12″ fence across the bottom to stop piglets then electric from there up would be feasible, you could attach that woven wire at the bottom to the ground even….right? Doubt they make a 12″ though…..which is probably why you used 24″….sorry, having a conversation with myself here…

    • The bigger pigs hit the hot wires and learn to leave the fence line alone. When needed we put a low standoff wire. This setup is something we’ve been experimenting with for about two years to solve a number of problems on our sloped land. I’ll write more about the details in the future. The reason for ~2′ instead of 1′ is soil builds up along the uphill edge reducing the height by raising the land there. We live on slopes. I fence with the contours so that terraces develop over time. Sometimes I prebuild the terraces and other times I just let the action of frost, rain, wind and hooves create the terraces. As to finding a source – we cut fence rolls. We have big saws for other work and they chop a fence roll in half. The 24″ fence started life as a 48″ fence. You can do this with an angle grinder or skilsaw too.

      • Jake says:

        Ah, I see! Makes sense. We farm on the side of a mountain as well and have similar issues. I’ve also toyed with the idea of using the pigs to build or at least reinforce existing terraces, glad someone else has had success with it! Thanks!

      • Jake says:

        I apologize for blowing up your comments the last 24 hours but I’m bound and determined to reach that “top commenter” status by end of the week. A kind of random question: we’ve only recently bought our little side of a mountain, 43 acres. It was clear cut about 12 years ago, so now it’s so thick you can’t move through it. My plan is to slowly turn it to silvopasture as we move goats and pigs through it thinning it out by animals, plus some human help when I have a use for the trees to be removed (playing around with the idea of mushrooms.) Our property is a big rectangle for the most part that gains about 200 feet of elevation in 1400 feet or so, so not terribly sloped (at least not for our area) but steep enough that there are considerations. There are existing drainage ditches, I don’t know if they are from prior erosion, mother nature, what, but they are considerable. Theres several that run front to back, most of them around 6-8′ wide and ranging from a foot or so deep to 4 or 5′ deep. My plans were to fence livestock out of these areas and keep them “green” for multiple reasons, one is to provide little “sanctuaries” across the property and the other is to make sure and encourage native growth and such in those areas. That being said for the sake of livestock movement, I need allies. If I put up permanent fencing making larger pastures to later be broken up with temporary fencing into smaller paddocks and fence around these ditches, I end up with pre-made allies. Question is, do you think it’s a bad idea to use those as allies? Livestock movement on them would not be considerable and would not be for long but would happen. Just trying to think this out and figured you may have previously thought through these kinds of things! My main concern is causing erosion issues but there isn’t a lot of growth in the bottom of them now, pigs rooting as they move along actually seem to slow down erosion on bare ground, and they won’t be spending a lot of time there….also they don’t seem to have that much water moving through them either.

        • Sounds like what you have on your land is what we term regen – regenerative growth. It may be coming up from stumps and from seedlings both brush like raspberries and trees. It is often very good forage for animals.

          Ideally I would suggest getting a strong perimeter fence around it and you can immediately start grazing animals free range for a while. This gets you going. Then as you have time, start subdividing that into many small paddocks. Just do a few paddocks, perhaps ten at first, so that you can learn. Remember that many smaller paddocks is better than few larger paddocks but also consider that you can subdivide large paddocks into smaller paddocks later – this is what our big field divisions are. Over winter and the coming years you’ll figure out the best way you want to set it up as you get to know the land and the animals.

          Getting a hand held power brush cutter (a dangerous tool so beware) to cut trails for the fencing will make life a lot easier. Creating 4′ wide swaths for fencing is very good, 6′ is even better but more work. Leaving lines and plots of emerging trees and existing trees to become shade is also a good idea.

          Double fencing can create creep and reserve areas between paddocks where fruit trees, nut trees and shade trees as well as seed reserves can develop as well as providing creep feeding for small animals like piglets and chickens and space for wildlife.

          The “drainage ditches” could be as a result of the underlying ledge shape, dropped glacial boulders or even simply trees that fell and then accumulated soil behind them. The tree formed ones will tend to cross the hill while the ledge ones could be either way but tend to be with the slope crossing the contours. Variations are very possible. I like to run fence lines with the contours as much as possible to take advantage of this natural terracing action. Where possible I like to lay lanes, what you call alleys, also along the contours for erosion and terracing reasons. But sometimes they must go up hill. Laying in stones or logs as “water bars” helps and those catch dirt creating steps over time.

          One of the things I’ve learned is to keep the lanes as narrow as possible. If hard faced (woven wire no electric, wood or stone such as cliff sides) then they can be as narrow as 2′. If one side is electric then 6′ wide is far better. If two sides are electric then 8′ wide is wise. For tractor access a minimum of 10′ but preferably 12′. For truck access a minimum of 12′ but preferably 20′. If you make 20′ wide lanes these can become grazing paddocks in their own right and be sub-divided into temporary lanes which shifts the grazing and foot traffic by using temporary fencing of polywire on step-in posts.

          *grin* Good luck in all of your quests and journeys to the top commenter list. May all your comments be interesting!

  6. Jake says:

    One more question, regarding perimeter fencing and then free ranging: do you worry about noxious plants in such a situation? Our little mountain side has a pretty significant amount of Mountain Laurel.

    • There are several things that are called mountain laurel we have one but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the pigs. They tend to avoid eating things that are toxic because toxic things tend to taste bad. Taste is a way of communicating between plants and animals as to what should and shouldn’t be eaten. Many plants want to be eaten so that they can spread their seeds (raspberries) or encourage grazing (like grasses and clovers do) so that the grazers trample or otherwise kill off their competition (tree saplings). Some things are toxic in one environment, season, soil but in others not toxic. An example is cherry trees are more toxic right after wilting and then reduce in toxicity. Same with maples but when fresh our pigs eat the maple saplings and buds. In Arizona’s alkaline soil one goldenrod is toxic but not in our acid soils. Another example is western milkweed which is toxic from what I’ve read but our eastern milkweed is not toxic – just bad tasting. The toxic plant lists are long but should be taken with a teaspoon of salt.

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