Field Nest

Rooted Nest

Our pigs root very little out in the pastures. When they root primarily they do something like this to build a nest. The rooting shown here is only about an inch or two deep. That’s pretty typical. Their goal is to get good body contact with the nice cool earth so as to shed some heat since pigs don’t sweat and are not particularly good at panting. Usually these nests are in the shade under the trees and brush.

This spot will quickly regrow and disappear as the season progresses. A little bit of rooting like this actually improves the quality of the pasture because the forages we want to encourage regrow quickly while the woodier brush and weed species don’t recover as easily. This is one of the survival secrets of forages like grasses and clovers. This area was heavily grazed last fall and by mid-May, once our snowstorms stopped, it quickly was lush like this. The pigs leave most of the roots so the forages recover quickly. I find that even if 20% of the root mass is left there is good recovery. I have measured this repeatedly as sometimes I’ve used the pigs to mob graze a section when I wanted to change the species mix. It takes harder mob grazing than might be expected to get the change over effect when reseeding.

For more about pigs, rotations and rooting, see the the article: Root Less in Vermont where you can learn about the causes of rooting and how to control rooting on pasture.

In the background you can see small trees, regen from our 2009 field cut. Our pastures are savanna style, a mix of open ground, brush and trees which is more like the natural habitat of pigs with cover of grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, chicory, amaranth and other forages. It is a piggy paradise.

We do managed rotational grazing on a small and grand rotation that simulates the natural movement of animals across the plains. This naturally breaks parasite life cycles, minimizes soil compaction and encourages good forage growth to improve the land over time, sequestering carbon and nitrogen into the soil far better than crop lands or forest lands can do.

You might also notice the milkweed in this photo. I’m encouraging them in a limited way in order to help the Monarch butterflies who have been having a bit of a hard time due to, in part, big ag destruction of their habitat and the use of weed killers in lawns. I also planted tens of thousands of wild flowers over our seventy acres of pasture lands to benefit the other pollinators like the wild and domestic bees. I would encourage you to set aside some wild space on your property and plant flowers, milkweed and other species. This provides stepping stones across the landscape and helps the wildlife. We all benefit from that, including the beauty of seeing it.

Outdoors: 54°F/49°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/62°F

Daily Spark: There may be many false peaks but only one mountain no matter how many times we climb it.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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