We are a small, family owned and operated farm in the mountains of Vermont with our own on-farm inspected butcher shop. We breed and raise pigs humanely and naturally on pasture/hay plus dairy to produce high quality pork, roasters for events and live feeder weaner piglets for people who want to raise their own. We deliver year round on our weekly route to stores, restaurants and individuals.

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Quality Pork
At any time we have about two to four hundred pigs out on our pastures in multiple breeding herds of several heritage breeds including Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black and Tamworth with a pinch of Glouster Old Spot and Hampshire in our Mainline, Blackieline, Berkline and Tamline crosses in addition to our purebred lines. We have been selecting our breeder herds since 2003 to produce a pig that pastures well in our northern mountain climate with excellent temperament as well as marbling for flavor. With each generation we breed the best of the best and eat the rest. Gradually over time this results in the improvement of the herd, stronger animals adapted to our climate, better meat, marbling, length, temperament, mother and pasture grazing ability to name a few of the traits we select for. You can read more about our breeding lines in the articles Four Sows and Piglets, Lard vs Bacon Pigs and Classic Large White Sow.

Diet: Yes, pigs really do eat grass, clover and other forages – they thrive living out on pasture. Pastured does not mean that is all they eat but rather where they live and that in our case what they eat mostly comes from pasture – We do not buy or feed commercial hog feeds.

Pasture is the foundation of our pigs’s diet in it’s various forms makes up about 80% to 90% of what our pigs eat as measured by percent dry matter intake (%DMI). We have raised four experimental groups of pigs purely on pasture and it is do-able but the pigs grow slowly on a diet of only pasture due to the low lysine levels (an amino acid which is a building block of protein) and low calorie levels so they are leaner taking a few extra months to reach market weight. The addition of nuts, eggs, dairy and such to provide lysine and calories creates a balanced diet based on high pasture so the pigs grow faster, almost the same speed as on commercial hog feeds – roughly six to seven months for finishing for boars from our best lines in the warm season and a month or so longer in the cold months. Gilts and barrows grow a month or so slower. Some breeds like our Tamworths take additional time to reach market weight. Growth rates are effected by sex, genetics, season, temperature and feed.

All pasture is not grass. In fact, grass makes up only one of many of the forages on pasture including legumes like alfalfa and clovers, brassicas, millets, oats, barley, amaranth, chicory, burdock, thistles and more. Our fresh pastures are a very diverse mix of plants. In the winter we replace the fresh pasture with hay – storing summer pastures for the winter just like we can our garden veggies and fruits for our family’s table to enjoy over the cold months. Hay is not nearly as good as fresh pasture, but it gets the livestock through our cold northern deep snow winters. Also from our pastures comes a variety of fruits and vegetables for our pigs such as pumpkins, turnips, kale, apples, sunflowers, sunchokes, beets and other things we grow in the winter paddocks which become summer gardens.

Grain is not evil, just expensive.

Eggs are a wonderful pig food. While eggs only make up about 0.5% to 1% of the pigs’s diet over their life time, we get the most we can from each egg by concentrating them to the smaller pigs such as weaners and shoats to maximize nutritional leverage. In addition to keeping the flies down the hens produce a lot of eggs without any commercial hen feed. We keep a lot of heritage laying hens for organic pest control as there is a large marsh just down hill from us so we have plenty of insects. Eggs are a product of our pastures since that is where most of the chickens’s food comes from – we do not buy commercial hen feed either. In the winter our hens eat pastured pork, the trim from butchering pigs each week – chickens are naturally omnivores with a tendency to the carnivore side of the plate like their distant ancestors from the Jurassic period. It’s all part of the cycle of life.

Tip: Cooking the eggs doubles the available protein and helps resolve the biotin antagonist issue with egg whites.jn.n1716 One can cook eggs with the shells on either baked, boiled or scrambled. We feed them in the shells to the pigs – An easy way to produce one’s own organic pig feed which is additional pasture based protein.

Supplements to pasture increase growth rate such as the whey mentioned above. The diet of our pigs varies seasonally and has changed over the years as our pastured improved and with supplemental resource availability like the dairy (mostly whey) from making butter, cheese and yogurt at about 7%DMI. Sometimes we get apple pomace, the crushed portion left over after squeeze apples from a local cider mill. This is seasonally part of our pigs’s diet making up ~3% of what they eat on average over the course of the year with most of that in the fall and winter. We also get a little spent barley from a beer maker at a local brew pub – that typically varies from 2% of our pigs’s diet. Occasionally we get a little bread from a local bakery which makes up about 1% of the pigs’s diet – great for training and leading pigs as it is highly appetitive since they don’t get many treats like that. At times we’ve gotten loads of cottage cheese, cut barley, molasses, peanut butter[1, 2, 3] by the ton (upto 7%DMI) and other excellent supplements to our pig’s diets. One of the great things about pigs is they can use foods that would otherwise go to waste due to their very flexible digestive system. We use the resources we have available to produce quality pork for your dining pleasure.

Variety is the spice of life.

This diet is not a fixed day-to-day regime but varies. The numbers above are typical representing the data from our last couple of years. Often pasture has been 90% of their diet. Four times we’ve even done pigs with 100% pasture. Pasture is the foundation of our animals’s diet. Other resources add to that seasonally, changing over time with availability. To learn more about what we feed our animals see these articles on Feeding. See these links to learn more about raising pigs on pasture, feeding hay, managed rotational grazing and alternative feeds. Go with the flow as the seasons progress. Every year is different and to be cherished. Most of all, don’t use too sharp of a pencil when calculating or you’ll poke your eye out.

Genetics make a big difference in pasturing ability of pigs. Some lines within some breeds will utterly fail on pasture because they have been fed highly concentrated commercial feeds for so many generations, they’ve been crated during gestation or farrowing and lost their mothering instincts and other issues. By being selected for confinement conditions they’ve lost their pasture abilities which may conflict with the needs of a CAFO. We have spent thirteen years breeding for the traits that work in our climate, our pasture based feeds and our outdoor management to produce a pig that works for our farm. This is a critical aspect of farming – traditional selective breeding for genetics that work. We select for characteristics such as marbling, flavor, temperament, length, pasture-ability, mothering, growth and other traits. We purchased our original breeder stock back in early 2003 and have only occasionally brought in new animals over the years to expand our genetics and herds. Hard selection over more than a decade has paid off in improvements we see today. We run a near closed herd – historically producing nearly all of our own pigs, feeder stock and breeder stock through our multiple genetic lines. We have bought in pigs from other farms over the years. In addition to knowing the genetics of our own animals a closed herd helps with biosecurity by naturally keeping disease and parasites at bay through isolation. This biosecurity issue is why we do not do agritourism. As needed we do buy in other pigs to satisfy orders. If you want pigs specifically from one of our genetic lines or a specific sex of pig just request that when ordering, there is a small upcharge and it may limit availability & timing. Otherwise it is farmer’s pick at no additional cost.

Breed the best of the best and eat the rest.

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Our breeding herds of pigs are divided into multiple boar centric primary groups each of which runs with mixed ages. Having multiple herd groups gives us more control over the genetics and more parallel generations per year. We then rotate our sows between the boar herds. In addition to the breeders there are typically about 200 to 400 market pigs out on pasture at any time depending on season and what piglets have been born recently. Often times the sows will cluster their farrowing with many of them birthing at the same time in cohorts so numbers can jump considerably week to week.

“You guys must spend a lot of time working with your pigs. I can tell because they are so calm and easy to handle.” -David the Knocker at the slaughterhouse

Managed Rotational Grazing Quick Guide: Rotational grazing is key to our pasturing of livestock because it improves our soils and lets us get much of our feed from our land by harvesting sunshine. This system of management mimics natural grazing and is called many things such as MIG, MIRG, Mob Grazing, Rotational Grazing, cell grazing and more. There are many variations of how it is done depending on the terrain, climate, soils, farm layout, species and fencing. Some rotational grazing systems look like grids from the air, some look like wagon wheels and others look more like natural grass lands and brush, blending into the terrain with trails and lanes for moving animals between areas. But no matter what it is called, the basics are simple – provide forage and move the livestock. Depending on the season and goals the forages may be grazed to a few inches or right to the crown and grown with mob seeding. It can be implemented on a nano-scale with about 100’x100′ for two to three piglets or with hundreds of pigs on doing a 40 acre grand rotation over a larger acreage of land divided into dozens of fields and sub-paddocks like we do for a much larger set of multiple herds. See this article for photos and more of a very tiny paddock setup.

We graze 70 acres of savannah style pasture using a 40 to 50 acre grand rotation over that area larger area which gets opened up in the fall as pastures wane. Our grazing land is divided into major fields with traditional New England stone walls, rock is a resource we have a lot of, and permanent fencing. These are then sub-divided to paddocks. This major vs minor rotation allows some areas to go mostly ungrazed in any particular year. We include brush and forested areas in our pastures for shade, variety of habitat and variety of forages creating a savanna style pasture. The livestock move out to their grazing paddocks daily along trails and lanes and return to the central areas for water, wallows, whey and treats. Exactly how things are setup depends a lot on the year and season and has changed over time as we’ve grown into the fields we cleared in in the late 1990’s and then again more in 2009. It’s an ever changing process as the pastures develop.

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At the most basic level, managed rotational grazing means putting up a strong perimeter fence, ours runs a little out into our wooded areas to include trees, and then subdivide the space into four to ten paddocks per quarter acre if one is doing a couple of pigs – we use much larger paddocks for our bigger herds. More paddocks are better than fewer. Smaller paddocks are better than larger. Its a balance between effort and efficient grazing. As a rule of thumb, move animals into a paddock for short times letting them graze down the forages and then move them out after up to two weeks, preferably faster. Typical grazing periods are a day to ten days – moving time is defined more by the forages than by the calendar. This reduces soil compaction but knocks down weed species. Ideally move the livestock when they’ve reduced the pasture down to a few inches. It is fine if they root some, in fact they can turn up about 80% of the area and it will come back quickly because the grass has evolved to handle this sort of action from snout and hoof of herbivores moving through on migrational grazing. While you see dirt, in reality there is a great deal of root mass that springs back. This is beneficial to grasses and other grazing forages since they can handle this type of near tillage but trees and brush can’t take the grazing action – this is how pastures naturally evolved about 55 million years ago.

“If you’re raising piglets on pasture, eventually all research roads lead back to the prolific and generous Walter Jeffries at Sugar Mountain Farm.” -Auburn Meadow Farm

To improve the forage mix, seed behind the pigs and rake in a mix of seeds for soft grasses, legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil…), brassicas (rape, kale, broccoli…), millets, chicory, amaranth, herbs and other forages. This is called mob seeding. Keep grazing stock out of paddocks for a minimum of 21 days, preferably longer based on forage growth. This 21 day cycle breaks parasite life cycles. Keep rotating the animals through paddocks and over time you can improve the quality of the soil, the forages, provide much of the food for your pigs and get a high quality meat.

Direct Sales: We offer direct sales of our pork through our meat CSA and through sales at the gate. See Products for details. We do not have a farm store for browsing – all sales are pre-orders. To learn more about the cuts on a pig see Cuts of Pork: Nose-to-Tail and What is a Half Pig Share. If you’re looking for just a few cuts we highly recommend the many stores in Vermont who carry our meat…

CSA Boxes: You can get regular deliveries of our pork on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis for a season as well as year round. CSA subscriptions are twelve boxes or more and gain you a discount. Prepaid subscriptions get free delivery if your are along our weekly delivery route. Box sizes and options to fit everyone’s budget and desires from oddments to farmer’s basket to High-on-the-Hog to pick of the pig.

Retail: Stores and Restaurants throughout Vermont offer our pork to their customers. See Retail for details and a list of outlets carrying our products. If you’re a store or restaurant that would like to carry our products please see the wholesale page.

Piglets: We offer live piglets for people to raise themselves. Reserve piglets early as they sell fast in the spring’s high demand season. Note that these are farm pigs, not pet pigs. See Piglets for details.

Roasters: Reserve roaster pigs a month or more in advance of your event date. All sizes available from suckling up to very large roasters. Occasionally we have one in the freezer. See Roasters for details.

Tusks: We offer skulls and tusks from small to large sizes. See Tusks for details. We also make authentic bone knuckle dice from our pigs – great for historical games.

Physicians can use acyclovir for the treatment of treat herpes zoster with eye lesions. https://valtrexlab.com is an antiviral drug that defeats the varicella zoster virus.

Our all natural hot dogs and sausage are nitrates/nitrites free. Just the good stuff! We are a NoWeirdStuff.org farm.

We do not use gestation nor farrowing crates, pesticides, herbicides, routine antibiotic nor hormones at our farm.

Xanax is a drug that can work well for people with anxiety that haven’t responded to other treatments. According to https://antidepressantremedy.com/xanax-alprazolam/, it’s common for people to have to try multiple drugs before something works for their anxiety. If SSRI’s or other anti-anxiety medications don’t work for a person, Xanax could be an option.

What we produce is good wholesome food to feed our family. We share this bounty with you.

Percent Dry Matter Intake is the standard for how diets are measured for simplicity and because knowing the dry matter weight of each type of food in diet you can then calculate everything else about the diet such as energy, calories, proteins, etc.

395 Responses to Pigs

  1. Ryan says:

    Hey walter, just thought I would get your thoughts on one of our sows, we have a 2.5 yr old tamworth sow who had her first litter last year and did great, she had 9 piglets born and raised all of them. This yr she was breed to the same boar (large black/berkshire) and had a litter of 13 maybe 14. However she has gone off the deep end, she has flattened 7 or so of them and is very very agressive when you go near her to feed, trying to remove the dead piglets she sat are is next to impossible without her going crazy and stepping on more of the young.
    She is in same location as last year, nest is in same spot, there is another bred sow next to her, separted by hog panel, she pays no attention to her neighbor and the other sows could care less about her or the piglets. Just can’t figure out what to do? I am thinking i will have to kill her, she was such great mom last year but no so much this year. Just thought I would see you have witnessed this before or had any ideas.

    • This sounds like stress. If the only difference is the other sow then I would move the other sow to a distant location to give this sow more privacy. If that is not possible then add plywood barriers to create a visual barrier. Sows normally nest far apart.

      Is the season the same or is she farrowing in colder weather? That too can make things more difficult.

      • Ryan says:

        I thought maybe it was stress but not sure, I will surely put a wall inbetween her and the other pig. It seems like the only time she is stressed is when people are around, she is totally fine with the pig and the other pig doesn’t care a bit about her. I observe them from a far and she is fine, its not until I get near her that she start huffing and puffing! Last year when I removed the piglets to wean she almost killed me. She is nuring the remaining four piglets and they seem good, it is a little colder weather but there are two heat lamps in pen with plenty of hay and no drafts, the piglets don’t seem cold but maybe there is enough factors that are just placing too much stress on her. Are your mothers usually very protective of the piglets? I can’t even begin to get two of dead piglets out of the pen.

        • It is a hard choice and a fine line between the good mother who protects her piglets and the overly aggressive sow who will hurt you. If she becomes too dangerous then she should be culled. But you don’t want to cull a sow who is a good protector of her piglets. She should allow you to calmly work with them. If a sow is so aggressive that I would not be able to go in with her then she goes to market. All our sows let me work with them and their litters. I must pay attention to their mood and their talk but they do not harm me. If you have doubt then I would cull as an aggressive animal can kill you or someone else – just not worth it.

          Part of it is how you work with the animal, keeping things very calm, taming them to your touch and not making piglets scream – it tickles them to be picked up around the middle. But there is definitely a genetic component to temperament – select hard for it.

          Suggestion at weaning time, move the sow out to a distant place that is twice fenced from the home of the piglets. Leave them there. She is still homed to that location and will try to return but this can be much easier and more successful than trying to take piglets from her.

          Cold weather is hard farrowing time. I recommend going for the golden months. In our climate that is maybe April/October for two farrowings per year. We farrow through the winter but it is far harder than the warm season. Snows are still deep here in the end of March. Farrowing takes us 10x as much work and is not as successful as the easy months of the warm seasons out on pasture.

  2. Ryan says:

    I think she has surely crossed that line, just by going nearby where she can see a person she will get very aggitated. No way I could handle any of the piglets, I was able to get into the pen when she was eating the other day but not able to handle or pet a piglet. I will see how she does with the remaining three, but I think she will be sent to market. I wouldn’t want to pass her on, she would surely hurt you if you messed with any of her piglets.

    At first i liked her protective behavior, our pigs are out to pasture during the warm months, but not now. We choose to farrow early this year because impending trip to alaska in august and also the last several years spring has come early; not this year with over 2ft snow and nightly lows in the teens and below. I am just trying to figure out what to do with the other sow? that is due on the 2nd of April, i would like to move her but really don’t have a great place to move her to with the deep snowpack and cold weather, i may have to try the plywood barrier but really can’t afford to loose anymore piglets! Thanks again for your great advice and thoughts!

  3. Ryan says:

    Hi Walter, could you point me to your post on how you make your setup to warm piglets?, I couldn’t seem to find it, but I think I remember seeing a post where you used a plastic barrel with light on top and small entrance for the piglets to get in. I need to set something up for our sow that will farrow in a few days, I did move her away from the other sow that had the issues into the hay barn. Do you only typicallly use 1 barrel for a litter? thanks again Ryan

  4. Marcus says:

    Fantastic how you raise your pigs! Love it. Wish all farmers took this good care of their animals. I love bacon but the factory farms disturb me.

  5. Nicola Cunha says:

    Hi Walter,

    I’ve scoured the internet and used your search button looking for what to do after pigs have cleared an area. We have only been on our farm since Oct. and got 2 Tams in Nov. We have soil that leans on the clay side. The pigs are going to freezer camp May 4. Since there will be fresh manure in their pen should I just leave it? Put chickens in there for a few weeks? Then just leave it till next year? I’ve heard of the ‘burning’ effect of manure so I don’t know how long to wait before rototilling to help level it and how long to wait to plant grasses for pasture or a veg garden or ground cover(for the veg garden). Do you have some pointers? Thanks so much Walter!


    • Clay soil can end up easily compacted so you’ll want to avoid having them on it too much when wet and use a quick rotation. Observe carefully and adjust the timing.

      We run chickens with our pigs. The hens break up manure patties and clean up insects. The insects are part of the cycle, helping to break up the patties and return the nutrients to the soil.

      I do not observe a nutrient burning effect probably because on pasture the manure is fairly spread out. Even on our winter paddocks I don’t see this, in that case probably because wood chips and hay stalks are mixed in and our pigs’s diet is so high in fiber which provides a lot of carbon in the manure thus balancing the nitrogen. For the absolutely best results one could compost it but it is too much work and not necessary to pick up pastures.

      In our pastures we broadcast seed grasses, legumes such as clovers, brassicas like kale, rape, turnips and such, beets, mangels. In the winter paddocks we hand drill planting sunflowers, pumpkins and such. These use the nutrients and produce food that is then available for the herds in the coming cool to cold seasons.

      If you are going to use a livestock plot, such as a winter paddock, for a human food garden then the first year I would suggest starting with higher crops such as corn, sunflowers, pumpkins, tomatoes, etc. Heavy feeders do well from the nutrients. Then after the garden has matured the low crops come. This elevates any concern of possible parasites in root crops.

  6. Angelia says:

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for all the work and info on this website. Its helped me greatly with my LGD’s and I think its going to help me with our pigs. We’ve raised a feeder before on goat milk & corn.. but now we have a breeding pair of Guinea Hogs… alot different I’m finding out.
    We’ll always raise feeders but this breeding hogs thing… we’ll see!!!
    I do have a much better ideal about how we will feed and pasture them now… Thanks again!

  7. Ursa says:

    Most excellent! I love how you raise your animals. Keep doing it right!

  8. Nicky says:

    I loved your post to determine pregnancy or not. Our “Sabrina” was bred May 1, 2 via a.i. and as of Sunday her hood is pointed and nearly sewn shut,lol. Thanks for all of the valuable information and I’ll be sure to follow your site. This is my 16 year old daughter’s 4-H pig that was intended for market, but she wanted to breed her and she did it! I know this might sound crazy, but she is already appearing to show signs of pregnant physique. If all that she is getting is feed (no grass, hay, etc) then what’s a good amount to feed her?

    • If you’re using a commercial feed then follow the directions on the bag. They should have a number of pounds per day for a sow depending on her weight. I would suggest also offering her cut pasture or hay if she can’t be on pasture. That will give her fiber and fresh greens in her diet which are beneficial.

  9. teacup piglet says:

    I really enjoyed what you wrote. You definitely researched it. I am an animal lover! I got me a teacup pig:)

  10. Ashley says:

    Hi there, can yu tell me any signs or symptoms i can look for to see if our boar bread our gilt before we got rid of the boar? They were always trying it seemed like, & were together 2 or 3 months. please!!

    • Check the pregnancy indicator article. The only sure way to know is when piglets are born since a pregnancy can get lost. If you want to be sure, wait to count your piglets, and eat the boar, until after they are born. Note that not all gilts are fertile. Nor all boars for that matter. However a female’s reproductive system is more complicated and must get all the way to weaning before she’s proven and you know you have piglets.

  11. david says:

    Good morning,
    I have 3 large black gilts and a 6 yr old large black boar who weighs app 700lbs and has breed up to 3 sows per year since he bacame breeding age. My question is will his meat be tainted and worth taking o the butcher? I intend on putting him andthe gilts together in Jan. hoping for late april farrowing.

    • Without knowing how he is kept (pastured is bettered than penned), how he is fed (high fiber helps) and his genetics it is not possible to say. The odds are in your favor of him being taint free. If you pasture him and feed him a high fiber diet, low in corn/soy, then you bias the odds further in your favor. The only way to tell for sure will be to try him. A small bite such as described in the article “Have Your Pig and Eat It Too.” We spent years testing and selecting our herd to ascertain that they were taint free.

      Note that there are many kinds of taint which are often blamed on boar taint such as poor slaughter, over excitation just before slaughter, blood taint (poor bleed out), poor chilling, etc. Each one tastes and smells different. Be sure to read the other articles about taint to learn more.

      If you do end up with tainted meat you may be able to put it to spicy sausages. Traditionally hot spices were used to hide the taste of taint, the gamey taste of wild meat and the flavor of spoilage. This is no longer done but those old techniques would work. Alternatively you can feed the dogs and chickens or at the very least the compost pile.

      The odds are in your favor. Bias them further with how you feed and hows the boar between now and his date with destiny.

  12. Wendy says:

    My husband and I are getting ready to buy 10 acres. We currently live on 1 acre with 2 pinned (yes, I know.. Hence the 10 Acres:) pigs. I was wondering if someone with more pasturing experience could check out this website and give me advice on what pasture mix to use. Once we move, the pigs will be moved from pasture area to pasture area, helping to clear the land to start (it’s wooded), and eventually breeding when the times are right. In about a year I plan to have a dairy cow and goats, with some of the milk going to the pigs, a horse and chickens (layers and meat), with some of the eggs going to the pigs too. At one point and time they will all be in the same areas, just not always at the same time. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated. We live in southeast Texas, zone 9 if that helps. Very humid. Most all of the hoggers in my area keep theirs in pins so no local advice is readily available for pasturing pigs. Here is the website for the pasture mixes – groworganic.com/seeds/pasture-seed.html

    • I’m not familiar with that company nor do I know Texas. I would suggest contacting your local ag extension agent and ask about improving pasture for dairy cattle, for heifers, and then boost the legumes in particular. Beware that there are some grasses like Sorghums and Fescue that can have toxicity issues especially under heat stress.

  13. Dian says:

    Do you feed soy?

    • No, we don’t buy commercial pig feeds nor do we grow soy. I tried once back in the 1990’s however our climate is not conducive to soy. Even corn doesn’t do well here. Grasses, clovers, alfalfa, kale, broccoli, pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes, beets, turnips and such do well here on Sugar Mountain and we grow a lot of those. For more about how we raise our plants and animals see the Organic page.

  14. Bonnie says:

    I’m curious how you get the dairy – is this from your own animals or do you buy it? How much would it cost to buy it and where do you get it, if you don’t have any animals that give milk?

    • Currently we get our dairy, mostly whey, from a creamery just over the mountain from us. If we did not have that I would keep a herd of cows and goats for the milk to feed the pigs. Similarly we keep a large flock of pastured chickens who forage their own feed in our fields and produce thousands of eggs for our weaner and grower pigs. These are ways that allow us to produce our livestock feed from pasture rather than buying commercial corn/soy feeds or grains. This is extensive pastured farming as opposed to intensive confinement farming. Traditionally pigs were raised on dairy and chicken farms where they were allowed to pasture – the pigs were called the mortgage lifters because by using the ‘waste’ of the farm (excess milk, whey, eggs, etc) they brought in the extra to pay the mortgage and thus make the farm profitable.

  15. Pam says:

    Hi, I have 2 guilts 6 mos. due for harvest in late Dec. One of them is huffing and will not eat. Seems she is trying to clear her throat she has done this before but comes out of it and is fine and always eats. Today she is huffing a lot and will not eat. I have rubbed her throat thinking it might help but has not. thanks

    • This might be parasites which have living in the lung as part of their life cycle. Normally managed rotational grazing and natural dewormers like garlic powder are sufficient for keeping parasites at bay however if she is at this stage and if that is it then she is deep into the problem. She will probably survive but I would suggest deworming her with a strong commercial dewormer like Ivermec to clear her and then waiting on slaughter as there is a withdrawal period. It is also possible that she simply has something in her throat. The only way to know for sure is to do a fecal test.

      • Pam says:

        I have horse wormers Ivermec would this be the same wormers you suggest? What is the waiting period for harvest?. If so what weight amount should I give her? She did eat some dinner tonight but still huffing. She is the picture of health very solid and no weight loss. She has done this huffing before during the summer months but not often. I do feed them raw eggs shells and all could it be the shells, I do smash the shells. Would I need to take the fecal sample to the vet or will I be able to see the worms? Sorry for so many questions
        thank you.

        • If she otherwise looks fine, coat is fine, gums are a good strong pink, condition is good then I suspect it is not worms but rather something in her throat. Might even a congenital defect or such, a flap of tissue. I don’t think the egg shells area problem – we feed the shells and have never seen that be an issue. On dosage, I would follow the directions on the medication. On the fecal, there are directions online which you can do yourself if you have a microscope. Vets tend to be $15 to $45 and may be worth it if you haven’t done it yourself before. However if she is in fine condition as above then I think I would just take her to slaughter.

  16. Pam says:

    I looked at her gums they are not real pink, kinda light pink. Still no movement, I did dribble water in her mouth she seemed to like that.

    • Anemia can cause light gums. Parasites can cause anemia. Thus why I suggested checking her gums. The breathing could be coughing up parasite larva and the light gums can be a symptom of parasite infections. A fecal test is the next step. Is there a local farm animal vet available you can work with on that?

  17. Pam says:

    Hi just a follow up. She did start to eat Friday nite but still some coughing. Did a fecal test and it was worms. Vet did injections on both girls today and he said they look real good. Thank you

  18. Jami says:

    At what age can piglets start staying outside with a small straw filled run-in shed as shelter. We are in south central Tennessee where the average low temperature in January is about 28 with highs in the upper 40’s.

    • Birth. Our pigs are born and live outdoors. The temperatures you describe are fine for pigs, even newborn. The biggest thing is to have wind blocks and dry bedding / dry spaces they can be in. A pitched roof on sloped ground draining well is good. A deep bedding pack composts, warming from below.

      Update 20140104: It was -24°F last night and a litter was born and fine out in the south field shed in an open three sided stall. They have protection from the wind, a composting deep bedding pack of about 18″ of wood chips and hay, a good nest built by the sow and the sow’s 103°F body heat which is about 80°F along her skin but higher if you lie up against her udder in the micro-climate of the nest. It is critical that the piglets get colostrum and milk with its sugars. This was an experienced sow who produces a lot of milk. A poor milker or gilt would have a harder time in this weather because she does not produce as much milk as early and she does not understand farrowing and nest building as well – it’s partially instinctual but also somewhat learned.

      Update 20140110: The litter mentioned above has thrived through the cold snap we had and are doing great. While I strongly advise against farrowing in the winter months because it is so much harder it is very doable and the pigs are tough. If you have the choice, choose the easy months. In our climate that is maybe April, definitely May through October and maybe November some years.

  19. Nat Kauffman says:

    “Currently we get our dairy, mostly whey, from a creamery just over the mountain from us. If we did not have that I would keep a herd of cows and goats for the milk to feed the pigs.”

    That’s a fascinating idea. Is it actually possible that it could be economical to keep cows for the express purpose of feeding milk to the pigs? Have you any idea what sort of gain one might expect from feeding whole milk, ie, pounds of milk per pound of weight gain?

  20. Appreciate your efforts in Vermont and your willingness to help folks. Love what you do. Thank you for any help you can offer. I transplanted from Oregon to Panama in Central America. I have an organic vegetable, fruit and coffee farm here in the highland area of Chiriqui. Having a lot of excess vegetable which are of high quality but not able to be sold for cosmetic reasons or just having too much I thought I should get some pigs and raise them organically. I just bought 3 of them and am rapidly learning that I have a lot to learn about pigs. I am not sure of the breed but these are the market pigs they sell around here for fast growth and it is generally recommended to buy the commercial vitamin, mineral, feed mix. I cannot do that if I want to raise these animals organic. We don’t have a lot of options here for old school breeds. So the pens were offered to me at my neighbors property free of charge. They are concrete floored and not too big. I know that this is a crappy way to raise animals and I am checking tomorrow with my neighbor to see if he will let me make a small fenced off area so they can get a little more exercise and root around. No real foraging available at this time. If I can do OK with this round I will make some pens on my property and at least make some land available for them to root around and touch soil and forage a bit. So as I said we have vegetables in quantity and things like yucca, sweet potato and taro leaves as relatively high vegetable protein sources, bananas and plantains and sugar cane. The only high powered protein I can get locally which I know is organic is fish meal. It is shame because I have a dairy very close by but I know they use bovine growth hormone and not organic feeds. I live on the side of a volcano with mineral rich acid soils. We need to apply calcium quite often because of the high rainfall here.

    So my question is can you give me any advice on how to feed these animals and what quantities of each too make them healthy, tasty, and growing at a relatively fast rate with the feeds I have on hand and maybe the fish meal. I am willing to be patient to get them to market if the feed costs are low and they are organic. It is surprising how different what you do is compared to the commercial advice out there. Thank You very much for the information you provide on your site and I am grateful for any help you can provide. Warmly from Panama. Curt Chrestman

    • The basic rule with pigs is to have food in front of them all the time. This can be as simple as pasture. You can supplement with vegetables, fruit, etc. They will eat almost anything and thrive on it. The biggest no-no is high salt feeds as they can be sensitive to too much salt in their diet, especially if water became restricted. Speaking of water, provide fresh water at all times and also provide a wallow. They’ll be better on pasture than in a pen.

      Keep a keen eye on their growth. If they’re getting too fat then back off on the calories. If they’re not putting on enough muscle they may need more protein. Dairy and eggs (cook to double available protein) are both most excellent sources. But really pigs will grow on a wide range of foods. Variety is good.

      In our soils we have all the minerals they need. Selenium and iron are two of particular concern that may be low in some areas. You can supplement with sea kelp but feed it on a limited basis due to the salt content. It doesn’t take much. Get a soil test if that is an option. If you have a varied diet for them then they should be fine.

      You may need to deworm them in your warm climate as parasite loads are typically higher in warmer climes. Rotational grazing makes a big difference as it breaks the parasite lifecycle. See Worms Au Natural.

      Have fun and enjoy your pigs and the pork.

  21. Annie Davis says:

    Love how you do things on your farm! Can you tell me approximately how many pigs per acre can be raised using your type of pastured rotational grazing management? My family is in the early development stages of our little 10 acre farm in Georgia, and I’m wondering if we have the acreage to raise pigs this way. Currently, there is mostly brush and small trees on the land with a few large trees and a couple of tiny streams when there is enough rain. We also have a few goats helping to clear some of the brush. I’d appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you might have!

  22. Hi Walter,

    Love the site. Found you about a month ago through friends in the ag program at VTC (Mom lives in Williamstown, VT) and browsing all your great info has been really important. Thanks for taking to time to spread all your knowledge.

    My wife and I are interested in starting a pasture-based pig farm outside of Denver, Colorado. You probably know its a very arid climate. Not too many people here are doing things this way and I’ve heard wildly different estimates on how much land we’d need per pig. Everything from one acre per animal to fractions of that. I know this is much different from the conditions you’re familiar with in Vermont, but would love your opinion on how much land we’d need to support about 300 pigs on pasture in an arid climate. Or creative ways to do it on less land facing the challenges of poor soil and limited water. Any direction you could provide would be fantastic.

    Thanks for your help,

    • Welp, I’m somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t see the post DIRECTLY above this one which provides some great info. Anyway, if you have any specific recommendations for arid climates I’d appreciate that. Thanks for your time.

    • I find that in our climate with our pastures in their previously less improved state I can raise about ten pigs per acre sustainably. If you supplement with other feed you can increase that. Improving the pastures by planting legumes, millet, chicory, brassicas and other things greatly improves the carrying capacity of the land. Managed rotational grazing is key.

      In your climate water is likely a limiting factor. See here. Set up rotational paddocks as described in these articles. Even a very small setup can be done on a quarter acre with two or three pigs as described in this article. My suggestion would be to start small and grow slowly to find the carrying capacity of your land.

      You may also be interested in the comments in this article – chicken eggs are a very good food for pigs but some certification agencies erroneously ban them.

  23. Bacon Maker says:

    I have my Pigs in a Barn I give them Grain and some treats. I plan on puttingout a big Garden to feed to the Pigs.. But I have a Question how many Pounds of Feed should I give them a Day? I have heard anything from 3-5lbs a Day to 5lbs per 100lbs of Body Weight per Day! I don’t want to Over/Under Feed them! the Sow and Guilts are Hopefully Breed they are about 325-375lbs and the Boar is around 400lbs I want to keep my Little Bacon Makers HAPPY!!

    • On a primarily plant based non-grain diet pigs don’t seem to get fat. The over feeding seems to come from the high calorie “candy” diet made up of corn/soy which is the basis of commercial feeds. Free feeding on that commercial corn/soy diet tends to produce fat pigs but on the bag there should be directions for how much to feed. As you add vegetables from your garden, or from pasture, do it early in the day and save the commercial feed for later in the day – you’ll find you can gradually back off the grain levels. Watch the pigs’s condition, their back fat and jowls, to know how they’re doing. This condition scoring is the best way to gauge diet.

      Since our pigs are on a diet that is about 80% or so pasture they simply free feed – that is they have the pasture (hay in the winter) in front of them all the time and can eat as much as they like. We also generally have whey available which is low calorie but contains lysine which is an amino-acid they need. Seasonally we have pumpkins, apples and other things as discussed above.

      As you work to transition them from an all grain diet to a garden and pasture based diet there will be a learning curve as you develop a keep eye for their condition and they’ll have a learning curve as they learn to eat new foods. They may not be happy about not having candy corn all the time but ultimately they should transition and it is a better diet that produces a superior pork. Do read up on the managed rotational grazing as it is an important technique.

  24. Bacon Maker says:

    I hate to keep asking Questions but I have one more. I noticed My Guilt started draging a hind leg when I went to feed this morning I am about 98% sure she has been Breed. I have seen her do this for a few minutes before but I think she was just Stretching after getting up.. this has been all day could she have a Mineral Defficency? maybe Iron she is with another Guilt I keep 55 gallon drum with Nipples on it full of fresh water just trying to get an Idea of what it may be so I don’t have to call a Vet since the PEDv is in our state I don’t want Strangers on the Farm to Bring me any unwanted BUG’S Thanks a Million.. I love the site and I spen a lot of time here trying to learn anything I can about Pig’s you do a great service for those of us who are just starting out

    • No problem on the questions. I’m happy to help. I don’t think this is PEDv. Before calling a vet, if she were my pig, I would look the leg over carefully to see if I could note anything unusual.

      There are a number of things that could cause her to limp or drag a leg. The simplest is she might have sprained it or gotten something in a hoof. I would examine the leg, checking for any punctures or abnormalities, checking it against the other leg to compare.

      There are some bacterial diseases that can cause arthritis. You might try ThePigSite.com‘s disease diagnostic tool which may help narrow down the choices.

      If you can’t see an obvious problem then a vet may be the next step. If she was intended as a breeder I probably would not keep her for breeding if she is showing a problem that is not as simple as an injury because if she does have arthritis then she could pass it on since some forms are genetic.

      Good luck!

  25. Veronica says:

    Please help, we were given a 2 year old pot belly pig this morning. Mr. Pig, was raised as pet and has been fed dog food, his whole life. I really would like to raise him to eat. My questions are, can you eat a pot belly pig ? He is about 80 pounds now. I don’t mind waiting a year or two to get his diet better before eating him, if we had to, or do you think to much damage has already been done ? I would hate to kill it and then find out, it is inedible. Any help you could give me with this, would be so greatly appreciated !

    • Yes, many people raise Potbellied Pigs for meat. They were originally developed for that purpose to be house pigs that could eat the family’s food wastes and then the pig in turn would feed the family. I have never raised them but people who I’ve talked with said that Potbellied Pigs are a bit prone to fat, they’re a lard type pig, but quite delicious. If you raise it for three months that should clean up the flavor. One month is the basic rule but I would triple it. Enjoy.

  26. Bacon Maker says:

    i was able to get a good look at her hoof.. the Pads on the bottom are in bad shape a local hog farmer mentioned it was probably from the rought winter terrain all the freezing and thawing? I Gave her some Pen-G and I hope I see some Improvements by the Morning.. Thank you for the Info and the link

  27. Andrew says:

    If the grass in a new paddock is higher than the pigs’ backs and thick, will they be hesitant to move through it since they cannot see the other side?

  28. I wanted to find out if I get a piglet will it stay small forever It it a kind of breed I have to get

    • Even the smallest breeds get fairly large, say up to 150 to 300 lbs. Farm pigs can easily grow to half a ton, or more. See these articles about pet pigs. Even if you starve the pig it will still likely get bigger than you want and that is not nice to do to the animal. Rather than getting a pig I would suggest a dog or cat, or perhaps a ferret.

  29. Gary says:

    I’m a new homesteader & am learning so much through your page. Big garden, pigs, chickens, & rabbits so far & hopefully in the spring adding goats & a few cattle. Thanks for being helpful to so many people with sooooo many questions. I have a dairy that is gonna let me have as much milk as I want as often as I want. Thats great but I’m not sure how much to get. I have 3 young pigs (2 I’m keeping for breeders & 1 that is gonna be for meat). I have a 200 gallon container but don’t want to get so much that it will be unusable before I can get rid of it all. Also don’t want it to get too thick where it won’t come out of valve. I have about 5 feeder barrels that stay full of all types of bread products. I was thinking of adding milk to all the barrels for bread to absorb. Any comments or suggestions?

    • I figure that our pigs will drink about 3.6 gallons of whey per day per hundred weight of pig. Basically free feed it along with water. They drink about 20% more water in addition to the whey we offer. See these articles for more details. I would add some yogurt and blend it in. That improves digestibility, storage life and helps keep other bacteria and molds at bay. Curdled milk is good. See these articles. If it gets too thick – add hot water and stir. We use 2″ valves and piping in most places. We found the 1″ pipes clogged too easily. Bread is good stuff. I would suggest feeding it in the latter part of the day so they graze in the morning and early afternoon.

  30. Do you worm? and with what?
    Q2 — will a boar mount a settled sow?

  31. Eric Hagen says:

    How far down on the stem do you let your pigs graze? For cattle there seems to be different schools of thought, some people leave more grass so it grows back stronger and faster (they’ll say they only want the cattle to take one bite from each stalk) while others let them graze down to a nice short lawn to get the most out of a paddock. Thoughts?

    • Depends on the paddock and its state of development. In some we graze all the way. In some we mob graze so I can seed and change the mix of species. In some they just lightly graze. It’s not a simple “always do it one way” kind of thing. Perhaps it would be like that if our pastures were old and highly developed but we are still in the process of creating them. Rather than bringing in bulldozers to do the job we graze. It’s slower but works.

  32. Kyle says:

    I have raised a couple feeder pigs and have decided to start breeding. I was wondering what your method for identification and record keeping is?

  33. Andy says:

    Thanks for all the info, it’s great you are putting so much effort into producing this site.
    I was wondering how you managed your electric fences, to stop the grasses growing up and shorting them out. Do the pigs keep it down along the fenceline, or do you mow?


    • That is a very good question and a tricky problem. We have a number of methods including using the right height for the bottom wire, resistor voltage divider, powering out along the top wire, multi-species grazers, shadow fencing and other things. When all else fails, string mowing along the line with a brush cutter is a last resort and little liked but sometimes employed. This is a topic worth of it’s own post at some point. I’ll add it to my To-Do list.

  34. Gail says:

    Hi Walter –
    Thanks for a great site. Did you ever post a blog about record keeping? We’ve been at this for a while and I have yet to find a way to keep track of pedigrees and who’s bred whom etc in a way that doesn’t make me want to cry. I’ve looked for a herd book template or some such critter and all I’ve found are commercial ones, which don’t suit at all.

    • That’s a good idea for a post and one that’s been on my to-do list for a while.

      • Gail says:

        Should I LOL here and not hold my breath for one any time soon? In the meantime, can you point me in a direction where I might find a template for something that wasn’t written by a commercial producer?

        • I’m not sure what that means but you might try doing a search on Google for something that fits your needs. Here’s a quick search pattern that turned up some possibilities.

          • Gail says:

            That’s what I’ve already done. Apparently, there is no one in the universe who has or would care to share a simple template for maintaining records for a small herd of hogs not raised in confinement. I guess I’ll just continue to stumble bumble my way through the various databases I’ve cobbled together from here and there. Thanks anyway. I’ll still be interested in that blog about record keeping whenever it gets to the top of your list.

  35. Annie says:

    Gail ive seen lots of books and articles about record keeping for farms and herds some from the breed registry organisations and some from the university extensions and 4-h as well so lots of people have alerady shared this sort of info. Its out thre on the web and in books.

  36. Someone asked via email from the UK:

    What rest period do you give the grass after grazing?

    Hi Llewellyn,

    The bare minimum is 21 days to break parasite life cycles but really it is better to go longer and it should be determined by the growth of the forages beyond that. Some of our paddocks might get grazed three times a year, some once a year, some only once every two years depending on how central they are, how fast their forages are growing (how well developed the pasture is) and our overall plans (we keep a larger area as pasture than we currently need so we can expand when needed).

    Also what is your average daily live weight again from weaning to slaughter?

    This varies with the sex, breed, line and season. Boars from our fastest growing lines in the warm months take about six months to get to a market weight of 250 lbs (110 kg). Gilts a month or so longer. Longer in winter. Longer for slower breeds like our Tamworths. This is based on a diet that is mostly pasture but with some supplemental feed such as whey. On just pasture add a couple more months and they’ll also be leaner.

  37. Brandon says:

    I have a question about feeding milk to pigs. We operate a small (15-20 cows) dairy and are looking to move away from selling our milk commercially to having another use for our milk. We like milking cows, but we don’t like where our milk goes. We are not in a position to open a grade A processing plant to make dairy products. We also live in a state (IA) where raw milk is illegal. We do raise a small amount of pigs now. My question is it reasonable to believe we can feed all of our milk to some pigs along with pasture/hay with no commercial feed? This would obviously be whole milk, so I am concerned about over feeding them liquids without fiber, but maybe they would self control this. Thanks for your time and answer.

    • You’ll have to run the numbers for your situation but I think it could work, especially if you already have the infrastructure, skills and cow herd. Milk prices are so poor, and have been for a long time, that I decided long ago not to get into dairy after watching my cousin and friends struggle. On the other hand, milk fed pork sells for excellent prices. I find that it is important to feed the milk as part of their diet and you can thin the milk to some degree. We mostly get whey which is roughly 1/10th nutrient thinning of milk however that math does not quite work as different things are taken out be it cheese making, yogurt making, butter making, etc. Combining dairy with pasture/hay works very well for us and we have raised pigs on just that. A whole milk diet, as opposed to whey, makes for fat pigs, thus the suggestion to thin some with water. See Whey Extending for an extreme on the concept. Other things like spent barley (high in some proteins), apple pomace, pumpkins, sunflowers are also all good seasonally available supplements you might add. Also plant up your pastures with protein such as from legumes and brassicas. Read the Feeding links for more. Managed rotational grazing is something we find to be key in this.

  38. Pam Cavers says:

    Boar taint ? Can you explain your process again? I am not sure how I would select traites in my own herd to avoid this .

    • Originally we were selecting for lower aggression. This probably helped as one of the taint compounds is also related to aggression. It was only later that I decided I would rather not castrate and I began researching boar taint to see what caused it. See the article about taint for more information. Over about a two year period I tested progressively older boars by slaughtering them and checking the meat for taint while culling but keeping brothers. Tracking the lineages this way I was able to remove any taint from our herds. Much later we got in some new boars as adults and I developed the biopsy method of taint testing discussed in the taint article. The first is a long process of selective breeding. The second method, the biopsy, speeds things up considerably. Either way it is a long term process requiring keeping track of lineages, testing and actually being able to smell taint. Note that about 25% of the human population can not smell it. I can as can my sons but my wife can not. Thus it is important to make sure you can indeed detect it.

  39. Mark S says:

    Hi Walter,
    Thanks for all the great info on your site and blog. I am trying to find a source for expired milk for feeding a few pigs. I may have to drive a ways to get it, and I’m trying to figure out the cost doing that vs buying commercial feed locally. I wonder, do you have any idea how long it will keep before being inedible for them? As in, would I have to pick it up weekly for it to be fresh enough or more or less often? What if I picked up say 2 weeks or a months supply and stirred in some yogurt or sour cream for culture? Thanks for any info you can give me!

  40. Mark S says:


    I was told by a dairy company that, per the FDA, it is illegal for them to give away expired milk for feeding animals, and that that has been the case for a decade. Is that true? It goes against much of what I have read, as well as your experience, it would seem; is it just a case of misinterpretation of a regulation?

    • They either lied to you or they are not understanding the regulations. It is perfectly legal for the expired milk to go to livestock and that is the preferred way of handling the ‘waste’ milk. It is pre-consumer ‘waste’. My guess is that either they got confused about the regulations for post-consumer wastes or they simply don’t want to give you the milk and are using the government regulations as an excuse. Ask them for a copy of the regs or the regulation number. They won’t be able to produce one that says that.

  41. Ambre says:

    Hello…I am very new to raising hogs. Purchased 2 hogs last summer (a brother & a sister) with plans to butcher later on. They were a cross between large black & tamworth. I was under the impression that brother & sisters raised together wouldn’t breed….the male was butchered eventually (Jan 10, 2015). My friend brought his Gloucestershire old spots boar over today for breeding my gilt. He took one look at her & says “I think she’s already pregnant”. He explained about her “pointy bit” being curled up as a good indicator.

    Here is my question(s)….should the boar stay in with the gilt? They are the only hogs. He is of wonderful temperament. They are also pastured on 5+ acres (couple horses & Heifers too). I would like to breed her to him after she farrows (assuming she is pregnant).

    • Pigs, and most animals including humans, have no inherent taboo against incest. Male and female in heat = mating. What your friend is talking about is shown in this article about the Pregnancy Indicator. I find this reasonably accurate with our farm breeds.

      I would go ahead and leave them together for now but separate them to give her privacy when she starts to bag up as she nears the end of gestation and farrowing. If she is not yet bred but fertile, he will likely breed her – very likely. If she’s already bred then you have a litter on the way and he can keep her company until then.

  42. Jeffrieses —
    How do you keep water running in your winter paddocks?
    S and B

  43. Stan says:

    I have two young girl pigs and they are refusing to eat apples which our previous pigs devoured. These are ripe but damaged apples that come from our small orchard.

    They pastured and they get barley and also greens from the market garden

    Can you suggest why they might not eat apples and how we could get them to?


    • Pigs sometimes don’t want to try new things. The reason can be explained as a simple evolved safety to prevent poisoning. If their mothers never ate it then they would be less likely to eat it. If you mix some bits of apple in with their regular food it will introduce them to the smell and taste. Later they maybe willing to eat the apples.

  44. Chase says:

    First off Thanks, a lot of great info on your site. I like how you have broken down you supplemental feeding down to the % per season that your pigs receive. I’m trying to figure mind out and was hoping for some pointers.

    So my worry is over feeding, it will 3 acres split into 3 tracks. Each track consist of 1/2 pasture & 1/2 wooded for grazing and will be moved from track to track. Supplemental food tho, I have unlimited amount of spent brewery grain, also anywhere from 100-250 gal. of fresh brewery yeast to feed every day. I’ll be receiving variable amounts of dairy for them as well. Breed will be mostly Mulefoot with some crosses.

    How would you move them from area to area?
    Should I have it all free range and not split into track?
    How much supplemental feed of each type per 100 lbs of grazing pig should i allow?
    How many market pig Mulefoot would be good for the area?

    Thanks! C.W.

    • If you watch their condition, specifically jowl you can avoid overfeeding. I would suggest feeding salad in the morning, e.g., pasture forages. Then highest calorie foods in the evening. The spent barley is low calorie, high protein, high fiber but not complete protein. Dairy as whey is pretty low calorie but as whole milk is high calorie.

      To move animals between paddocks we do it in several ways. Sometimes it is just a matter of opening a gate from one paddock to another. Other times it is a matter of opening a gate to a new paddock along a lane. We have lanes which connect many of our paddocks. These paths are often 1,000′ or longer.

      If you just free-range then animals tend to cherry pick the best forages, leave the weeds which then take over, soil compaction and parasite load builds up and the pastures go down hill. If instead you do managed rotational grazing these problems are all avoided and the quality of the pasture improves. It doesn’t have to be complicated – there is a great deal of flexibility.

      I don’t have an easy answer for how much supplemental feed. For us it is what our available resources allow which varies seasonally and over the years. The percentages above are dry matter. Sometime I’ll write a more detailed article that may give you more of what you’re looking for on that. I have spreadsheets that I’ve created which track and calculate this sort of thing but they’re not really good for public consumption. If you’ve ever made spreadsheets you probably know how they sometimes grow organically… :)

      I don’t know anything about Mulefoot pigs other than they have a deformity of their toes that is their breed name characteristic.

  45. Myles says:

    Hi Walter. I’ve been following your blogs for a while. I understand how the eggs would be more nutritious cooked but is there any chance that if pigs eat a few raw ones they find in the field it could make them sick? I plan to have a flock of heritage chickens running with or behind pigs on pasture and a safe bet they won’t lay all their eggs in the coop. Very informative and well written articles. Knowing how busy a farm could get I’m always impressed (and grateful) that you take the time to share your experience.

    • Eating raw eggs doesn’t seem to make them sick. Chickens often lay eggs in odd places and if the pigs find them they eat them, raw. We have about 300 to 500 chickens typically for the organic pest control services they offer. This means we get tens of thousands of eggs. Those are the ones we find. I know we don’t find them all. The dogs also will find and eat the stray eggs. An extra bonus of having hens.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        Wow, that’s a fairly substantial number of chickens. You mostly discuss your pigs, but it would be interesting to see a little bit more about how the chickens are important to your farm. How rigorously do you cull the chickens for traits that you prefer? Do you have any special facilities for the chickens, or are they all free range and simply find roosts and nests where then can in facilities intended for the pigs?

        Do the chickens offer any measureable health benefits for the pigs? Do they consume insects or parasites that can directly impact pig health? I’m imagining chickens hopping onto the backs of swine and seeking out ticks and fleas, but I’m not sure if that’s an issue where you are.

        I’m sure you’ve probably mentioned them a few times over the years, but I’m fairly new here and haven’t run across any posts specifically about the chickens.

  46. Myles says:

    Good to know. I have just purchased a small 5 acre parcel of flat pasture and am planning to raise 3-4 weaners next spring. Unfortunately this year will be dedicated to getting infrastructure (incl power, septic and well) in place. There is also a pond so I’m also hoping the hens will help keep the bugs in check. Thanks.

  47. Adebayo Tolulope faith says:

    Hi Walter, i just came across your website today and i must say i’m glad i did, this particular page answers straight forward some serious question i had, but please i have a few more,
    1. In your experience how many acres do i need minimum to raise 4000 pigs, i mean growing my own feed
    2. how many support staffs (chickens) do i need minimum
    I live in Ukraine so i have between 5 and 6 months for planting, thanks in advance for you reply in the mean time, i’ll keep going through your site

    • I don’t have a specific number in mind. With 200 to 400 pigs on farm pasturing over about 40 acres out 70 acres we typically also have 300 to 500 hens although sometimes over winter we’ll drop that number to 100 and one winter to around 36 hens. About 10% of our hens have been born here on the farm but currently (≤2015) we buy chicks in the spring about every two or three years as needed to bring the population backup.

      4,000 pigs is a lot of pork. I would break that up into smaller herds of 100 to 400 each of which is its own territory and manage them as separate groups. This would let you run multiple genetic lines which is what we do at about 400 pigs. I figure with good pig genetics, good pasture and good managed rotational grazing I can raise a maximum of about 10 pigs per acre. Don’t expect to do that initially.

      I like to have extra land to do grand rotations across years which helps the pasture seed year to year. We use about 70 acres for 400 pigs running our grazing rotation on about 40 acres each year. In the fall we open up those stocked areas as the pastures wane. This allows land to rest some years and also gives us room to expand – elasticity is important.

      Grow into it slowly.

  48. Andy says:

    Lovely website. We breed pedigree Cornish large Black Pigs in Cornwall England. Great to see similar methods used fare and wide. Our pigs graze grass and have fermented cider apple waste from our cider orchards October through March, increases winter calories and protects from digestive problems. They graze orchards in winter fertilising trees and turning over topsoil.

  49. Diane kinsch says:

    Good day. I read in one of your posts that you have raised a few batches of pigs on 100% pasture. We have a 2 acre wood lot for sale next to our 2 acre pig pasture. My husband said we could buy it if I can figure out how to not have to use purchased feed for the pigs. The savings would help cover the monthly payments on the land. We only keep 4-6 pigs at a time. We bring in new piglets when the older ones are half grown. Any suggestions on how to make this work? We live in charlotte NC and do rotate cows in the pasture with the pigs and will be getting sheep next month. We also have chickens that come and go in the pasture ( totally free range). I could grow more in the garden for them, add eggs, also I could use liver and other beef cuts that we don’t sell. We do have a dairy cow that has a couple calves on her now so not much milk available but maybe some milk for the pigs? I will take any and all suggestions you have. Thank you and I have spent years going through your blogs and posts. I really appreciate all the information.

    • We have raised some batches of pigs completely on pasture. They grow more slowly than if they have supplements like whey since pasture is low in calories and lysine. With very good genetics and good pastures it is doable. Note that woods are not nearly as good as pasture or even better savanna style pasture. Planting up with soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, amaranth, chicory and other forages produces much better pasture than the typical lawn like pasture of a mono crop. Seed is cheaper but slower than feed. Adding eggs, dairy, pumpkins, sunflowers and other things will all help to speed up growth in the pigs.

  50. Diane kinsch says:

    Thank you so much for your super speedy reply. I may give it a go now with my current piglets and the pasture and woods that we have them in now. I love all the information you have out there for all of us beginners! Thank you again!!

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