I can’t imagine how we lived before pigs. My sister, living in town, joked that she thinks she can get away with owning a pot-bellied pig. I think it’s an excellent idea. They root, they eat, they manure and they don’t ask much of their keeper. They do ask for proper management; keep them safe, well-fed, move them away from their manure regularly and treat them well. Let the pig do what pigs are built to do.
I have yet to see any living thing that will cause soil disturbance like a grown pig. They will dig up moles, rhizomes, worms, grubs and who knows what else. They dig just for the pleasure of digging. That digging, left unchecked, can create an area that looks like the surface of the moon. However, judicious use of pig noses can renovate pastures and make a positive ecological change to the landscape.
Everything we waste can be pre-composted through our pigs. Garden wastes can go to pigs, feed spoiled in the chick brooder, cow manure, mice from our traps…they will eat it all. In the winter that pre-composted material goes right to the compost pile where it helps maintain a high temperature for our thermophilic composting process. Whatever we miss is churned with the soil and bedding into the garden.
Our most recent batch are ruptures from a production floor. Just a quick note, a “rupture” is a pig with a hernia. Often the hernia is expressed in the belly of a female or the scrotum of a male. In both men and in hogs, the tendency toward a hernia is genetic. It is generally believed there isn’t a way to manage the hernia short of surgery. I don’t in any way wish to demean the farmers I bought the pigs from. They are close friends who run a highly-efficient formula of inputs and outputs on a schedule. Not all animals qualify for their program. I picked up those that were genetically disqualified.
These pigs arrived in mid-December. Please notice the three ruptured males. Also notice they are packed in tightly together though they have room to run. This shot was taken within 15 minutes of the first time their feet ever hit dirt. Chew on that for a moment. 40-60# hogs that have never touched dirt and have never been more than a few inches apart. Finally, there are two runts in there. They never did grow for us but tasted great.
In the back is a ruptured female with a massive belly rupture. We call her Thing1. Here’s a better (but not great) shot of her:
Here’s another picture of the blue pig above. I want you to be sure I’m showing you the same batch of pigs across this post.
Click on the image to see his large rupture. I wish I had a better shot but I don’t. The rupture is within his …male anatomy. It bulged in three distinct lobes and a portion was raw from where it rubbed the ground. We thought we were going to have to put him down right away. Here is the same pig at the end of February.
Where did it go? In fact, where did any of the ruptures go?
These pigs were scheduled to be executed because of their ruptures. They would not have survived on the floor in their condition. I brought them home, switched them to Fertrell feed (high in pro-biotics) fed them twice daily plus a few scraps and gave them room to run in the sunshine and fresh air. Their gut emptied between feedings. They burned energy running, rooting, fighting and playing. No antibiotics, medications or belt straps involved. Just a change in management.
This winter we just parked them on the new garden and hauled manure away daily, using them to till the soil and work in organic material. In the spring, summer, and fall we move 3-4 pigs to a fresh 25×25 area every third or fourth day using pig quick fence from Premiere 1 Supplies. The fencing hugs the contours well, is visible to the livestock and everybody has a healthy respect for it.
Keeping a hog around the farm or house is a great way to boost fertility, create disturbance, pre-compost wastes and feed the family but proper management is the key to health.
One final note, if you smell the pigs you need to add carbon. Pigs don’t smell, bad managers do.