Pastured Pork Reader Questions

I maintain and encourage offline correspondence with readers.  Many of you all around the world read my blog regularly but don’t comment.  Who are you in the UK, Australia, Hungary, Pakistan and the Netherlands?  What about you Singapore?  India?  Get to know me!

Anyway, this was in with Jesse’s comments about chicken processing:

Jesse:

I also wanted to ask how many sections of electro-netting you are using for your pigs.  My three pigs are in one 100ft section of the premier fencing.  I am moving it once a week, which is taking me about 4 hours total since I have to clear/mow where the fencing is going, then cover seed the old paddock.  I’m thinking of getting more fence and giving them two sections of that fence.  I was curious how much you are using for your number of pigs.

I own 4 sections of pig quikfence.  I use two at a time so I have an empty paddock set up at all times.  I do tear down and set up in my free time, long before I move the pigs.  I’m behind on seeding where the pigs have been but I’ll get it before the next rain.  I need to haul wood chips to fill in the wallow and I need to rake the rough spots smooth.  I also need to cut some brush before I seed.  I’m sold on that deer food plot mix I found with rape, turnip, daikon radish, etc.  Pretty cool.

Jesse later:

4 sections of pig fence, that’s exactly what i’m thinking of doing.  i only have two right now, so when i set the second one up adjacent, i still have to make this awkward temporary chute out of cattle panels because the gates don’t line up.  plus with only 1 100′ section and the three pigs, i’ve been moving the whole thing weekly, and i’d like to be able to let each paddock go at least 2 weeks.  what is your typical rotation time?  do you use a non-electric gate as a door between the paddocks?  or just the break in the pig fence?

where did you find that deer plot mix?  it sounds good, only with my rotation and small number of pigs, i don’t think i’ll be re-using paddocks this year, so i’ve just been seeding with rye grass.  one of the guys at the farm bureau did recommend rape.  man i hate that plant name.  i really just don’t like ordering 10lbs of rape.
There are a couple of ways to set up your fence.  We tend toward setting up an hourglass [two squares].  All four fences join in the middle.  [Jesse later said this wasn’t clear so I drew this
[]
[]
to make it more clear]  We just peel back two posts and feed the pigs on the other side.  When they find their way through we close it up.  While they are eating I move the fence charger.  As time allows I roll up the fence, usually immediately.
Rapeseed looks like kale but is sold as canola.  Pick your term.  I bought the mix at my local farm supply store.  It’s this stuff right here.

Though I like it, I don’t think I’ll buy the mix again.  No promises though.  It’s not difficult to come up with winter rye, cowpeas, clover, chickory, etc and make my own mix…hopefully for less money.  Even planting turnips behind the pigs would be great…especially if I let the turnips grow then put my chickens over the turnip patch after frost.  I’m also spreading raw aragonite behind the pigs.  No, they won’t return to the same ground again but, like the turnip and chicken example, I’m creating forage opportunities for other animals (including wildlife) and establishing groundcover.

I realized later I didn’t answer his question about rotation time.  I’ll try to answer it now.  Ready?  It varies.  I know that is a terrible answer.  Sometimes I just want them to eat and manure a bit.  Sometimes I want them to tear everything up, kill everything and work in wood chips and straw like last winter in the garden.  Sometimes I count on them to clean up weeds and tree nuts but not destroy the pasture.  Sometimes I want them to wipe the pasture out so I can re-seed with a variety of forages.  Sometimes it’s so stinking hot and dry we can’t drive a fence post in the ground with a hammer so we just sacrifice an area.  Yesterday I moved the pigs because they were nearing the end of forage in their pasture and a rainstorm was moving in.  I didn’t want them to create a mud volleyball pit so…off they went.  Here’s Joel Salatin aswering the same question.
Key points:
  • It depends
  • For his pastures, it’s time to move the pigs when they eat 2 tons of feed.  Pigs can create a lot of disturbance on their way to 2 tons of feed so go back to point 1…it depends.

And from Stockman Grass Farmer:

He currently has three pig finishing pastures and another one under development. Each pasture is about two acres in size and is divided into eight smaller paddocks. These pastures are each stocked with 30 to 50 pigs.

He said it is very important to leave some trees in each paddock as pigs are very susceptible to sunburn.

I should also point out that pigs wallow.  Big pigs make big wallows.  As stated above, I fill their wallows in with wood chips, compost, sawdust or old bedding…basically, whatever is laying around.  You might think this is a nuisance but I think it’s a valuable part of pasture renovation and of allowing the pigs to be pigs.
I’m not a pig farmer.  I’m a farmer with pigs.  I’m learning with you and am happy to help discover the answers with you.  If you need real expert help, write a letter to Salatin.  He always writes back.  Also, check out Sugar Mountain Farm.  Walter does things a little differently than we do but he really knows his beans…er…pigs.  Better than that, find someone who pastures pigs locally (yeah, good luck with that!).
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