Pigs to compost new garden

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by Faith Farm, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. Faith Farm

    Faith Farm Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    218
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    Virginia
    I have never raised pigs, chased pigs or lived near the smell
    of pigs. What must I do to house, fence, feed and raise a few
    pigs for composting a new 100 x 120 garden this spring?
    What breed of pig is recommended, when should I purchase,
    how many and how long should they stay in the garden?
    Thanks,
    Paul
     
  2. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    561
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2004
    Location:
    ontario
    With my limited experience,(first time pigs this past summer) I would say you would need at least 10 to get the area ready for the season after. They need shelter, out of the elements, straw for cosy bedding. I purchased mine in May and slaughtered in Nov. My garden is ready for the upcoming season. Train them with treats and sounds to get those treats, to get them back when they get loose (notice I said when and not if) I called to them here, piggies and shook a can with pebbles in it, they came running without fail. As to a breed, I don't know. Hope this helps.
     

  3. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,719
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2004
    Location:
    Mountains of Vermont, Zone 3
    Lots of questions, many answers depending on situation...

    We have lots of pasture so we pasture raise our pigs in the warm months and then in the winter they go into garden corrals where they fertilize and till the soil. They only have a short period when they can actually till the soil up on either end of the winter since during the brunt of winter the ground is frozen.

    I find that in the month and a half they're on the gardens and it is tillable they'll each turn up about 1,000 sq ft of garden easily. It actually works best to use temp fencing and make them concentrate on a quarter to half of that at a time for a week or so. Note that little pigs are not going to turn up nearly as much as big pigs. You are probably going to start with small ones. I would so they can get to know you. Make friends with them while they're small so they're easier to handle when they are big.

    We live in northern Vermont mountains and the soil is very poor. We started with about 1/8" of top soil on steep slopes. I terraced it and made garden corrals and then the animals (sheep, pigs and poultry) have been improving the soil for me over the years. Our garden areas are now rich deep top soil filled with organic matter.

    In the winter I feed and bed them with hay. Some of that gets scattered and worked into the soil in the spring which is good as it adds a lot of organic matter to the soil and carbon to soak up the urine and bind it so it sticks around. Wood chips also work although not as well in my experience. The wood takes longer to break down.

    Come warm months I turn the pigs and other animals out to pasture where they graze and browse for most of their food. We have spring fed waterers and electric fencing around much of the pastures (esp along the road side) and stone walls around almost all the area.

    Automate your watering so that the animals always have access to fresh water and you're not having to carry it to them. They need a lot of water and carrying it to them gets old fast, especially in the dead of winter.

    In the summer it is minimal. I made nice dens for the sows but they sometimes use them (if it is raining) and other times prefer to sleep outside my bedroom window. They snore. :) Some of them farrowed in the dens I made while others went off into the brush and made their own places for having piglets. The first little piggy used the house I made of stone, the second made a house of straw, the third made a house of stick... no kidding. :)

    In the winter, around here, it is a whole 'nother matter. They need a dry deep hay pack that they can snuggle down into to keep warm and they need shelter from the wind and sky. This does not mean a barn. We have dens (dug into the hill side) and pole sheds. Keeping the wind off of the animals is important. You can see an example of one of our sheds at:

    http://hollygraphicart.com/misc/haybalecoop2.html

    They do fine out in our very cold winters during the day. Sunshine and fresh air are good for them. Don't close them in. Give them the choice of in or out.

    For the pastures a strand or two of electric fence works fine for us. Make sure it is always on as they may test it. Generally they stay in if they have all they want (food, water, shade, companions, etc). If they need something that is outside the fence then they may challenge it. Before using electric fence you need to train them to it by putting them in a physically secure corral (e.g., boards, woven wire, hog panels, etc) with electric inside so they learn it. Electric fence is a psychological thing and they have to be trained to it. Once trained even a single wire about nose level (18") generally works for the big pigs. Piglets will not abide by it until they get bigger so they need more wires. Poultry netting works great. I use a few of rolls of that along the road of the home fields area. Someday I'll replace it with something more permanent.

    My prefered fencing is High Tension electric wire - smooth and woven. That forms some physical barrier too and takes less maintenance. I also use poultry netting (highly effective for piglets as well as big pigs, chickens and sheep) and temp plasti-wire fence on step in posts. The latter is high maintenance as it sags but it is quick to setup and take down.

    In the warm months ours get most of their feed from pasture. We feed a little bread every day to keep them trained to come when we call. In the winter we use bread, veggies, commercial feed and now milk. The milk just started for us. A local dairy has excess milk and we get that. The pigs love it. This cuts the commercial feed bill and puts the condition on the sows very nicely. It is great for growing hogs.

    If you have them confined then you'll need to feed them more. I would suggest starting with a store bought swine ration as you get to know your way around the pigs. For maximum rooting, don't over feed them.

    I also hand sow crops in areas I've confined them in the fields so they would till it up. I let them into those areas later. Everything from simple legumes to turnips, sunflowers and corn. Great late fall feeds.

    Mostly that depends on what is available in your area. We have Yorkshire (white, ears erect, long bodied) pigs which are excellent mothers and great on pasture. Apparently some pigs are not as good at foraging as others. Look around at what other people in your area have. Then read up on that breed. It is likely you'll end up with some sort of cross. Almost anything works fine except pot bellied pigs. Some people even use pot bellied pigs for eating.

    As soon as you have the garden corral ready. Have shelter, secure physical fence, electric fence, feed space and waterer ready before they arrive. By starting in the winter months you can have them confined, get to know them and they can till the spring garden. Then move them to another area and plant that area. If you grain feed them they'll be to eating weight (200 or so pounds) at about five to six months of age.

    I would get at least two. They do well with companionship. Four is about the same work as two. Sell the extras when they're market size. Each hog is supposed to produce around two tons of manure a year, so about a ton from weaner to market size, of great fertilizer for your garden.

    For a 100' x 120' garden I would subdivide it into quarters or sixths and then move them through each section for a week during tillable seasons (when the ground isn't frozen). Over the winter they can lay down a layer of fertilizer and hay to work in to the soil in the spring.

    Get a book like "Small Scale Pig Raising" by Dirk Van Loon. Excellent read and it will answer questions you didn't know you had. :) And of course, read this list and others like PasturedPigs@yahoogroups.com, PIGS-AND-SWINE@yahoogroups.com, see http://thepigsite.com/ and Google around.

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    in Vermont
     
  4. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Messages:
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    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2003
    Location:
    Central NY
    Thank you Walter for your excellent post and website!
    How do you collect your eggs from that hay coop?
     
  5. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,719
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2004
    Location:
    Mountains of Vermont, Zone 3
    We've done it two ways:

    1) Small child. :) Our younger son loved going into the coop and gathering the eggs.

    2) Door in the back of the nest box which takes the space of one of the bales. Easier for us bigger people. :)

    Our hoop house which we made this summer is up on a ring foundation of hay bales a and protected on the windward side by more hay. With that I simply open the wire doors in the back. You can see some photos from that at:

    http://hollygraphicart.com/misc/wirehoopcoop.html

    There is a close up of the egg collecting doors in the back over the egg nest shelves. This is easier for me and the chickens love it.

    The photos don't show the final step which was we covered it for winter with foil and cloth. It is nice and warm inside even with our low temps here in the northern Vermont mountains. I have to leave the front door open almost all the time for ventilation.

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mtn Farm
    in Vermont