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Discussion Starter #1
I posted a small introduction before but I wanted to reach out to the folks I am trying to emulate, the pig forum. This is our first shot so I will probably be in here quite a bit. I've been lurking for months and thoroughly enjoying it.

DISCLAIMER: WE WILL BE RAISING FOR PERSONAL USE, AS WELL AS PROFIT IN THE FUTURE

We are having a go at raising some pigs for the first time this spring. We have started working with a local blueberry you-pick operation that has excess pasture acreage they're tired of mowing. We will be installing a secure perimeter fence around 7 acres of open pasture during the next couple of months. Once the perimeter is set up, the plan is to establish 6 paddocks, each with the far end potentially reserved for stockpiling forage or supplemental gardens for the pigs. Long term, there is room to expand to as many as 30 acres of pasture and 20 acres of wooded areas.

Question: For fairly permanent paddocks, would you suggest poly wire, poly mesh, or a high tensile setup? Ideally'd I'd love to have field mesh wire, but that's not in the cards just yet.

We are going into this because the market around us is pretty thin when it comes to purchasing quality pork that was raised in a pasture based system. We will be experimenting with a few different breeds the first season. We would like to get 2-3 feeders of 3-4 different breeds and see what works best for our situation on this land. Is it possible to have 6-10 hogs of different breeds living happily together in a paddock?

We will butcher and evaluate our situation at the end of the year to see how we want to move forward the next spring.

Currently the biggest hurdle is the land owner's previous experience with pigs. He's worried that they will have a negative impact on his blueberry business next summer by keeping people from coming out due to the smell. We're working to do a few tours at other local farms to see how he feels about them. Back to the drawing board if it doesn't work.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Confessions?

Misc Background:
My wife and I are both Agricultural Engineers, but by training only, not in practice. We both were drawn to it because of the life it represented and we are ready to start working toward that.

We both still work traditional full times jobs as engineers and we live 10min away from the farm. The land owner is VERY interested in the project and if we get everything running will be able to help out during the day, and we will visit the farm every morning and evening for the foreseeable future. We also have some fairly cheap labor that will be able to take care of things as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read though this and thank you in advance for any replies. I need brutal honesty and sage wisdom as we're starting up.
 

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They will smell, but nothing like a confinement barn if you rotate their living areas around every now and then. That's a lot of property; it will be pricey to fence. Ideally, the perimeter would be field fence, with a string or two of electric a few inches inside it. That gives you a good solid boundary, electric keeps them from digging or rubbing on it. Once you train the pigs to electric fencing, it's very effective, but they have to know where it is and that it's bad. If they wander off into a little-travelled section of the pasture and hit a 3 or 4 strand fence because they can't see it, they could very well be right through it and into the blueberry bushes. Pigs are destructive. Unhappy landowner. Maybe set up a smaller pasture with field fence first in a way that you can expand it. Or, start smaller, training them well, using high tensile. Then expand and think about field fence later. Sell a few to finance a good fence.

That's confusing maybe as I reread it, but I guess my point is that if I had a large pasture (10 acres or more), I would want the security of field fence and electric. Or at least high tensile with a very visible boundary as part of it.

I use 3-strand high tensile (2 feet high) on two 2-acre pastures. I have orange plastic snow fence around the high tensile as a visible barrier. I train them in a small pen for a month (80x50), then let them out. Never lost one yet. High tensile alone works fine if they can see it and know where it is. They don't have great eyes, so a visible barrier helps a LOT.

I wouldn't use the electro-net stuff for pigs. People use it; I wouldn't. It has no physical strength. The poly tape stuff is good because they can see it. Train them with it in a small pen with hog panel around it. They'll learn to associate the tape with the boundary and a zap. Use that around your pasture and they'll see it.

They will smell, but not that much and the added attraction of seeing pigs when you go u-pick blueberries may offset the smell. It gives you a lot of exposure, and adds to the attraction of going to the farm. I don't think it would be a drag on his business.

Start small and see how it goes. You're talking 12 or so pigs to start with. That's not a ton, but there is a learning curve. Somewhere after 4 or 6, it becomes real work. I would start with 4-6. Breed really doesn't matter that much, I don't think. Fed the same diet, I doubt the average person could tell the difference in the meat. Breed does help marketing. Selling pastured Berkshires, GOS, etc. will sound better than pastured commercial crosses. I've never seen any breed of meat pig that didn't act like a pig: root, wallow, eat bugs, grubs, etc. The first batch will teach you about pigs, how to minimize workload, what investment makes sense, how to add x% more pigs without increasing the time required, etc. Each larger batch will provide more capital for the next one. Growing slowly and having a superior product will bring repeat business. Repeat business is how you grow. Minimizing time is key for you, especially having to drive there. It's fun for a while, then it's work, then it's profitable, then you sell out everything you raise before it's even farrowed, then you want to quit your day job. Then you have to decide if it's worth doing if you can't make enough to quit your day job. Then your daughter starts college and you decide it is indeed still worth doing.

Produce a top-notch product, find a top-notch processor to work with (key item), charge enough to make it worth doing. If the product is good, it's a very loyal customer base that keeps coming back. The market that buys this kind of product doesn't care about price; they care about quality, taste, humane treatment, natural environment, quality overall experience. Can't stress a good processor enough. Dead deer on the floor when you pick up your meat: bad. Paying premium prices for horrible bacon: bad. The only human contact most buyers will have in the process will be with the processor, not you. The processor represents your brand almost more than you do. Pick a good one. The whole thing has to be top notch. Starting with 4, then 6-8, then 12 will allow you to tune a process that works well for your specific situation. Don't have 18 angry buyers on your first go around; it's very discouraging. I know.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
WOW! What an awesome response. Thanks for taking the time to detail all of that.

Fortunate for us the land owner has agreed to put up a field fence perimeter around the area. He sees it as a land improvement investment. Also, my family owns a farm supply store about an hour up the road and I was able to get a good deal on some used field fence that came from a deceased land owner who had erected it just a year earlier, his kids just wanted to get everything down. We'll be paying 13 cents/ft for it, I believe it's 39" high, but I'll have to check on that. We have enough to get though about 3/4 of the property, and we'll be able to buy the remainder relatively cheap. I do like the electric liner fence though, just to keep everything as secure as possible since we will not be on site 100% of the time.

The training them to the fence is something that will be an interesting task. I've read up on a few ways of doing it and I'm going to keep on researching that.

I feel the same way about the impact to the business. If we work with them and rotate the pigs into the farther pastures to decrease impact, I feel like it's a win/win for everyone. If someone cares enough to go to a small, out of the way blueberry farm they're probably interested in some way in sustainable farming practices and local food systems.

I guess my math got a little fuzzy, I think that 6 is the number we're shooting for right now and 8 is the maximum, but 4 may be our mot realistic. We are interested in heritage breeds and want to find what size is best for us to handle and is attractive to the customers in our market.

More than anything I want to focus on quality and relationships. I appreciate the suggestion on processor and that will be a huge focus when we get some pigs in the field.

The market that buys this kind of product doesn't care about price; they care about quality, taste, humane treatment, natural environment, quality overall experience
THIS is what I keep trying to tell people. I tell them that local, humane, quality meat is the new "Craft Beer Movement". Dealing with a more informed, more demanding customer base who understands why it costs a bit more.

I meant to post this earlier, but here's a preliminary layout for where we will be.
 

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We will be installing a secure perimeter fence around 7 acres of open pasture during the next couple of months.
Good start. I would suggest the strongest fence you can with electric incorporated into the fence or just inside the fence. Get a good energizer of at least 2.5 joules but I would suggest 6 joules. Kencove.com is a good source of both fencing and information. They have many articles on their site.

Once you have the perimeter fenced, subdivide it into paddocks. More smaller paddocks are better than fewer large paddocks but you can keep subdividing as you go.

I figure a maximum sustainable grazing rate of ten pigs per acre. See the sticky:

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/li...53-pasturing-planting-rotational-grazing.html

We are going into this because the market around us is pretty thin when it comes to purchasing quality pork that was raised in a pasture based system.
Just raise for yourself, family and friends the first year. Grow slowly. There is a lot to learn. Get infrastructure in place. Get your feet muddy.

We will be experimenting with a few different breeds the first season.
You can't learn a whole lot about a breed from just a few animals. I would not worry about what breed the first year. Just get some pigs. Reserve now with a deposit at a breeder because in the spring you likely won't be able to get any quality piglets since everyone and their brother wants them then.

We would like to get 2-3 feeders of 3-4 different breeds and see what works best for our situation on this land.
Read through the old threads on this forum. This sort of plan gets discussed a lot.

Is it possible to have 6-10 hogs of different breeds living happily together in a paddock?
Yes. They don't care much.

Currently the biggest hurdle is the land owner's previous experience with pigs. He's worried that they will have a negative impact on his blueberry business next summer by keeping people from coming out due to the smell.
Properly pastured pigs should not smell bad at all. We have about 400 pigs on our farm out on pasture. It doesn't smell piggy. If you confine them, if you don't use real pasturing, if you don't do rotational grazing then you'll produce a dirt lot situation and that will smell bad. Avoid that. Learn about managed rotational grazing. It is key.

You may find these articles useful:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2013/09/25/south-weaning-paddock/

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2007/10/12/how-much-land-per-pig/

I can't emphasize enough the 'grow slowly' mantra. Ease into things. We have a lot of pigs on pasture. Success comes from a lot of little factors involving animal genetics, pasture quality, forages, soils, management and then there is processing, marketing and delivery to the customer. If you're going to be selling meat then you'll need to get licenses - check with your state department of agriculture for details as it varies state to state.

Be in it for the long haul because it takes time to learn the details.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Walter,

Thanks for the response. I think that when we get started with only 4 pigs next spring, we will quickly realize why we need to move slowly. I have been in contact with a couple of local-ish folks and as soon as we get the go ahead from the land owner, we'll be putting a deposit in.

Thanks for the links too. The forage that is currently in the pasture is pretty mediocre, so we need to work on that. We will be intensively managing the rotation and look forward to learning alot about it.
 

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I disagree on the breed, I would get a heritage pig right from the start b/c :
Raising a 250-300# hog is a lot different then a 1000# one.
Meat does taste different.
Heritage hogs are more docile in my opinion and they forage better.
If you want to continue after a year you will already have starter hogs/sows.
I like AGH but would love to have Ossabaw (sp?)Island and Kune Kune pigs
 

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Janis, it takes a _long_ time for a pig to get to 1,000 lbs and most never will even of the big breeds. Sows only get up to 800 to 900 lbs after many years of growth. If you just want smaller pigs, slaughter them earlier. Feeders can be slaughtered at any age and breeders can be kept just to the size you want. Many of our sows are only 300 to 400 lbs. This also lets you rotate your genetics faster to improve your herds faster.

By the way, heritage breeds don't mean small pigs. Yorkshire, Large Black, Tamworth and Berkshire are all heritage breeds. They are also all large breeds and they're not rare because they're successful. They grow quickly on pasture getting to market size in six to eight months. Yorkshire is one of the oldest breeds. Yes, the pink pigs.

The taste of the meat comes not from the breed but the feed. Feed is stored in the fat, which is affected by breed, age and calorie levels. Feed for flavor. Lots of scientific research on this topic. The 'chef taste tests' for marketing by various groups are not science so don't pay attention to those - they're just trying to claim their favorite breed is best. There is no best, just different for different circumstances.

-Walter
 
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