Pastured Pigs: What They Eat And Where They Live



piggies FB

I think it’s high time for a pig update, don’t you? Several months ago we found a local farmer who raises a cross between two heritage breed pigs- Large Black and Tamworths- so we brought home our first two pigs to feed out and eventually slaughter for meat.

Where they live.

When the pigs first moved to Whistle Pig Hollow, they lived in the barn while they grew large enough to not be eaten by any predators and to not escape from what would be their permanent area, which is a delightfully shady wooded hillside.

pig woods

Now that they’re in their permanent area, I estimate they have about an acre to run around and forage on. It’s full of old fallen logs and acorns, and they seem to be loving it.

shady woods

What they eat.

I loved reading The Elliott Homestead’s post on what they are feeding their pastured pigs, so I thought I’d share what we’re feeding ours too. In addition to whatever they forage, we give them fermented organic corn (we follow Blue Yurt Farm’s fermenting directions), table and garden scraps, and leftover milk and milk kefir. We offer OMRI-approved kelp and Redmond salt too, for good measure.

yum

We ended up not going with any sort of pig feed because the farmers we purchased them from only supplement with corn, so we figured corn should work for us too. We also read everything we could from Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm, and he also uses no commercial pig feed (or grain)- forage, grass, dairy, and farm scraps (veggies and eggs) are what his pigs get.

Our pigs are a cross of two excellent foraging breeds, so that’s what they’re going to have to do. Forage away, piggies. Forage away.

Fencing.

We went with high tensile wire electric fencing. We gave them a training period in our garden plot, where they learned it’s not ideal to touch electric fence.

piggies

It turns out, when you’re looking into how to contain pigs, you hear completely opposite things about electric fencing. It seems to work great for some, and it seems to be a total failure for others. So far the electric fence is working beautifully for our piggies.

[Granted, when they first moved in, they escaped about three times in two days. Each time we were able to figure out the area they escaped from and adjust the fence in that location. Our property is hilly and uneven, so there were some places where the wire was just not close enough to the ground to keep the little piggies in. Fortunately the pigs were, well, piggy enough to come right to us if we splashed around a bucket of milk, so we were able to get them back in very easily. Now it seems we’ve gotten all the high areas fixed, and the pigs are much larger now anyway. They’d be hard pressed to get under anything…! We’ve had no more escapes since the initial move in. Knocking on wood.]

Charger.

Because we were fencing not only a large wooded area, but also our entire cow pasture, we opted for a pretty strong fence charger that could still provide a nice charge even if some debris got on the fence.

charger

We also went with the remote control on/off, which has been worth every extra cent. If we’re up at the fence, we can turn it off right there to go inside or remove a fallen limb- no need to trek all the way back down to the house where the power supply is.

remote

I really love having the pigs here. They are utilizing an area of land conventionally deemed “unusable” (a steep, wooded hillside), not to mention, they are just a pleasure. We call them by saying, “Pig, pig, pig, pig” and they come running and snorting, looking for a treat.

We loved Joel Salatin’s Pigs ‘n Glens movie, which really inspired us to get some piggies to live in our woods. From this point on, I hope to never be without pigs living in our woods.

Have you raised pigs? What kind? What was your experience with them?

~Ashley

pig Collage

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Comments

  1. Great article! I was wondering if you could give some more details about running the electric fencing through the woods (or point me to another source)? Our current property is flat prairie, no trees unless you beg them to grow. Our only concern here with our electric fence is to keep the grass/weeds from growing up to the bottom wire. We have just bought a small wooded property though and I have no idea how to run the electric fencing through there. Can you use the trees as posts or will it damage them?

    • Sherry, we loved Joel Salatin’s movie Pigs ‘n Glens- he shows how to run electric fence through woods without damaging the trees. The movie is kind of expensive, but we ended up using his method so I felt like we got our money’s worth out of it. We used trees for most of the posts in the woods, and in places where we needed something in between the trees, my husband just drove in t-posts. As far as the grass and things touching the bottom wire, if you get a strong enough charger for your electric fence, it can handle plenty of weeds touching it (b/c ours reallllly needs to hit with the weed-eater right now, but the charge is still strong). We like the remote control thing that came with our charger, bc you can check the power on the fence and if it’s low you know something large has fallen on the fence and you need to walk the fence line and remove it. Another resource we really like is Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm. He interacts regularly on the Homesteading Today forum, so we ended up asking him a few questions. When my husband gets home I’ll ask him if there are any other sources he found for info on fencing in the woods!

      • Thanks so much! I thought I knew all of Joel Salatin’s materials, but I hadn’t heard about the video. I was able to find it streaming on their website for $15 (unlimited views). It looks to be just the thing I’m needing. I am also a fan of Walter Jeffries.

        Thanks again!

  2. We are raising our first pigs now. We have some trees, but I wouldn’t consider any part of our property “wooded.” Ours are living in our old buck pen. Milk is their absolute favorite food! I am definitely going to research these links you provided, as I’m always looking for better feed to supplement our table scraps. I currently feed a mix of corn and “swine feed” but honestly, they don’t seem to love it. Maybe fermented corn is the way to go. I’ve started back up our fodder operation for the cow and chickens, and had read that pigs like that as well…

  3. Ashley Browning says:

    Remote control. Brilliant. Now why couldn’t I find one of those?

  4. I love the idea of free range pigs, and am glad they are getting natural shade in your woodlot. However as a forester I have to say I have seen many woodlots badly damaged by pigs, much worse than the damage cattle do when they are pastured in a woodlot. I would encourage people to consider, if its possible, to allowing the pigs access to only part of their woodlot, and allowing part to remain unpastured and thusly unaffected by the pigs.

    • What do you think about rotating them between different parts of the woods? For example, we talked about letting this particular part of the woods “rest” for two to three years after these pigs by building new pig-areas in other parts of the woods for the pigs we raise next year and the next. Are they like pastures that just need to be rested and not over-done by any one particular thing? When we slaughter these pigs I plan to go in and really look at the woods and see how hard they were on it. We do have lots of other wooded areas that are so far untouched, aside from being logged a long time ago before we moved in, but like i said, we are considering rotating future pigs through those areas.

      • Nicole Ludwick says:

        The heritage breeds such as Black hogs root minimally compared to modern breeds. Nose rings help too, unless you feel that is inhuman. My dad raised timber hogs. He put huts around hilltops where they could pig. I believe having 15 acres of timber helped minimize the damage. The problem was the piglets were not used to human interaction. This stressed them into shock when they were loaded to sell. When I try my timber pigs on a smaller scale, I will make sure the babies get attention from day one. Thanks for the article.

  5. Nicole, these pigs definitely root way less than “normal” pigs. The woods look great still and the pigs are almost ready for slaughter. You can tell something has been living in the woods, but it is by no means destroyed or eroded or anything.

    Thanks for sharing your story about timber hogs- I love hearing how people used to do things! Good luck with yours!

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