Monday, July 17, 2006

The Pig Set-up

There always seems to be a lot of questions about how to get set up for pigs. I suppose that it is always a little daunting to acquire livestock with which you have little experience. Like most other livestock, hogs require very little to be quite happy. A good three sided shelter with a roof will keep out the rain and wind. Even the coldest of winters are happily spent in the shelter as long as the straw is measured in feet instead of inches. A good pasture is also important when it comes to heritage hogs. They prefer a pasture that is rich in legumes such as clover and alfalfa. A good mix is preferred so they can pick and choose what they want to eat. One other important consideration in keeping hogs is that they do need a place to wallow. Pigs do not sweat and in order to stay cool, they will roll in the mud and then siesta all afternoon...doesn't that sound like a great way to spend the day?

When fencing for hogs, there are also some considerations. Hogs have an instinct to root and for whatever reason, they will always root along the fence. If you do not have a solid fence along the ground, they will be able to get their nose under the mesh and, combined with the hole they've dug, squeeze themselves through to freedom. I use a simple rough cut 1x6 nailed to the fence posts. Other alternatives are just as effective such as electric or simple barbed wire stapled right along the ground. I simply prefer the boards as they are rigid and the hogs rarely test their strength.

You can see that I have a simple shed for my pigs. Typically, they do not spend any time in it during the summer months, preferring instead to sleep under the stars. I feed them a combination of ground barley, vitamins & minerals, salt & charcoal (free choice) and lawn clippings to supplement their grazing activities. The charcoal is an old time remedy for parasites and seems to work quite well actually. I have my sows in with my new boar right now. Later this summer, when they are bred, I will move the pigs to the Deer Field where they have much more space and they will farrow. In the foreground, on the other side of the electric fence from the pigs, you can see my corn patch. This is a heritage breed of corn called Bloody Butcher. I am attempting to breed this corn, which reaches heights of 12', so that it will flourish here in our climate. This process will take several years, but once I take my choice cobs of seed the pigs will have access to the rest and will harvest the corn for me...feeding them at the same time.

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