Pigs... the most interesting farm animal

The farmer side of my self was so proud yesterday.

For about 2 hours, that is.

Daniel is away serving in the National Guard for the next few weeks and so the life of the farm and all of it's inhabitants...

100,000 (a guess here) bees

7 pigs

117 chickens

is completely dependent upon me.

Oh great.

So that means the chores are mine and the tasks of moving the pigs every other day is now mine.

Now mind you, I have been involved with their moving before.  You know, moving the feed trough and moving the water and the like.  Sure, I can do that.

But never ever have I set up the electric fence on my own.  And so when Daniel asked if I was ready~ I simply smiled and said sure!

So when I moved that fence yesterday and got all 7 pigs through and got their feed and water set up without any pigs escaping and without getting electrocuted... I was pretty darn excited.

So pleased with myself in fact I took the family for a tour of the new pig paddock I had created after dinner. 

Have you guessed it?

Yep.  1 pig out.

Ok.  No problem.  I can handle this.

Oh gosh.

Upon further inspection, 1 pig completely out and 4 other pigs in the old paddock... like definitely not the one I had just moved them to.

Oh NO!

5 pigs.

5 pigs out and in the open meadow with freedom to run in any direction.  35 acres of freedom.

If I was a woman who used foul language, I think this might have been the perfect time to use some.

Just like that, they slid out from under the fence and were wandering down the cedar trail and were running around chasing chickens.

Let me tell you for about 20 minutes I was stressed.  Telling your in-laws (let's be hones... commanding them) what to do while trying to herd a pack of very large pigs back under an electrified fence could be classified as a farmer's wife's worst nightmare.

Yeah.

But!

Miraculously!  We got them back in! (Nothing like good ole kitchen scraps and Grandma's sweet talking to get the job done!)  Miraculously!  The problem wasn't my inability to put up a secure fence!  The problem was the wiring had become disconnected to the power source, thus leaving the fence without electricity.  Pigs inside, problem solved, we all, including the pigs, went straight to bed.

Chores on night #2 complete.

So why?

Why do we take the trouble to raise the pigs this way?  Why do we move their fence every two days?  What are the benefits?  This will be the second post of our Tell Me Why Series and we will be talking about pigs.

 

Did you know in commercial pig farming, where almost all of the pigs in our country are raised, the pigs never see the light of day?  Did you know they spend their entire lives within a metal cage?  A cage that isn't even big enough for the pig to turn around?  Did you know that they are fed antibiotics every day to protect them from getting sick because the conditions are so nasty?  Did you know that huge vats are underneath these cages to catch their feces and their urine?  Did you know these vats are hardly ever emptied and they emit poisonous gases, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide?  Did you know commercial pig farmers have died because of these gases?  Did you know pigs die as well but they use huge fans which run to continually to try and help protect them from these toxic gases?  Did you know that one industrial pig house can raise a million or more pigs each year in these conditions?

Gross.

Did you know that God created pigs as animals who thrive and flourish on foraging and rooting?

Look at a wild hog.  How does it survive?  What are it's natural tendencies?  To dig and to root and to forage.  As with the chickens, this was the main reason Daniel and I chose to raise our pigs in this way.  We looked to Nature and to the Created Order and we looked to how pigs used to be raised before the Industrial Revolution.

To create a foraging environment for the pigs to enjoy, much like the chickens, we set up a small paddock enclosed by an electric fence.  The pigs go crazy when it is time to be moved.  They act like children in a candy shop, running around... hyperventilating basically... more excited for fresh forage than for their supplemental grain.  We allow them two days in this new paddock because the pigs will bring havoc to the land if we are not careful.  Their digging tendencies and strong noses can kill trees if we do not monitor them well.  So we have found that for the amount of space we are giving them and the amount of pigs we have, every two days is when they need to be moved.  You can see a picture of the fresh forage I moved them to yesterday (before the epic escape)

 

and then a picture of the paddock I just moved them from. 

 

 

Amazing, isn't it?  But the foraging they do is so good for them, and it is good for the land as well.  Good for them in the sense that they eat their natural diet, they feed on fresh plants and receive access to antioxidants making antibiotics not necessary.  And, the flavor of the meat will be incredible.

  For the soil, if we monitor it well and make sure the destruction is not too much, invasive plants are eaten, soil is aerated and fertilized, and then is given time to rest to regrow itself, even more fully than it was before.  The paddocks we are using with these pigs will only be used once this season and will have a complete year to restore themselves before more pigs arrive.

Once again, we are not experts (as you can see from my humbling experience).  We are merely at the beginning of our journey to sustain our family and community with food that nourishes.  Nourishes us, the land, and the animals themselves.  Getting to farm like this is a farmer's wife's dream. 

Thanks for walking alongside.

I will close with a quote:

Pigs are easy to control with electric fence but they are not as easy to herd as cattle or sheep. Extremely intelligent, pigs will make your life exciting. Outsmarting them can provide many moments of heart-stopping pleasure... and (they) are one of the most interesting farm animals.
— Salatin, Joel. You Can Farm. pg. 126

Coming up next... a recipe using fresh sausage and next up in our series, Tell Me Why: Broiler Chickens