Anybody have experience growing a few pigs on pasture?
Looks like it should be pretty easy but I have zero experience with animals.
I always have a lot of Apples on the ground after apple picking is over and I’m also wondering about allowing the pigs to graze in the orchard to eat the fruit on the ground. I would guess that about 25% of the apples that I grow end up on the ground. We do not harvest the drops for Cider and having a lot of drops really adds to the disease pressure.
My son has 3 feeder pigs coming for a new “experiment.”
I have zero experience. However, I frequently buy pork from these people at Dennis farms. They’ve been raising pastured pork for many years. They seem like very nice people in person, often willing to share their experiences. I suspect they’d be willing to do that with just about anyone.
If you don’t mind your land looking like bombs were dropped on it, go for it. I suggest bringing the excess fruit to your pigs in a dedicated “sacrificial pasture”. Perhaps running them through the orchard for short monitored periods would work too? I am basing this off of my experiences on grazing pasture.
What about the chemicals sprayed on the fruit? Are the pigs eating drops?
Pigs are sort of like peach trees, except probably more involved. In other words there is a pretty steep learning curve (at least to make any money at it).
Think all the diseases, wildlife deprivation, ect. which affect peach trees. Pigs have just as many issues, or more. It’s doable, but just know they require a lot of management.
I’ve done everything from raising pigs in a milk barn as a kid, to managing thousands of sows on a corporate level, to owning a large confinement operation. It’s been a while, but I used to know the business from all angles.
Like anything in agriculture, pigs requires a lot of study and experience to make money at it.
Imo, it’s likely if you buy a few feeder pigs, you will likely lose money after all your expenses, even after feeding the drops.
Rick, check out Eliza Greenman @ : ElizaApples.com and Hogtree.com
I think pastured pork is the best. If you don’t want them rooting you can either select breeds that don’t do it, or ring their noses. I raised pigs and rotated them through my orchard using a paddock constructed of hog panels and a portable shelter, and moved it every few days. They improved the soil fertility quite a bit, and opened up the dense thatchy sod. Moving them regularly helped keep the smell to a minimum. It’s nice to know where your food comes from, and I felt like the oinkers had a pretty good life.
Pigs are good to have around in small quantities. We made money by feeding them whatever we had extra for free. We would grow fields of corn and let the pigs eat the corn. We fed the pigs anything from people food to dog food we bought cheap and of course fruit, grass etc. as well. They are very smart just like a dog so you may find yourself attached to one of them. They make a mess of whatever they touch so keep them moving. They eat grubs, snakes etc. constantly craving meat like we do so my advice is get hog supplement as well. They carry tons of disease so keep them up on their shots. My grandfather kept hundreds on 700 acres of open pastures. Every year he broke even on cattle farming but made money on the pigs he raised with them. There is no animal alive I know of that smells worse than a pig or can do more damage as fast! You will likely be ok with the quantity your raising but my advise is to fight any urge to get bigger. Pigs have 2-3 liters of pigs per year so it’s tempting to grow but the resources in an area can’t support them which is the problem everyone has with wild hogs.
I agree pastured pork is the best. The rooting was never a huge problem for us–actually it was needed in some areas. The need for a wallow combined with long wet summers leads to a big mess down here. One day I may raise hogs again, but it is not needed with the numbers of wild hogs moving in.
I am thinking of doing a chicken tractor system for personal use. I have no intentions of making money. The large quantities of wasted/damaged fruit is pushing me to do this.
Thank everyone for the valuable comments on raising a few pigs on pasture. Looks like we will rake the apple drops downhill and into a loader bucket and drop in the pig area rather than allowing the pigs to graze the orchard.
I had enough posts and high tensile wire leftover from other projects to build about 2 acres of pasture so my son is going to proceed with the pig experiment. I found some budgets from small scale pig production in my state that seem to confirm Olpea’s idea that we will most likely loose money growing a few pigs.
We get reasonable scale on just an acre or two of blackberries, blueberries or peaches but an acre of pasture is not going to raise very many pigs without buying a lot of expensive feed.
I checked out Eliza Greenman’s site. Very interesting site and she seems to have big plans and big hopes. She is located in of the most expensive counties in Virginia not too far from Washington DC, so demand for and prices for her pork should be very high.
Pigs feeding on acorns are leaps and bounds better eating that grass fed pork. As others said about sickness and disease, they are trouble in that regard. Also your pasture will no longer be a pasture if you put pigs on it. Look out if you let them breed, their feeding requirements can become overwhelming.
You should also consider having your son rotate the pigs in those two acres. I’ve heard of land becoming “pig sick”—full of parasites and bacteria. It sounds like you know your way around electric fencing. Once pigs reach a certain size they can easily be controlled using portable rod posts and electric “rope”. I’ve always rotated my animals so I can’t say what would happen if you don’t. If the pigs are to be butchered later in the year it is also a good idea to start on the low end of the pasture and work your way uphill so that waste does not contaminate the clean paddocks.
Pigs can get rattlesnake bit and life goes on…pigs eating whatever they can get in their mouths just about (including the snake). Pesticides on the apples won’t phase the pigs.
(No claims made that you eating the pigs won’t cause illness though.)
We had a few one year. Trouble we had was the chickens like the pig food, and the pigs like the chickens! We had a sow that would run the chickens down very deliberately, and we didn’t like the pigs eating our chickens.
Chickens do a good job of eating what kitchen scraps or fruit waste there is, so hubby said no more hogs.
I hear that raising them with cows saves you a bunch of money because they happily eat the manure. Of course I appreciate that fresh cow manure is full of vitamins, short chain fatty acids and minerals ready for absorption (our ancestors, too, along with all other carnivores, went straight for the gut of a fresh kill). Well, in such an event, besides saving on feed, I guess one can skip the probiotics too!
Thirty years ago most farms here had a couple of sows and raised feeder pigs for sale and kept one or two to eat. It has nearly passed into history as hogs can be raised so effectively in big commercial operations owned by Tyson or another big corporation. Good luck in your venture, maybe you can put one in your freezer, putting up your own meat can be as satisfying as growing your own fruit.
Kune Kune pigs are often raised almost exclusively on pasture, and they graze rather then root stuff up. It may be more of a niche market, but those would not hurt your orchard or pasture. My sis in law has some and thinks they are wonderful.
You could ring their noses and it would keep them from rooting also
i tossed a couple figs in the coral with heffers i i was getting ready to turn out, those pigs became part of the herd n had a good time.
they stayed with the cattle n foraged for themselves.
i never had to provide feed.
they were very tasty.