Sunday, April 30, 2017

gardening with pigs

One of the things about gardening is removal of the weeds or unwanted plants, and replacing it with plants that you want.  Lots of people do that with tractors, or by hand tools, or by hand, but I do it with piglets.  

 In this case I made a small pen out of hog panels - They're 34" tall and 16' long.  I string them together using bits of high-tensile fence wire bent into spirals.  If you look on the left side of the picture above, you'll see one of the coils there.   This is actually one of the best ideas for this sort of thing that I've run across.  High tensile fence is about 3 cents a foot, and so this closure costs me between 30 and 50 cents, and is re-usable.  To attach two panels together you start at the top and "screw" it into the panel.  The wire is plenty tough enough to hold the panels together, and the joint can be used for a corner or a sharp bend, so you don't have to bend up or damage your hog panels in any way.  Pretty slick!

So I make a pen with these panels, drop in a calf dome  for a shelter, and add some piglets.

The top picture in this post shows the difference that one day of grazing by the piglets makes.  Most of the vegetation is gone, and all of the above-ground weeds are removed.  Sticks, brush and trees do slow the weeding process down, but the pigs will remove everything - and then I'll creep the pen in the direction I want to clear.

This works very well between trees in an orchard, between rows of grape vines, or in garden areas being prepared for planting.  If I'm going to plant something in this soil I can either lightly till the soil to remove the roots, or sow directly into the soil.  The pigs have added urine and manure to the mix, and have trampled and chewed on everything they didn't want to eat, and even if the weeds have roots remaining it's not every hard to keep them in check.

In this case I'm having the pigs clear out blackberries and volunteer grass from between the rows in my vinyard .  I planted the vinyard in 10' wide rows to allow me to do this sort of activity; I just bend the hog panels so that the pigs can't get at the young grape vines and move it 5 to 10' a day.  It moves pretty easily; I use pull the panels by hand, and the pigs walk inside their pen, and enjoy the new salad bar.

Note:  While pigs do enjoy rooting and will supplement their diet with whatever they find in their pen, I'm still offering them a complete ration free-choice.  They don't have to be hungry to do this sort of work, and little guys like this need proper nutrition to keep themselves in good shape and to grow as they should.

If you run across someone who claims that pigs can be raised on forage alone take those claims with a grain of salt.

1 comment:

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Hog panels are the best thing invented since sliced bread! So useful, love the high tensile closure!