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Pastured Pigs - Act One - At Last

The girls enjoying the broomsedge. They love broomsedge roots, a new benefit to that "noxious weed"!

We've long detailed the onboarding experience of the Ossabaw pigs at Little Seed Farm. What was once envisioned as pigs rooting through the pasture quickly turned into a pallet-pen welcome package that was to last for many months. The escape (and general rowdiness) of the piglets made me question whether Ossabaws could ever work on pasture. If not, they weren't going to fit in the system we envisioned for our pork operation and they'd all be eaten, sold, or cross-bred.

So as the pigs grew fatter and gained experience in their wise old age I tested and monitored them. I already knew that as young pigs they were scared and excitable. Being Ossabaws (a still feral breed), that's to be expected. Each day I would get in the pen with the pigs to feed them and pet them. Luckily, they still ranged in the 25-100# weight-class and weren't yet big enough to really mess with me if they felt like it.

By the time November rolled around I was feeling very comfortable that the pigs knew and respected the electric fencing and that they knew (and not quite respected) me. They were ready for the ultimate "electric-fence-only" test. I am planning to breed the pigs in January, so I figured I might as well wait until then to set them loose inside an electric-fence-only paddock and risk the chance of them escaping. 

But as usual things didn't quite go according to plan. Also as usual, things turned out alright in the end.

The pigs in their first real paddock

Act One of the story goes thusly:

I'm on my way out to feed the female pigs (the gilts) and I notice that one side of the pallet pen is leaning WAY over into the pen area, almost collapsing the electric fence and providing a perfect ramp for the pigs to escape. Luckily, it wasn't quite low enough for them to get over. So I put some feed in their trough to distract them and I set about fixing the pallets. 

Long story short, the pallets were really messed up and didn't appear easily fixable. I had an appointment that morning and had to be quick with my chores so I propped back up the pallets the best I could and I planned to come back in the afternoon to fix it.

I finished up the rest of my chores and was on my way back to the house when I looked over at the gilt's pen. The pallets I propped up were now laying ON the electric fence. Sh*t. Of course the gilts are long gone, no snorting to be heard. Oh well, I figured, they'll be back in the morning for food, hopefully the dogs don't catch 'em. 

As I headed back home in the truck I looked in the rear-view mirror. It's the pigs! WTF, they're just following the truck all the way home...? And so they did. And I got out and they greeted me. Sheba, one of our guard dogs also greeted me. Sheba rolled over on her back for the daily belly-rub. One of the gilts proceeded to nibble on Sheba's foot while the other grunted around her back. At this point I felt like I was in an alternate universe. Here are what I perceive to be completely wild pigs now letting me pet them in the wide open and our guard dog is tolerating them chewing on her. Bizarre to say the least.

I'm ecstatic though. That was the most fun I've had with the pigs. The little oinkers were the creatures I most looked forward to having on the farm, and here I've been so disappointed with the pig situation for months. I think those little Ossabaws have a bright future here.

Stay tuned for Act Two: Rotationally Grazing the pigs.

 

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