Pigs are bulldozers. No really, they are. Our five heritage hogs have completely de-vegetated their large pasture in less than 2 months while cleaning up the windfall of acorns from our huge oak tree. Which is actually great news for us. It means the pigs consumed a large variety of plants, nuts, and roots and they’ve cleared, fertilized, and turned the soil for our future market garden all while having a lot of fun doing it.
Rooting around is what pigs do best, it’s what they are supposed to do. Wild hogs originated in densely forested areas and they were tremendous foragers. That ability has been nearly bred out of commercial pigs but has been retained by old world breeds like Tamworth, Large Black, Berkshire, and several others. This is one of the reasons we only raise heritage breeds; other reasons include their easy going temperament and the more flavorful and higher quality meat they produce.
Another thing that pigs do best is resist moving to where you want them to go. Ask me how I know. On Sunday, I fenced in a new pasture for the pigs and wrongly assumed they would eagerly run to where the grass is greener and actually exists. Ha!
Employing both my children (one in a stroller) and Krista to block the small areas between fences, I opened the gates and the pigs… just stood there. The pigs stared at me and I stared at them. I moved their feeder into the new pasture, Krista and the boys threw in some acorns and apples... and the pigs wouldn’t move.
Finally, I went over into the new pasture trying to figure out our next move when Thin Lizzy, our friendliest pig and probable future breeder, came sidling over and began to munch the new grass. Soon after, our other two females followed but the two males would not cross the old fence line. For 15 minutes I tried rattling feed buckets, tempting with acorns, using boards and a 16 foot fence panel as my “pusher” but the two wiley pigs did everything but move in the direction I wanted.
The kids were getting frustrated, Krista was irritated, and I was going crazy. The pigs knew they were getting the better of us. But then, Thin Lizzy came to the rescue! She sauntered back over and snuffed around a bit in the old pasture, convincing the two boys that it’s pretty nice on the other side. She trotted away with the two boys in tow.
This was our first pig move and we’ve learned quite a bit. First, it’s going to take a lot to convince me that Thin Lizzy shouldn’t stick around here to raise some piglets. Second, I need to have enough fence panels on hand to completely connect the new pasture to the old and let the pigs move on their own whenever they are ready. Third, pigs are the boss, they know it, and now we know it.