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pig tractor questions: plowing, breed, fencing, weeding

Allan Laal

Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 33
Location: Estonia
I have a field, it hasnt been plowed in 20 year (to my knowledge) - perhaps even longer. It was used as a pasture 20 years ago and its been standing there, it has been mowed only twice. It has got a lot of strong grasses there that happily leech a potato dry in search of water.

I thought about keeping a few pigs in a small (electric) fence. I would move the fence only after the pigs have left nothing but black soil in that area. I would then plant the area with some trees, bushes and lots of nitrogen fixing plants like clover and peas. I would continue to repeat these steps until the cold harsh winter comes and then just eat the pigs
I have never kept pigs, but I have a few chickens and they are still alive.

My concerns are:
1. pigs need water. I need a watering solution that can be easily moved with an ATV when I move the fence. it needs to be pig-proof too.
2. Will the pigs need additional feed or will they survive fine on the roots and grubs they find in the field? Im not interested in fattening them up, but I dont want them to starve to death either.
3. Is 1 pig enough or do they need to be in packs like sheep and cows?
4. Whats the minimum area of the fence?
5. There are no old breeds around here, so I can probably get a bald pink factory breed. Will they need protection from the sun?
6. Will they need protection from wind? Its very windy on that field
7. Im not going to be at location every day, so I cant keep an eye on them. How likely are they to just go through an electric fence and run away?
8. Does the sex matter if im going to eat them anyway?
9. My theory is that since these pigs get such a great workout and are on such a green diet, they wont develop much fat tissue. Is this assumption correct?
Country: Estonia (Northern Temperate. affected by Baltic Sea)
Snowy, cold winters w 6 hours of daylight and 18 hours of utter darkness in january.
Wet, windy, sunny summers w 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight in july.

January avg -18 ºC, (-0.4 ºF), min -34.6 ºC (-30.28 ºF) -> 44mm/1.7" snow
July avg 23.4 ºC (74.1 ºF), max 35 ºC (95 ºF) -> 72mm/2.8" rain
Yearly: 646mm/25.4"
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6890
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
Pigs, like every other animal do need water. They also love to play in it! A first step in making it pig-proof is to keep the waterer too small for them to get in it, else they will crush it.

Additional feed? Hard to say, without knowing the make up of their field. They will likely need some supplemental feed.

Pigs are very social animals. Having 2 will be much better than 1. A single pig is more likely to attempt an escape out of lonliness and boredom.

They will need a shady spot to escape the sun. The bald, pink factory pigs will get sunburned if out in the hot sun all day. That is one reason they like to roll in the apply a layer of "sun screen". If you can include a spot for the rains to pool up, they will be much happier.

Would a couple old straw/hay bales set in front of their tractor be enough to keep the wind off of them at night? After you are done with the pigs, you could just leave the straw in the field.

Clovers will not only feed the hogs, they will put nitrogen in your soil.

Good luck.

Allan Laal

Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 33
Location: Estonia
What about breed? In Estonia, the factory pig reigns here sadly.

But there is hope, there might be a few Duroc, Hampshire and Piétrain pigs around here. Which is the best outdoors survivalist?
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6890
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
Unfortunately, most 'factory' pigs have been bred and raised to live on a small lot, and have barrels of feed dumped in front of them,
Many of their natural instincts are fading. Almost any heritage breed should do better on an open pasture.

If you are new to hog raising, you might consider getting a pair of the factory pigs for the first summer, until you determine if you want to continue with this endeavor. If heritage breeds are rare in your locale, they will probably be much more expensive than the 'pig lot' variety.

Once you get a better feel for it, next year consider getting some heritage pigs. If all goes well that second year, determine if you would like to breed the heritage pigs in the future. That could become very profitable, but don't forget that keeping breeders can get expensive...especially in cold winter areas.
Walter Jeffries

Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 1027
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
I would strongly recommend not buying factory culls but instead get pigs from someone who has been breeding them out on pasture for many pig generations. You will get much better pigs for your situation.

As to rooting vs grazing, check out these articles:

How you move and feed the pigs determines how they root.


-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
Ivan Weiss

Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 160
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
My watering system is a 55-gallon polypropylene barrel with the top cut off, placed upright on a stout oak pallet. About 1/3 of the way up the barrel I drilled, at 90-degree intervals, 4 holes with a paddle bit, just smaller than the outside diameter of four hog watering nipples that I got from Farmtek. I screwed these into the holes. There is minor leakage -- next time I'll use a flat rubber washer.

There is enough water in the barrel below the nipples so that the weight of the water stabilizes it, and the hogs don't knock it over. I suppose I could drive T-posts or something around the barrel if I needed it. This waters 16 hogs with no problem.

Now this is just inside a fence, so I can run a hose to it. If I was paddocking the hogs in a larger field, I'd put the barrel in the middle of the field and leave it there, and just move the hot wire and posts around, and run the hose outside whichever paddock the hogs were in.

I use the white tape and the plastic step-in posts, available from Farmtek or Premier, and a Gallagher M-80 charger with THREE grounding rods, about 10 feet apart. In my experience, that pays off. Once those hogs taste that wire a few times, they don't want any part of it.

I'm doing just what you're doing, but I'm fattening my hogs for market. Once they're butchered (end of May), I'll seed the entire field to perennial pasture, herbal ley, and a few nitrogen-fixing trees,which I'll protect with pallets before letting animals onto them. It'll be 4-5 years before hogs are back on that pasture again.

Pastured pork and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Ryan Basye

Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 8
I bought 3 hot house hogs and used 4 hog pannels linked together and moved them every day to clear an area for a garden. It worked very well. I supplied them with corn and picked weeds for them. After they cleared an area I would scatter corn behind them and ran them through again. They really loved that, the corn would be knee to waist high and they would tear right through it. For water they had a blue medal hog bowl wired to the fence with a hose. For shelter they had a medal "pigaloo" that I dragged along. I some pictures in an album on facebook, look for basye's misty valley farm. We butchered them on the farm and they tasted pretty decent anyway.
subject: pig tractor questions: plowing, breed, fencing, weeding