Renate Howard

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since Jan 10, 2013
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Recent posts by Renate Howard

I grow pot belly mixes. The pot belly pigs are small enough to be easy to handle, easy to home-butcher, and cheap to feed to keep the boar around. All the ones I've had have been great mothers, give birth unassisted and usually don't kill their babies (first time mothers do sometimes squish one or two until they figure out what they are!) So far I've crossed them with Tamworth and Guinea Hog and we've been very happy with the offspring.

Our ducks and chickens and even tiny baby chicks go in and steal their food at feeding time and other than accidentally stepping on their toes they've never harmed them or been aggressive at all.

They're not quite as tame as the Guinea Hogs, but I find an aloof pig is easier to butcher than one that really likes me. We have made pets of the breeder sows, and some of them were other people's pets that got too big.

Around here you can pick up an unwanted young sow or boar, already old enough to breed for around $35, so a very cheap beginner pig! And if they're pure pot belly, you can sell the offspring as pets or breeders or for food. Some charge $200 or more but I like to try to charge fair prices, so I stick with $35 each or 2/$60, no matter whether they're pure pot belly or a meat mix.
9 years ago
According to Mercola's recent article, the PED virus that's killed 10% of the piglets in the US is in their feed - they noticed that pig farms far removed with no contact with infected farms were getting the virus and traced it back to the pig blood products used in the feed, and found virus capable of infecting pigs in the feed!

I guess it's time to go natural for pig feed!!! I had been feeding my piglets the bagged feed upon weaning because I thought it was a more balanced diet, didn't want them to be lacking anything during that crucial time. ACK!!!
10 years ago
The weight of the pigs + water seems like it would need to be built pretty strong or it will break hitting the inevitable roots, ruts, rocks, etc. Why not expand the electric fence to include the new area then move the pool, shed, etc. then move the fence to shut off the old area? An ATV could drag it if you didn't want to, easy to "sneak" one in while they're eating.

Sepp Holzer moves his pigs by training them to follow the bucket of feed. Trust me, it works best if they haven't been fed recently! But that's mostly what I do, let them out and get them to follow the bucket to the new paddock. 80% of the time it goes without a hitch, other times it's more of an adventure.
10 years ago
Bored pigs will root up anything that's not poisonous to them. If you pen pigs in a small area and plan to feed them grain/hay/whey, etc. then they probably will clear the area. Throwing handfuls of corn at the areas you want them to root helps, too. Then you can move them and repeat. Once they destroy the scotch broom your friend may want to plant something to smother any that tries to come back - like buckwheat or another good smother crop, and/or keep it mowed for a bit to keep the remaining broom from coming back. There's a great window of opportunity with pigs where they've destroyed the plants and trampled them into the soil but haven't yet compacted it, that's the best time to move them, even if it's only 90% cleared.
10 years ago
There are a lot of old folk remedies out there that are just crazy. Not saying that one is, but I'd take it with a grain of salt. Our pigs have never had any spots in their livers. It may have been parasites or disease causing them, but I don't think spots in the liver are something you should worry about until you have a pig with them. Lye can be very caustic, and could burn out their esophagus if you're not careful.

There was a practice the Native Americans used where they added some lye (wood ashes) to corn to make nixtamal - prevented thiamine deficiency diseases by unlocking some nutrients in the corn. But I think they either added very little or rinsed it off before eating the corn. Southerners learned this practice but called the end product "hominy" - which USED to be corn boiled with some lye to remove the outer hull and unlock the nutrients.
10 years ago
When we have baby chicks we raise them in the house in a brooder. They may or may not get grass to eat. After they're a few weeks old we move them to the outdoor protected pen - it's got a shelter and a pen with a top where they can start going outdoors and exploring the world. They have enough instincts to peck anything that moves, so they learn to eat worms and bugs as they spot them in the pen. They still get all-you-can-eat chick starter in there. When they're fully feathered out, we let them out of the pen. If they run up to us begging for food we feed them, if they seem ok without it we don't. I'm out feeding pigs/piglets 2-3 times a day, so they have plenty of opportunity to let me know if they're hungry.

But we have a rich, diverse landscape, too, with woods, tall grass pastures, and the lawn and barns.
10 years ago
Another thing to ask if you buy directly from the farmer is whether the crops were sprayed by Round-Up prior to harvest. It's a new practice, they kill the plants just before harvest so they dry out and go through the machinery more easily. Peas, beans, and small grains are what they are pushing the practice on. Around here, even if it's not GMO they usually spray herbicide prior to planting. That's the wonderful new "no-till" farming way. Avoid mechanical cultivation by spraying poison instead.

There was one farmer here who was willing to plant non-GMO corn but I couldn't find him enough people who said they'd be willing to buy it from him. It was very disappointing.
10 years ago
I normally move them every week. One of the sows had babies when the barn was already full of babies, then one of the pigs in with her killed and ate a baby (she kept laying on it - I heard it squealing but she wouldn't get up and the mother didn't chase her off, for some reason). So I had to sacrifice a paddock to put the other pigs in to keep them away from the little ones until they were bigger/stronger.

The bare paddock that resulted was planted with corn, squash, pumpkins, and field peas, and I put in 12 apple trees around the fence line for shade and free feed in years ahead. They'll need to be protected when the pigs are allowed back in again. I also underplanted with clover, for next year's pasture. I think it will slowly grow among the other plants then really take off when they're removed. I like the irony that the paddock will provide us with pork and the applewood to smoke it with!

What I'm seeing is that, due to their rooting, the stocking rate is much lower this year if I want to keep to the same rotation schedule without them destroying too much of the paddock's grass/clover. I figure last year they were in each paddock for a week about 6 times. If I plant the paddocks and then let them in to "harvest" they'll only get one use out of them when the crop is done, unless I can manage some sort of seasonal rotation, like ryegrass after they demolish the corn stalks. Hmmm. They really like ryegrass. That might work.

My comfrey is huge this year, so I think in the fall/winter when I move the pigs off pasture I can harvest the roots and plant them in the paddocks, but with 6 weeks in a paddock, wouldn't they just destroy any comfrey that was trying to grow there, even if the weeks were separated out so it was only 1 week a month in each paddock? I think the Jerusalem artichokes would work the same way - they'd dig up every last root and eat them then keep rooting there so the plants couldn't re-grow the rest of the season. It seems like it would be better to have a separate, "fall paddock" where the comfrey and Jerusalem artichokes could grow all summer to be harvested once in the fall, leaving some to re-grow the following year. But out of 52 weeks in a year, that would only feed them for, what, a week or two? And be out of the rotation for the rest of the year?
10 years ago
I feed mine on the ground. We tried tubs but they were always pushed out of reach at feeding time and I got tired of climbing in with hungry pigs to fetch them every feeding. They do spend their free time rooting and get their water really muddy then drink it - I can't see where eating food off the ground adds any risk. I do try to feed them on the compacted, clean parts, tho. When it rains and the ground is muddy you may need to figure out something, because they'll bury half of it while fishing out the other half.
10 years ago
I worked hard last spring to fence off 4 paddocks to rotationally graze a few pigs for the family. They worked well last year. Then this spring the pigs decided they like the roots better than the greens, and started rooting up all the plants, starting with the clover then working their way toward the grass stands. Every time I rotate them, they go back to the same areas, compacting the soil and preventing anything from growing back again, all the while expanding the bare areas. The paddocks are 48 X 80 feet. This is what two of them did in about 5 weeks in one paddock (I let them, decided to plant it to 3 sisters once I saw how quickly they were destroying the grass that had been there).

They are not big pigs, the pot belly pigs are around 80 lbs, we killed the boar at 135, but it's mostly a few half-grown piglets in there now, with two pot belly sows. I think I'll have to thin the herd down to just a few, then pen them on the sacrificial area for months to let the grass and clover recover in the other 3 paddocks, where it's 1/3 as bad as the photo. I've been bagging grass from the mower in the meantime to give them some greens.
10 years ago