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Keeping Pigs on Free-range pasture is a growing phenomenon and electric fencing fit into this ideal perfectly. The concept of rotational grazing is not new and has been naturally practised by wild animals since the beginning of time. It is only the interferance of man and the enclosing of pasture that it has fallen away. IMO there is no better way to do it. We often get questions about how to manage pigs on pasture. Here are some common questions and our answers.
“How much land do you need for each pig?”
On a rotational grazing pattern you can have ten mature pigs (and a bunch of piglets) per acre rotating about every month. If you don’t rotate then do not graze more than ten per three acres. This is because you don’t want the pasture to suffer and become a bare dry lot. You need to manage the pig’s grazing so they don’t kill off the vegetation. Also, if you don’t rotate, internal parasites can become a problem. Rooting is not a problem until they have grazed off most of the vegetation or during wet periods when the ground gets soggy.
Make their paddocks small enough and move them when the pigs have eaten all of the clover and the grass is eaten to the level where the leaves start to form within a few days. If they are left to graze on too large a paddock then selective grazing will occur and damage to the pasture will result.
“Would cattle panel fencing with "T" posts work to keep them in, or do you need electric fencing?”
Cattle panels, T posts and other conventional fencing will work but that is too expensive a solution and requires way too much work. Electric fence is a far better solution. Once trained to electric fence you can keep all your pigs in with two or three strands, depending on the mix of sizes.
A very simple and in-expensive solution is to use plastic posts and polywire. Two strands have worked in most situations. One line is placed about six inches from the ground and the other about a foot and a half from the ground – aiming for the pigs’ resting nose height. These two strands keep them all in (except for the very young piglets, but they don’t wander far and run back to mama when something comes around).
The advantage of plastic poles and polywire is that it is reusable and easily moved. Rotate the paddocks by just pulling the poles and stretching the wire to the new position.
If necessary you can also step on the wires to cross the fence (it stretches). Can’t do that with steel wire or cattle panels.
“Do they have the same odour issues that you have with pigs kept in smaller pens?”
Hogs on pasture, if rotated, don’t have an odour problem. Their manure doesn’t build up like it does in pens. An excellent idea is to free range chickens with the pigs. They do a great job at breaking up the manure and spreading it out, allowing it to compost faster plus providing an added element to the Free – range equation. Chickens also do a marvelous function in eating worms and slugs that may cause problems with the pigs.