Pasture pigs are happy pigs

We moved the sows and their piglets out to a new pasture the other day. I had been meaning to do it for some time, but it kept getting put off for other, more time pressing jobs. Nevertheless, all 45 are now out on a large area with lots of grass and alfalfa. It may surprise some people, but pigs will graze, and can get a fair amount of their diet from grass and legumes. 

The pigs seemed extremely happy with their new home, and spend a lot of time roaming the field. The piglets have access to a self feeder with grain as well, and I feed the sows some grain morning and evening to compliment their grassy diet.

How do you feed them?

This question was posed to me a few times recently in regard to the livestock guardian dogs. It is something that seems straight forward to me, but of course to people who are not used to having a group of dogs who are not located in the yard or house, it is not. 

I feed the dogs when I go out to check on the flock each morning. I don’t want the dogs to leave the sheep so I bring the food to them. They are given dry dog food, and usually a piece or 2 of fresh organ meat from our butcher. I fill the dishes and place them out for each dog. If all the dogs are there, I am careful to feed the more dominant dogs first or they will chase the others off their food. Usually Thor and Ruza get the first 2 dishes, then the pups, then Sam and finally Alice. Then I wait for the dogs to finish or check the sheep that are nearby. I keep an eye on the dogs; occasionally Sam or Alice will get pushed off their food if someone else finished their own quickly (or if Lola is along and feeling hungry). It is a bit of a skill to be able to feed 6 dogs and keep them all calm and orderly. If the dogs are spread out, I will travel around to find them and feed them where they are in the pasture, but often they hear me coming and gather around for their breakfast.

Occasionally for some reason, a dog will not want all their food. If the dog gets up and leaves, I consider them finished and pick up the dish. If they come back, I might offer it to them again, depending on why they left and how much they have eaten. As each dog finishes, I pick up the dishes and any leftover food, and continue on my way.

Tula and Fern eating the last few kibbles

Rotations in action

We utilize rotational grazing on the farm, which simply put, means we move animals from pasture to pasture throughout the summer. This allows the plants to be more evenly used and let’s them regrow and rest. It also helps to improve the grass for later in the year which means better feed and growth throughout the grazing season. 

I took some pictures to show the progression of the grass. All 4 pictures are looking down the fence line between 2 paddocks. The first picture is the day the sheep were moved from ther paddock on the left to the one on the right. The next 3 were taken at 3 or 4 day intervals until the sheep were moved off the pasture on the right. 

You can see the change as the pasture on the left regrows while the pasture on the right has had more grazing and trampling from the sheep. 

This last picture was taken about one month after the sheep were moved off the pasture on the right. Both pastures are nice and green again, with lots of growth and ground cover.