Pigs – nature’s rotary hoe

We spent a few hours earlier this week moving our pigs from one patch of land to another. It got me thinking about the benefits of running pigs on land with poor soil quality…

We often refer to pigs as nature’s little rotary hoe. Joel Salatin coined the term Pigerator, which is also fitting because they aerate the soil as they turn it over.

It’s quite amazing how much pigs can do to the ground – you just have a look at the picture below. We had our pigs in that space (about an acre) for three months.

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Here in Australia, particularly in sheep farming areas, it’s quite common to have patches of soil that have been over grazed to the point of no longer growing grass. One of the problems once this occurs is that when it rains the water no longer soaks in because the ground is so hard. The water then simply runs off, leaving that patch to continue to become less and less fertile.

We have several of these low soil fertility patches on our property and I’ve spent many an hour pondering a solution that doesn’t take hours of backbreaking work or involve spending a fortune on manufactured fertilisers.

A few weeks ago I realised that the answer was right in front of me…it was time for our two resident sows to earn their keep!

The property we live on has large sections of land that was once heavily grazed by sheep and has since turned into dense Eucalypt forest with no pasture at all. Early this week I sectioned off a 25m x 25m square of forest for the pigs as a bit of an experiment. Early results were very positive – the pigs happily snorted their way through turning several square meters of dense leaf matter over into the ground while searching for bugs, roots and gumnuts. They really seem to love it.

Electric Pig Fencing

Having the pigs in the forest should serve several purposes – as they refresh the soil new things will start to grow and the land will slowly come back to better health. Eventually we hope to open that section back up for livestock grazing. For us, it also reduces the fire hazard in a section of trees pretty close to the house.

We are expecting our first litter of piglets in the next week, which should mean that many snouts create lighter work! So that’s our plan, but what else can pigs do?

No matter what your soil quality is like, pigs can be a great way to make short work of large jobs! If you need to dig a new garden plot, get your pigs to do it for you. Need to turn manure into the soil? Set your pigs loose! Need to clean up your garden plot after harvest? Let the pigs in – they’ll eat the remainder of the plants and then turn the soil over. You can even use pigs to turn your compost heap.

Finally, I thought I would share a few pictures…

Pigerators

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