Pigs and Garden rotation

eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)July 20, 2007

Hello folks,

Some of this was covered in a earlier post.

I'm setting up for two pigs next spring. I will have six 24ft x 24ft enclosures. Basicly it will be a row of three, a 6ft alley, another row of three. My thinking is, two enclosures will be garden, two for the pigs and two fallow. The two for the pigs and two fallow will be sown to a cover crop. Each year I will rotate. Pigs move to the fallow area, garden moves to the pig area and the old garden goes fallow.

Some questions:

What do you think about a solid perimeter and electro netting interior, or do you perfer hog panels inside?

Any suggestions on covercrop for pigs? I've read they will root down 6" and up 18". Any plant I should stay away from?

How fast will they root up a 24ft x 24ft area.

Thank You for any help


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No cover crop will survive a pig in a pen that size. And just about any cover crop will do as far as forage goes. Depending on the breed and size of the pig, they'll completely overturn the soil in the pen in a week or two. I've not tried to grow crops in an area that has been heavily fertilized by a pig. But, I've noticed that when I empty a pen that the volunteer grains left over from feeding tend to grow large and green.

Anyway, good luck with the pig idea. You'll never throw away a table scrap again. For what it's worth, I feed my pigs straight grains at least a month before I slaughter them. Otherwise, they get a mixture of slops from an upscale restaurant (about 300 lb. a week) and corn. The guy who butchers my hogs claims that slops make the meat sort of gray and mushy. I don't know whether that's really true, but I feed the grains just in case.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 9:38PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)


In my rotation, should I rotate pigs into the garden, garden into the fallow area and plant a fallow crop over the fresh manure? This way the manure breaks down a bit.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 3:04PM
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I'm not an expert, but that sounds like a solid approach. I've read that pig manure is inferior to cow manure. I can see that in the short-term that may be true, but I suspect that over the long-term, with sufficient time to decompose, pig manure will work fine. And, cows don't act like organic roto-tillers, but pigs do. They will absolutely turn the soil like nothing else.

One minor consideration: pigs tend to use a certain area of the pen as a bathroom, so you may see a difference in fertilization within the confines of your pen.

Anyway, it sounds like you a good plan, and the picture of your garden clearly shows you've done your homework. Nice job! If it were me, I'd grow the pigs to about 150-200 lbs. --say, until they're about nine months old-- then off to the butcher. You'll get some great meat and can start over the next year with a couple more pigs. If you pursue this strategy, I'd buy female pigs. Gets you out of the game of castrating your livestock. You'll have a nice garden and never have to buy pork again.

Good luck! By the way, I've been to the San Juan islands a couple of times. I envy you.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 9:20PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)


Thank you for your input.

This will be a neighborhood CSA. Two pigs, four halves. I had five families interested but its hard to raise half a pig. The family left out the first go around, will have a chance next round. If there is a second season.

You say it may take as long as nine months. Is this from weener or feeder pig? I've been told about six months from people on the Island to the weight of 200 - 225 pounds. Starting in April, sounds like pork for Christmas. :-)

I have a neighbor concerned about smell. Should I muck out the bathroom corner. How about just tilling it in?

Maybe some others will chime in.

Thank you again

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 10:28PM
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It would depend on the breed and the type of feed, but I think 225 at six months would be a stretch for a garden pig. I'm sticking by me estimate, but let me know if you get different results.

The smell can be pretty strong, especially when it rains. I don't think tilling will decrease the smell as long as the pig remains in the pen producing more manure.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 11:13PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

San Juan Islands known for the Pig War, I should choose a Hampshire pig.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 1:51PM
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Sounds like a great idea to meÂas John Seymour (2003) says in "The Self- Sufficient Life and How to Live It," "for bringing grassland into cultivation, either the plow or the pigÂs snout is essential . . . and a pig manures the land is it digs it" (p. 145).
This is our second year with pigs (3 feeder pigs each year, males castrated). The first year, they took care of the field grass/alfalfa in less than 2 weeks. I planted some grass in the pen last fall but this year's pigs finished that in a week.
They are really easy to take care out. We have a hut type house for them (no door) and they sleep there and go there for shade). You would have to rotate that.
The smell is bad after rain and when itÂs hot. I have read itÂs the urine that makes the pig smellÂthey do defecate in one corner (sometimes another) but urinate just about anywhere. Putting hay over their pen helps some with the smell. Depends on the wind too.
In your plan think about how you will load them up to take them to the butcher (unless you are doing that yourself). We were able to back a truck up to their gate. They did not want to leave!
Good luck!


    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 2:39PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Thank you for your information.

How large are your pens and field?
About how much feed per pig? 6 to 9 months.
Are you using any electric wire or netting?
Are you using watering nipples?

I'm setting up 6 pens. Only two for the pigs. See the rough drawing. I'll be moving the pig house back and forth in the alley. The "X" is the house. What do you think about the pass through house?


    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 5:45PM
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I really like the idea of the pass through house. I wish we could set up something like that.
Our pen is 40X16 and the house is 6X7, placed in the middle of one of the long sides. There is field all around the outside of the fence. The fence is made of 4X4's with chain link and then an electric wire about a foot off the ground inside the fence. Without that they would have dug out in a week or two.
WE got our pigs in late April and I think they were 8-10 weeks and weighed about 55 lb. each. Last year we had them butchered the first part of Sept. They weighed about 190-220 I think.
Right now they eat about7-8 gallons of dry feed (from the mill--"base" and corn--and alfalfa we throw in and slop (table scraps). We make sure they always have feed.
Yes we have a nipple water feeder--that is a godsend.
My biggest problem now is that as they get bigger, they just about knock me over (I'm 5'3") when I come in with the feed. An alfalfa treat distracts them a little.
You might want to put some concrete blocks around where the nipple waterer is. We ended up with a water filled hole under the waterer (they have another mud hole right by). Even with the concrete blocks they push them away--but I was worried that when they run around one would break his leg in the hole.
Oh--they love it when you put the hose on them and in their pen!


PS--they have sharp teeth--I've never been bitten but a friend said he knows someone who got bit on the leg through jeans--said it looked like a shark bite. The pig wasn't mean but was startled.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 11:10PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)


All very useful information.

Sounds like we basicly have the same dimensions and layout. Pig yard 48ft x 24ft. Pig house 8ft x 6ft. I will be using Electro netting only because I have it already.

BTW I'm 5'4'' on a good day!!


    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 11:34PM
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That's a clever design for rotating the pigs. Should work well. Pigs can be smart but usually let their stomachs do their thinking for them. So, a food bribe will usually get them to move where you want them to go.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 6:28AM
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We did something similar for a few years and it worked great. We used electric netting with a single wire standoff so they wouldn't root under the netting. Found out that the single wire is plenty to keep a pig in. One day one of them got their tail caught in the netting and took off running with the fence following! We fed them milk in a black rubber dish and the one time a pig escaped we brought out the dish and it followed right back into the pen. Your two pens will end up being pig tilled dirt pretty quickly. This year just enjoy them and learn. Next year you'll probably do some things differently. Have fun, Tom

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:36AM
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Forgot to mention, their main feed was a ration. The growing stuff was just extra. Tom

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:40AM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Thanks Tom, off Island neighbor.

Milk? How much and how often? Was this a treat?

Where do you or did you buy feed? Cenex?

Any plant I should stay away from? Nightshade plants. Tomato, Potato?


    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:06PM
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The milk was left over from our goats. 6 pigs got 1-2 gallons/day. Yes, feed was from Cenex but don't remember what brand it was. Their house was in a 20x20 area. We put them in there at night. Gates led to four separate paddocks of about 30x50. Two were planted with annual rye, and two with a mix of rape, chickory, vetch and field peas. When they got out of a paddock we replanted it with annual rye. We cleaned their pen area daily and odor wasn't a problem. But after a rain a paddock area would stink a bit and that 's why we tilled and replanted. We raised out up to about 275-300#. We are not fans of lean pork. Plus we render the fat to lard for cooking/baking. And of course there's those cracklings!! Tom

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 9:37AM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

Thanks skagit goat man,

I'm sure I'll learn a lot the first year.

Has anyone done a pound of feed to a weight gain?
Is there a point when feed is to expense to weight gain.
I've heard that most farmers goal is about 225lbs.

I lost a huge limb off the plum tree today. To bad I don't have pigs to feed the plums to.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 8:07PM
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susandonb(NC 7)

Eric, I just read your entire thread, can you keep me updated on your adventure? My hubby and I are considering the same thing. I have never raised any farm animals but have a ton of garden experience and we have a 1/2 acre veggie garden. We have two acres we can play with but it is still wooded so clearing would have to happen first. I think I would use the un cleared ground to do my veggie farming and use the current garden space for the pigs, it is closest to the house and has an old garage at the end that would be a great starting point for a shelter.

I would love to hear more about your plans.
Susan in NC

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 9:52PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

Pigs have higher feed conversion ratios than ruminants, but lower ratios than poultry. The ratio depends on the quality of the feed, but I think it runs in the 3-5 lbs. of feed per pound of gain range. Because pigs aren't ruminants, they don't digest forages as completely as sheep and cattle or produce amino acids as in the rumen, and thus generally require higher quality feeds and have higher, more complete protein requirements.

Be sure runoff from the pigs pens doesn't flow directly to surface water. Your plans would meet the requirements of an animal feeding operation, even with a couple pigs. An AFO that discharges to surface water is required to get a permit which will require you to eliminate the ability of untreated runoff to get to surface water, at which point you are no longer a regulated AFO and don't require a permit--so, just skip the regulatory process and make sure no runoff gets to surface water.

Pig manure is high in nutrients, particularly phosphate and high in nitrogen when the liquids are retained. Because pigs don't normally consume high fiber diets (like humans they don't digest the cellulose), it isn't as high in organic matter compared to cow or sheep manure. They will heavily fertilize the garden and add organic matter, but they won't add the degree of organic matter that ruminants can. Biologically they are relatively close to humans. I would fallow the pens for a year before putting it back in garden to make sure there aren't any diseases or parasites passed to the garden produce.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 1:48AM
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Here's one example of weight gain:

Next week I take a castrated male Red Wattle hog to the butcher. He was born in late January and castrated in April. He's had about four acres to run around on and gets plenty of exercise with six other pen-mates. His non-cut brother is smaller and looks leaner. He gets pretty much all the food he wants; slops supplemented with corn and wheat and raw chicken eggs. I'm guessing he weighs about 200 lbs. and is gaining about 2 lbs. a day at this point. After he's butchered next week, I'll give you the dressed weight.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 12:36PM
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Update: The pig weighed in at 192 lbs. on the hoof. Produced about 100 lbs. of meat.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 3:37PM
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Pig roundworm (Ascaris suum) eggs can remain viable in the environment for 5+ years. Ingestion of these eggs from inadequately washed home produce could result in visceral larval migrans, a dangerous medical condition in humans.

Here is a link that might be useful: visceral larval migrans

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 9:35PM
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