It has been fun adding the pigs to the farm this year. I think I mentioned before that I was a little nervous adding another project on top of everything we already do each season, but it has been worth the extra work. The amount of work the pigs and the goats do for me in the pasture in return has turned out to be worth having them around.
A fear that I had about having the animals up in the pasture was having the right fencing to keep them where I wanted them. The pigs I was not worried about because everything I had read seemed to imply that they were easy with the right set up. The goats I was a little more worried about. When I first got them I had bought some movable goat fencing and I used an old solar fence charger we had on the farm to put them where I wanted. However, the charger must not have been good enough or Fugi was just too stubborn because they would break out immediately and go back to the barn. This was pretty discouraging. Now, I tried again with a new and stronger charger. Wonder is just with her two kids they have stayed where I want them too so far.
It has been great to fence the goats off in a certain area and have them clean it out. From their first section they stayed there for a week and mowed down the quack grass very well. I didn’t have to feed them expensive hay, they mowed down an area so I didn’t have too, and they left behind some nice fertilizer that will make the ground healthier in the end.
The pigs are a great tool as well. I have them working up an area of field that had been in rye and was a little compacted and infertile. They dig around looking for roots and bugs while loosening up the soil and leaving behind fertilizer. The animals are great workers making the soil better wherever they go.All I have to do it make sure they have enough to eat and water.
I spend so much time and money trying to add nutrients to the field, but I watch what the animals fertilize the field for me while cleaning it up in the process. I have read books on how using animals on a farm is a great way to promote a healthy farm. Not until I saw it work here did it really sink in. It is a little dangerous though, I already have been thinking through plans for next year to just raise animals in the field to boost the soil. No one would mind if we took a year off of the CSA right? It would be great for the field to give it a rest and let the animals graze and fertilize the vegetable field. Don’t worry, this won’t happen, but I am thinking about how to use them in that area more.
Thinking about the future it is hard to see expanding to many other animals. I don’t think we have enough land for cows or horses. Plus we don’t have the infrastructure or time to be milking cows at the moment. Maybe if there was a smaller breed that we would raise for beef, but again with the amount of land we have it may not be worth it. I would however, like to use chickens in the field more. Using a portable coop in the field would be nice for them to eat some bugs and they are great fertilizers. I’d be curious to see if we could house the chickens and maybe the pigs or goats in the same pen. It might work as long as the bigger animals couldn’t get inside the chicken’s portable coop and eat their food or get at the eggs. Something to think about, for now I’ll just enjoy watching the animals continue doing what they do best.