Plow With Pigs

Pigs have a natural instinct for rooting in the ground that farmers and gardeners can use to their advantage.
Megan Phelps
December/January 2005
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The electric fence and shade structure, on wooden runners, are moved frequently to new pasture to provide fresh forage and distribute manure evenly.

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Pigs have a natural instinct for rooting in the ground that farmers and gardeners can use to their advantage. Turn a pig loose on land you want to plant as a garden, and it will turn up the ground just as efficiently as with a rototiller. Pigs also excel at clearing away brush in overgrown pastures.

Joel Salatin, author of the books You Can Farm and Family Friendly Farming, finishes more than 200 hogs a year on his diversified Polyface Farm at Swoope, Va. The pigs are used to till some fields before planting and to clear land for pasture. 'We're always trying to utilize the assets of the animal so that it expresses its animalness, and a pig fully expresses when it's plowing,' Salatin says.

Pigs can be useful on the farm even in small numbers. David and Lise Abazs used three pigs to convert an overgrown field into an orchard on their organic Round River Farm, at Finland, Minn. 'We wanted to do it so we didn't have to bulldoze,' David Abazs says. The Abazses bought three, constructed a mobile pen for the animals, and then kept moving the pen with the pigs in it across the overgrown field they wanted to clear. By the end of the summer, the pigs had cleared the field. The pigs even cleared away large tree roots; the couple would just sprinkle a little corn beside the roots and let the animals dig.

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .

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Walter Jeffries
12/11/2005 12:00:00 AM
This is how we clear land, plow our gardens and then at the end of the fall ready them for winter. We have very poor mountain soil with less than 1/8" of top soil. I have been gradually terracing the steep hill side which leaves a nice garden terrace but with horrible soil for planting since it is just sub-soil. During the deep snows of winter we keep livestock on the new garden terrace and provide them with plenty of hay. Some of it gets 'wasted' into the soil with their manure. In the spring the pigs till it all up, I follow them with chickens who scratch the soil smooth and weed it for two weeks. Then I move the chickens out and immediately plant. Presto, fertile weed free organic gardens without the need for mechanical tilling. I own 40 tillers - they self propel, reproduce, turn brush to pork and can eat them when the job is done.Walter JeffriesSugar Mtn Farmin Vermont

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