Pigs in the Rut

Reader Contribution by John Klar
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Many small farmers have discovered the great benefits of swine in clearing land and tilling soil. Running an electric wire close to the ground around a desired area will direct pigs of any age or size to do the “dirty work” of turning the soil, including the disruption of stubborn stones or roots. Pigs also offer fertilizers through urine and fecal contributions, which they will kindly turn into the topsoil to spare human handling.

In old New England, dairy farmers commonly kept pigs to compost cow manure, especially in winter months when the manure was often accumulated in the bottom barn floor for spring spreading. Many barns were constructed so that manure was scraped through trap doors into piles below, a labor-saving technology that was frequently augmented by pigs kept in the basement. By periodically casting corn onto the manure heap, the pigs would routinely and eagerly root around, leveling the piles that might otherwise approach the ceiling, but also “recycling” forage left over from the bovines, as pig feed. Additionally, the pigs’ activities served to enhance composting action by regularly sifting or turning the manure. A symbiotic relationship, made in heaven (?).

For today’s small farm, a creative way to combine these methods is to use a straight crowbar to burrow holes into the ground around stumps or stones. Cast a small handful of cracked or whole corn into the holes, and the pigs will aggressively and happily root up stumps and stones for subsequent removal. Transforming your pigs into willing, grunting little tractors will make for easier and more sustainable land management, and reduce fossil fuels. It will also keep them duly occupied, to distract them from testing for weakness in fencing. Once they get started, the farmer can delegate more areas by poking deeper holes, and directing their efforts to desired areas.

Happy hole boring!

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