All the animals on the farm must do more than fill our freezer and grace our table. Beyond eggs,meat and broth,the chickens turn table scraps and pulled weeds in the compost pile, tend the next generation of poultry, and scratch and fertilize sparse pastures. The ewes and lambs repeated rotations through fields and orchard improve the quality of our pastures while filling freezers with delicious grass fed meat. Like the birds and sheep,the pigs must work for the farm. Last year's pigs lived behind two strands of electric fence in the woods that border the orchard. I increased the size of the paddock over the course of the summer and this spring sowed a pasture grass mix into the almost bare ground. Later this summer the sheep will graze in the improved woodland pasture thanks to those busy pigs' snouts.
In addition to providing meat and lard for the table,this year's pigs have a formidable task: to renovate the Hill Field,a worn briar patch of a pasture,across the road from a plug for a fence energizer and a yard hydrant for water. With profit margins close for small farm raised meat,the pigs management system must be efficient as well as effective.
Applying the knowledge we have gleaned from our moveable chicken pens,outfitting with built in feeders and improved water systems,a pig tractor seemed the sensible choice.
When planning our pig tractor,we knew the pen would have to be heavy to keep the pigs from lifting it,yet light enough for an old Subaru or small skidsteer to pull it across uneven ground;provide shelter;support our feeder (which holds 300lbs of feed) and the gravity fed nipple waterers;and have a gate for easy access. Since we like pork and plan on raising pigs for years to come,the pen must be durable and house pigs of all sizes.
Our pig tractor is 8'x 16',set on 16' skids,with a metal roofed,rough-cut lumber sided shelter at one end. The short side, opposite the shelter, has two gates. Adding two heavy 4' x4' posts across the pen, supports the feeder we built last year and braces the frame to limit racking when we pull the pig tractor. Metal cables on each short side permits pulling from both directions
The pigs are happy this first 48 hours of the pig tractor "experiment". We have successfully moved the pen three feet and will add the two nipple water founts on the weekend.