Pigs love to graze on the farm, but there are valid concerns about damage done to the soil through their rooting behaviors; on the other hand they are also used as a quick way to clear new ground for planting.
The Mid Atlantic-New England Farm Weekly writes how Dru Peters and Homer Walden of Sunnyside Farm in York County, PA, raise vegetables, herbs and eggs and offer pastured meats (poultry, pork and beef) while their daughter runs her own business on the farm raising flowers.
Walden designed a ‘mobile pigpen’ so that the pigs are preparing the soil that will be used to raise their crops. The pens are four feet wide, just the right size for a wide planting bed, and 12 feet long. They’re big enough for the pigs to move around and graze in without being crowded, and have enough height so that the pigs aren’t crowded or uncomfortable.
Each mobile pen is used to house four pigs who call it home 24/7 until they reach about 200 pounds.
The four-pig mobile pens are placed on ground where new beds are being prepared. It takes about 30 minutes for the pigs to clear the area under their pen.
The beds on the farm are 200 feet long, and it takes about three days for one pen of pigs to clear the row.
The area they’ve cleared and fertilized is a bit rough and needs to be raked out, but otherwise is ready for leaf mold, woodchips or other soil amendments in preparation for planting the clay soils.
These mobile pig pens have allowed Sunnyside Farm to provide the pigs with pasture access while putting them to work clearing beds for the farm’s crops.
The couple was inspired to pasture pork in mobile pens, once they discovered that the quality of the pork was so far superior when the pigs were on pasture.
Not only are they growing a tastier, healthier pig, they are also reducing labor and waste on the farm by using mobile pigpens.