Picture above of our hogs in NE AZ. They foraged pinon pine nuts, limited grass, roots and grubs.
When I was growing up on our farm we always had pigs. The pig is my Dad's favorite farm animal, second to our cattle and at one time he ran between 30-40 hogs on 80 acres.
I started showing pigs in 4-H when I was 10 years old.
Pigs are very intelligent and inquisitive animals, they can actually be trained fairly easy to sit for a treat!
We have raised pigs both in large pens, rotated hot wire pastures and in the woods. There is no question in my mind after 35 plus years of caring for pigs, that the later is the only way to raise pigs.
Raising pigs in woodlots or on pasture is not a new concept. Hogs were being raised this way long before commercial, cemented floor confinement barns, farrowing crates and stinky unhealthy manure lagoons ever existed.
The key to raising these intelligent animals in the woods or on pasture is having enough space for intense rotation. One must be willing to move the hogs every 3 days, to achieve a healthy soil ecology.
The thicker and taller the forage, the more resilient the recovery of vegetation. One of my passions and goals on our farm is to ALWAYS balance with nature. Pigs will root and tear up the soil and can easily destroy trees by ripping out their roots, so erosion control is paramount when rotating hogs on either woodlots or pasture. Here in NE TN our pigs thrive on woodlots of acorns, black walnuts, blackberries and numerous other plant species and grubs in the forest. A good understanding of forest ecology and or pasture stands and the way nature heals itself and protects itself from the abuse a hog can have on them is highly suggested before venturing into raising hogs in this way. They can create a barren and ugly landscape with detrimental effects on other wildlife if not managed correctly. We supplement our hogs with healthy, NON-GMO grains, whey, milk, fruits and peas (legumes), as an added protection to soil health and for the over all health and nutrition that hogs require.
We plant food forests of natural food stuffs as well. A good foundation in hog nutrition requirements is recommended before mixing your own livestock feeds as well.
Raising pigs in open pastures or on woodlots keep the pigs super clean, pigs are very clean animals if given a chance with enough space. We take the stress off the animals with excellent nutrition and lots of space to root, stretch and get plenty of exercise, the pigs reward us with a tasty return. Some folks will ask us, "how can you eat something you raise"? My answer; "Wouldn't you rather know what your animal actually ate, how it lived and how it was treated?" The meat purchased in the typical store, (Unless labeled) has been raised in tight confinement for fast growth to make the fastest dollar, with no regard for the animals well being, pumped full of antibiotics because of the conditions they are kept in, they are fed cheap GMO corn and silage and given growth hormones. So with all that said, I would much rather have clean, happy, healthy pigs that live a good life and that don't require all of the hormones, antibiotics and GMO feeds to make a quick profit. We are interested in biologically healthy food that is grown naturally and slowly for the health of the animals and the humans consuming. Our breeding stock will live longer lives and are quite spoiled. They are given affectionate names and live out long lives with us. We do not breed them constantly either! We are not a pig mill. :)
We breed selectively for long living, healthy swine that have the ability to graze with shorter snouts.