“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Using Pigs to Build and Improve Soil

pasture pigs rooting

We are using our 2 hampshire x yorkshire pigs to build and improve soil in areas around the homestead.  Pigs are great at clearing a grassy or sod area of vegetation and rooting and tilling the soil.  I’ve heard them being described as colonizer livestock, meaning they are good at coming into an area and clearing it for a clean slate or fresh start.  

Once we added an additional panel to the pig tractor, they immediately started grazing and rooting and had the new area cleared in a few days.

The pigs stayed in their first location for about 5 weeks.  They pretty much cleared the area of all vegetation and did a fairly good job at tilling up the soil.  The soil in this area was very compact.  After we moved the pig tractor to a new area, l worked the area up and formed a circular permanent raised bed.


permanent raised bed

My attempt at creating a raised bed that isn't in the shape of a rectangle

I planted the above bed with sweet potatoes, sweet corn, dent corn, winter squash, and sunflowers.  I will add beans in a few weeks once the corn is up.


pigs on forest pasture

Pig in their new forest pasture area

The pig tractor is now located in an area on the edge of the forest.  Most of the plants located in this area are grasses, very small trees species, vines, and poison ivy.  They are doing an excellent job at clearing the area.  We are still undecided about what we are going to do with the area after the pigs move on.  This area that parallels our driveway is about 1/5th of an acre.  We will either start forming permanent raised beds and planting them with cover crops, or plant a pasture mix (clover, orchard grass, etc) and use this area to raise pasture broilers, which we would sell locally.


pigs on forest pasture 2

The next major projects we will be tackling with the pigs are building a 3-sided shelter and constructing a barrel waterer with a nipple.  Before to long the pigs are going to outgrow their current shelter (a dog house).  We are currently providing water to them in a large rubber bowl.  This worked good for a while, but now as they are getting larger, they like to knock it over and take dips in it to cool off.  This wastes a lot of water.  A nipple barrel waterer will reduce wasted water.

If you have any experience with pasture pigs and would like to share your experiences with us and other readers, please do.