Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Circle of Life

Mum with three girl and three boys.
The circle of life has completed with the hatching of the first of our goslings. One of our pilgrim geese has successfully hatched all six eggs that she was sitting on. We were a little concerned for the safety of the baby goslings with all the adult geese crowding about so we put a pen around the nest to provide some protection - we needn’t have bothered. The day old goslings promptly got out with the rest of the geese and when we tried to catch them to put them back with mum, the whole flock instantly came to their defence with a united display of aggression while keeping the new goslings safely hidden behind a shield of wings. No way is anything going to get too close to those goslings if they can help it.

Dad gives a warning hiss- Stay away from my family!

Pigs And The Small Farm

Pigs have to be one of the ideal animals to keep on a small farm. They are intelligent social animals that thrive on pasture when supplemented with a quality commercial pig feed. They quickly settle into a routine with ours coming in for a nap around 10 in the morning. They become very quiet and easy to handle with the sows learning to roll over and give a low rumbling purr to show their appreciation for a good firm belly rub. Even the boars are quiet though I think Fergal our Tamworth boar quite fancies Michelle. She thinks he just has a rubber fetish and is only interested in her gumboots but I am not so sure.

Exploring a new paddock. We last had pigs in here four months ago. The grass has grown back well.

Their reputation for being hard on fences is unfounded in my experience. They are however great escape artists and will never miss an opportunity to explore if a gate is left open. Some of our pig paddocks have a ringlock fence and for others I use a single electric wire about 350mm above the ground. In twelve months we have never had a pig even attempt to push through the ringlock fences. Electric fencing is a cheap and effective way to control pigs though some animals take longer to learn than others. The sows learn very quickly to be aware of the electric fence; they first investigate it very carefully with their snout, quickly discover it bites and never touch it again. The boar however is a very different animal. Fergal simply lowered his head and proceeded to push under the wire. An ear-splitting squeal later he was through wondering what the hell had just bit him. No way was he going back near that wire so I had to let him back in through the stables. When we rotated the pigs through a new paddock the process was repeated, again under the wire, again the ear-splitting squeal and again I had to let him back into his paddock via the stables. It’s a good thing he is so quiet and will follow you around like a dog, as I know from experience it is very difficult if not impossible to make a stubborn adult pig do anything it doesn’t want to.

This paddock will be pig free untill the grass has regrown.
Forget the oft-repeated statement that pigs stink. Properly housed free range pigs don't smell. Pigs are naturally clean animals and if allowed enough space to roam, will maintain a toilet area some distance away from their sleeping quarters. The secret is in allowing them enough space to establish their native behaviour patterns. I have found that it takes around an acre of quality pasture to keep an adult pig in feed. We leave our pigs in a paddock until it is mostly turned over and then rotate them to a fresh paddock. It takes four or five months for the grass to reclaim the moonscape once the pigs are removed.   Because our pigs have continuous access to quality pasture they require much less feed. In winter each of our adult pigs gets 1 kilogram of a commercial pig feed per day and this reduces to 700 grams in spring and summer. This equates to just less than 40cents per day in winter and 30 cents in summer.

The pigs and chooks on Leven River farm have formed a natural symbiotic relationship. Whenever the pigs are out turning over the paddock, the chooks are close behind. They have learnt the feeding is pretty good with a constant supply of worms and other insects as the pigs fall into their natural rhythm as a four legged plough.