Thoughts while moving hog fencing.
This week I began to rotate my two four-month-old piglets through the cow pasture. The cows had been moved out of this pasture the week before, so it is now available for the pigs.
In this rotation I am moving them daily. I use two hundred-foot hog nets to make a paddock. Moving these nets to make new paddocks each day takes about 15 minutes.
I walk the piglets out of their pen at the barn mid-morning, and bring them back at 4pm for dinner. For six hours each day they chew on the grass and root for worms, grubs, and who knows what else. They literally roll back the grass with their snouts looking for delicacies.
This process requires attention and effort on my part. It requires more than just dumping a bucket of food in their pen, checking their water and walking away.
I moved their nets this afternoon in the brisk winter air, observed the “damage” they had done to the pasture, and asked myself
What am I doing?
Most immediately I am pulling up short white polls attached to electric netting, gathering them in my arms, and resetting them on fresh grass. But why?
Providing the piglets with fresh pasture each day gives them a clean, healthy environment and supplemental nutrition. Moving them daily using small paddocks distributes their fertility (aka urine and manure) throughout the pasture and limits the destruction they do to each area.
I look at the pasture they are tearing up, walk around using my boots to replace the clumps of grass they have displaced and ask myself
What am I doing?
Well, I think I am improving the soil. The work the pigs do could be considered destructive, but what if we thought of it as disturbance. Sort of like aerating the soil. I am inputting my time and labor by rotating the piglets daily, but they are also working for me by just being pigs.
Will this intensive rotational grazing be destructive or beneficial to our pasture? I don’t know. I won’t really know until later this spring. I will observe what grows in the areas the pigs have worked. Has it improved or declined? Do the areas they disturbed look barren or healthy.
We will see.
I will trust. And wait. And try.