I want to share with you some of the things that I have learned so far in raising our pigs at Bertrand Farm. I have to say that it has been fun experience raising the pigs and watching them play. It has also been a learning experience for me, because I had no prior experience working with pigs before coming to Bertrand Farm.
One of the misconceptions that I had, prior to my internship at Bertrand Farm, was that pigs were solely a commodity and not a working farm animal, like horses and oxen. A useful way that we have put our pigs to work for us is by having compost piles for them to mix around and spread out over their pasturing area. The mixing and spreading of the compost is useful to us because this is work that we would have to do if the pigs didn’t do it for us.
For those who our following our adoption of The Natural Step framework; reducing our dependence on resources that are taken from the Earth is one of our guiding objectives. Petroleum oil is a resource that we are trying to eliminate our need for at Bertrand Farm. Putting our pigs to work is helping us reduce our dependence on oil because mixing the compost by hand can be a lot of manual labor, as it is a daily chore. Sometimes we use a tractor to mix the piles but now that we have the pigs, they do a lot of the work instead of the tractor.
There are some other things that have learned about small pasturing pigs on Bertrand Farm that others can learn from, if they wanted to raise pigs on their farm. One of the advantages that I have seen is the relationship between our animals, in what they eat when foraging. Our pigs and the chickens forage for different food, which is an advantage to us. The pigs like to forage on the lettuce, radish, beets and turnips that we planted for them. In foraging, they tear up the ground and spread the compost around, which is beneficial to us as farmers. We then move the pasturing area and let the chickens take over. The chickens will forage in the area that the pigs were working in. The chickens work by eating unwanted insects and new shoots of grass that come up from the compost and ground. Without the chickens, we would normally have to till the soil because of the grass shoots that could take over the soon to be planting area. With the cooperative foraging and soil mixing between the pigs and the chickens, we do not need to use the tractor to till, mix the compost pile and spread the compost in the area that we had pastured the pigs. Ultimately, our cooperative pasturing techniques are lessening our dependence on petroleum. If anyone has any other ideas for lessening our dependence on oil at the farm, please let us know. This is one of our greatest challenges.