Pig Pasture, version 5ish

Wondering what’s going on at Cast Iron? We’re working on a new pasture rotation system!

(I didn’t include all the gates, but they’re there!)

When it’s complete, we’ll have spring and summer pigs rotating through 8 (9, including a week in the loading pasture) pastures with a central hub for food, water, and napping in the shade. The sheep will go through first, for a day or so, to take the juicy green tips off the grass, then the pigs for about 2 weeks, and then either chickens (or TURKEYS!!) to add their nutrient and disrupt the life cycles of any pest insects that remain. And then, blessed rest for the pasture, to allow the incorporation of nutrients, and the growth of green, green grass.

The pastures will include elements of silvopasture. We’ll have sweet chestnuts for pigs to forage in the fall, in a decade when the trees are producing. The front pastures will have a row of raspberries, which makes sense for anyone that has grown raspberries.. Pigs, sheep, and poultry can make sure the raspberry canes stay in their appropriate place, and gleefully gobble up any damaged berries that we pick. We’re going to trial a few small trees in with the raspberries, to see if we can add diversity to the space without causing the raspberries to suffer. We’ll irrigate the pastures with well water, to make sure that we’re growing grass even through the dry summer – we want to make sure the critters all have a lovely sweet pasture to live on, and that we sequester as much carbon as possible in the grass roots.

It will take us a little bit to get the whole system up and running, but we’ve got a good start!

Our winter pig system is already up and running – we’re looking forward to including those last little pasture divisions, so that we always have something for the pigs to look forward to, and some pasture that is resting. We keep our winter pigs on the well-drained edge of the sandy slope, because while pigs are very clean and tidy creatures if dry space is available to them, they also love to dig and the nature of pasturing pigs during our wet, wet winters causes a lot of mud. We like to keep our winter pigs in a barn beside the sheep, so that they can benefit from the hay that the sheep throw around (profligate wastrels!), and are close to electricity so we can run their water barrel de-icer. The winter pig pasture will have the whole summer to recover, and we are excited to plant some corn and squash in there for them to play with next fall.

Our current pigs are on grass, too, but we are looking forward to a simpler system, that allows the pasture even more rest and has a consistent, easy rotation. Farming, for us at Cast Iron, is always chasing the next best, clever, shiny system, and we expect to learn a lot about what goes well (and what doesn’t!) in this new one.

We’ve got a little bit of pork still available, and more coming in a couple of weeks. Check out what’s currently available here (hint: it’s sausages!!)