Graze your Woods
Feb 24, 2014
Ever Try Forest Grazing?
Prior to 1940, farmers turning their pigs out into the wooded areas of their farms in the Southeastern part of this country was a very common practice. In the winter the pigs were than brought back to the farm "proper" and fed left-over corn stalks and other crop residues. The hardwood species of tree’s such as the mighty oaks and chestnuts throughout the Appalachian region provided nut’s which pig’s love, and fortunately do very well on. Pigs are still fed chestnuts but by a much smaller percentage of producers, and those pigs that are, are reported by consumers to be the sweetest tasting pork they’ve ever had. The tall broad branched Chestnut tree’s also provided much needed shade during the sweltering heat of the summer. Pig’s fed acorns are very low in saturated fat and high in healthy Oleic Acid, which is another advantage for producers and consumers alike. In Spain this type of pork sell’s for up to $40 per pound!! Unfortunately you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in this country willing to pay $15 per pound for healthy Pork. Sorry to burst your bubble, but don’t let the prior mentioned statistics dash your dreams.
This kind of land clearing/pasturing is most commonly know as silvo-pasturing.
Silvo-pasturing is relatively new in the Northeast as a deliberate and recognized land use. Silvopasture practitioners, or "silvograziers", may arrive from a starting point with small or large-scale traditional livestock production, woodland management, or other agricultural interests. Silvopasturing is an agroforestry system used to produce both livestock and forest products on the same land over an extended period of time. It can be thought of as a hybrid between well-managed pastures and well-managed woodlands. The term implies skilled management, beneficial outcomes, deliberate attention to multiple objectives, and symbiosis between grazing animals and their wooded environment. A silvopasture can be developed from one of two perspectives: enriching open pastures with trees, or modifying natural forests and plantations through thinning to develop
forage plants in the understory. But regardless of the origin, silvopasturing requires careful attention to the production of sufficient quality forage, to sound livestock husbandry, and to sustainable woodland practices – and also to the practitioner’s goals.
If you’ve seen the movie FOOD INC., than you know who Virginia farmer Joel Salatin is. He is the best example of a sustainable farmer that I can think of. If you ever have the time to hear him speak or visit his farm DO IT! You’ll be glad you did. Joel say’s that pigs are excellent at taking recently logged forest land and transforming it into lush pasture. And with the current and future outlook on diesel prices, especially in Pennsylvania, we can use all the cost savings we can get. Joel also stated that pig’s love the roots and bark of left-over saplings and will eat the left behind roots and bark from cut trees. A fellow producer of ours in Caton, NY found this out first hand when we expanded his pig pastures to include what was at that time a wooded area. 2 years later it’s mostly open pastures now. He didn’t even worry about cutting the trees down, the pigs did that! Joel’s oldest pig pastures have naturally produced a mixture of perennial ryegrass & crabgrass. He has no idea where the seeds came from because he didn’t seed the pastures with those varieties. And those pig pastures are the only pastures on his sprawling Virginia farm with perennial ryegrass. Pretty cool huh?
So if you have land that has been logged recently and in most cases the pitch of land is much steeper than you would like to try and mow with your brush hog & tractor, try a forest hog! Berkshires, Hampshires, and our favorites TAM-ROC PIGS, are best suited for this kind of land clearing.