Visitors to our farm love to stand and watch our pigs. I would say that they are one of the most photographed animals on our farm. We have even had farmstay guests sneak over the fencing to try to steal a hug from our pigs when we were not looking! When Charlotte carefully wove in her web the words, “Some Pig”, she acknowledged that even the smallest spider could recognize the amazing qualities of pigs. Our pasture raised pigs live a good life on our farm, with plenty of room to do what pigs were created to do-roam and root around. Our farmstay guests appreciate them for their entertainment and bacon, our sheep appreciate them for the new pastures they create, and we appreciate them for the biodiversity and sustainability they bring to our farm.
Here are ten intriguing facts about pigs:
- Despite what you may think, pigs are clean animals. When given enough space, they prefer to choose one spot in their fencing to use as their “bathroom”, keeping their eating and sleeping areas clean.
- Pigs share the same diseases and illnesses with humans. For this reason, we do not feed our pigs table scraps. If you feed pigs food from your plate, you must boil it for 30 minutes in order to kill any bacteria that may be present. Our pigs enjoy garden scraps, over grown cucumbers and squash, lettuce that has begun to bolt, and over ripe tomatoes. In the fall, they get apples from the wild apple trees that line the field.
- Pigs love to play! Someone once told me that pigs are like dogs, they are eternal optimists and love to play and interact with one another and people. Our pigs often play games of chase with one another and enjoy tramping through the woods and bushes of their enclosed area. A couple of years ago, our pig pen ran alongside of the road. A neighbor said that every time she jogged up the road, the pigs would jog with her along the full length of their fenced area.
- Pigs are very social animals. They sleep snuggled next to each other regardless of their age.
- Pigs establish a pecking order within their herd. This hierarchy becomes evident at feeding times when the dominant pig will push away everyone else from their eating area. This pig usually grows out larger than their mates.
- Pigs love a good back scratch.
- Pigs have a wonderful sense of smell. They use their large round noses to root in the dirt,which helps to clear rocks and roots. Our pigs have unearthed many things through the years-old buried tires, glass bottles, and scrap metal.
- Pigs properly manage ecosystems. On our farm, we have used the pigs to help reclaim overgrown pasture. Acting as mini bulldozers, the pigs use the rubbery cartilage in their noses to dig up and turn over rocks, stumps, saplings, and massive amounts of dirt. This allows regrowth of healthy pasture grasses. This year, we placed the pigs in an area where the forest has been slowly creeping into the open field. As the pigs uproot an area, we extend their fencing to give them more area to recapture. At the end of the season, we will pick out the rocks and stumps they have overturned and replant with mixed grass seed.
- Pigs do not sweat, rather, they cool themselves by wallowing in cool dirt or mud. Our pigs dig depressions in the cool of the underbrush. Here they, roll and lay in the heat of the day. On rainy days, their hollows fill with water and mud, much to their enjoyment.
- Pigs are intelligent animals. We have easily trained our pigs to electric fencing. A single electric wire hold our pigs within their area. With some disciplined training, the pigs learn to not challenge the fence line.