Pigs on Pasture

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We raise our pigs on pasture.  So they get to live the kind of lives pigs enjoy, rather than suffering in cages and on concrete floors.

Our pigs have lots of room to romp, run, play, root and wallow.  They have fields and woods in which to roam and forage.

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Yesterday I mowed their pasture.  It made their day.  They chased me, ran along beside me and occasionally played chicken with me–running in front of the tractor then darting out of the way at the last minute.

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Pigs have a great zest for life and they never fail to make me smile.

What we have done to these wonderful creatures in exchange for cheap pork is just shameful.

When we buy pork, we are voting on the kind of world we want to live in.  I know it’s all the rage to joke about bacon.  But do we really want bacon enough to do this to a pig?

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CAFO pigs

32 comments on “Pigs on Pasture

  1. shoreacres says:

    Not only are they fun-loving, this time of year their coloring coordinates beautifully with the scenery. Those are some great photographs. As for their tempting fate with the tractor, I knew squirrels and jackrabbits were prone to such behavior — especially out on the roads — but pigs? Who knew? Clearly, just standing around in a cell isn’t their preferred behavior.

    I surely am glad I have a meat market that knows their supply chain, all the way back to local farms. I can’t afford the prices they’re asking now at our farmers’ markets for grass-fed, organic beef, but I can go to my meat market and ask them to grind round or chuck for me from a piece I select at the counter, and know from whence it comes: at least in general terms. Same for chicken and pork. If I wanted, I could drive to their farms and processors, and have a look. That’s nice.

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    • Bill says:

      What isn’t evident in these pictures is how they’re playing. They would all stop suddenly, then as I got closer they’d spin around and squeal then tear off in a different direction. I took lots of shots from the tractor seat but none captured that. Pigs love to run and they’re surprisingly fast. Putting them in confinement may make them fatten quicker but it’s unquestionably cruel.

      Beef prices have skyrocketed as a result of the droughts. I read recently that there are fewer cattle in the U.S. now than there were in the 1950s. Of course the price boom is greatly benefiting the cattle farms here, where we have plenty of water (so far). They’re making a mint. It’s good that you have and use a meat market like that. Even if grocery stores have a butcher these days hardly anyone has their meat cut there anymore. Slows them down a minute or two I reckon.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        When I was a kid, there used to be an Abbatoire (Government Certified butcher shop) in every small town where the hunters took their game… These days, places to take meat to be butchered are pretty few and far between):

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  2. Joanna says:

    Lovely to see your pigs enjoying their freedom. Here in Latvia there are a number of issues not least African Swine Fever that means under no circumstances can pigs be outside at the moment – well not in our area due to one dead wild boar (wild hog) with the disease being found about 30 miles away. I wonder what biosecurity measures we would have to undertake to give pigs the same amount of freedom here? Especially as we have so many wild boar roaming around. Right now there are some grass fed boars who my hubby would dearly love to put on a plate, if only he could get a license to shoot the blessed beasts 🙂 Seriously though, the high number of wild boars means we would have to secure the area to an even higher degree due to risk of wild boar breaking in and coming into contact with our domestic ones, or we keep them in a barn – but not in such confined spaces as those horrendous pictures.

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    • Bill says:

      Sounds to me like the authorities should welcome folks who want licenses to harvest those boars.

      We don’t have any feral pigs in our part of the world, and I don’t know what biosecurity risks they would pose. It’s a shame if it makes it impossible to raise pigs on pasture.

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      • Joanna says:

        Now there’s the rub. The authorities should welcome new hunters, but obtaining a license is a money making exercise that can be beyond the likes of rural folks. I spent a whole year researching the topic a couple of years back and this Masters thesis was the result.

        https://drive.google.com/?tab=mo&authuser=0#my-drive

        It is the interviews that give a picture of living with wild boar and the consequences. I have been told it isn’t a bad read, not too academic

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, You are so right about pigs having a zest for life. They are such robust animals. They are the most loveable and yet frustrating animals on the farm. If there’s a way to break out of fencing they will find it. They have the messiest eating habits but look like they so enjoy eating and just don’t care how they look doing it. They are explorers to the max. Adventure is their middle name. They most certainly are entertaining.

    I remember a story my brother in law told me about his youthful days in the back woods of Missouri. They had a pond on their property with snapping turtles in the pond. He and his brother were always getting in trouble for their schemes and adventures. They got the idea that they would catch a big snapper, take it back to the pig pen, and see the reaction of big mama sow. Big mama sow was big. Maybe 400 or 500 pounds big. So they got the biggest snapper they could find which was about as big as a wash tub. They managed to get the snapper maneuvered into the pen and set back to watch the fun. The snapper saw mama sow headed his way to check him out and pulled into his shell. The two brothers were excited to see the tangle begin between species. Big mama sow took one sniff and stepped on the back of the turtle with all the weight she could. The turtle’s four legs and head popped out of the shell as mama sow continued to put pressure on the back of snapper. One powerful chomp on the head and neck of snapper by the powerful jaws of mama sow and snapper went limp. The boys were quite disappointed at the no contest battle between the farm species. So pigs are entertaining but they can be very dangerous as well.

    Have a great pig watching day.

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    • Bill says:

      My grandfather was nearly killed by a boar once and mama sows are even more dangerous. Hogs are nothing to trifle with, that’s for sure.

      We’ve only had pigs get out of the fence twice and both times it was because I left the gate open. Both times they were happy to go back where they belonged (cause it’s where they eat) and I just shut the gate behind them. They could do a lot of damage if they escape, but we try not to give ours any reason to want to.

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  4. bobraxton says:

    turnabout is fair play. Recently you reported your hen(s) playing pig (in the grain barrel open) and now pigs return the favor (playing “chicken”) – speaking of which, in all your spare time you might enjoy the book “The Bridge” – Doug Marlette – taking place in the “neck of the woods” where I grew up in NC.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s pretty close to our neck of the woods too. I hadn’t even heard of that book, but I don’t read much fiction. I’ll try to check it out sometime.

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      • bobraxton says:

        My mother was 64 (six years younger than I am now) when she “retired” to take care of my father who had Alzheimer’s (or similar). After he died (1988 July) she began a lot of reading, getting a lot of her books through a younger sister of hers. It is my mother who suggested to me to read “The Bridge” and I am ever grateful she did. The actual town of Hillsborough is called Eno (the river’s name) in the fictional story.

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  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    When I was a kid, I rememb being shocked by the extreme measures being taken by a schoolmate’s family in their pig barn. NO ONE was allowed into the piggery unless they were accompanied by their father. NO street clothes or footwear was allowed; only barn clothing that they supplied…
    This was 38 years ago.

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    • bobraxton says:

      their concern was prevention of infection, spread of pig disease(s)?

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    • Bill says:

      It’s particularly a problem in the CAFOs, as you point out, as a result of the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. This year the industrial producers have been hit hard by PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea), which has killed nearly 10 million piglets. Nature doesn’t respond kindly to the unnatural conditions we create.

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  6. Excellent post, Bill. Simple and clear. This is why I raise my pigs the way I do too. Yours are indeed pigs in clover.

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    • Bill says:

      They literally are, although you can’t tell it in these pictures. There is a lot of clover in their pasture and they do love it. 🙂

      I know we’ve swapped comments like this before, but while I’ll be glad to be done with feeding them twice a day, I’m going to miss them when they’re gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup, I go through the same cycle. That said, perhaps it’s a bit like having one’s favourite food. If we could have it all the time, it wouldn’t taste as good. And I have to admit, my sausages are tasting pretty good these days :).

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  7. Zambian Lady says:

    The picture showing pigs in tiny crates is scary. Good job for raising free range pigs.

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  8. EllaDee says:

    I wonder how much would be change if like pictorial warnings on cigarette packaging, the ubiquitous meat packaging displayed visuals of the [real] environment from which it came…

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve often said that if folks in our culture had to personally slaughter and butcher the animals we eat, most of the nation would be vegetarian immediately. I’m also convinced that if people looked at where their meat is coming from, they wouldn’t buy it anymore. Most of us are naturally compassionate. These practices survive by staying hidden. And, sadly, we enable them because so many of us don’t want to look–because they know what it would do to them if they did.

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  9. The contrast between the pastured pigs and the CAFO pigs is devastating. Price cannot be an excuse to continue to eat any meat raised in this fashion. Eat a little bit less so that you can afford to buy responsibly and humanely raised meats. We Americans could do with a little less protein in our diets anyway.
    We are getting our Tamworth pork in November and I can hardly wait. We ran out of bacon and sausage a while back from our last side and I refuse to buy any from the store – even if it is sustainably raised. The Tamworth is that good!

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    • Bill says:

      Yes exactly. Well said. And there are plenty of good ways to get protein in our diets without eating meat. What you suggest is exactly what we need to do. We could spend the same amount of money on meat and stop enabling this kind of cruelty if we eat a little less meat and spend the savings on meat from animals raised humanely.

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  10. Another good post on raising awareness, Bill. Interesting aside here. Oregon is in the middle of a battle over requiring GMO labeling on food products. Consumer Reports is running ads favoring the requirement. It is the first time I have ever seen Consumer Reports take such a public stand. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      We’ve been following the Oregon battle. As they did in California, it seems that industrial ag is going all-out to defeat it. Follow the money and you can discover who the phony “organic” brands are too.

      Interesting that Consumer Reports has taken a side. I didn’t know they did that. But it makes sense. The whole point is to give consumers the information they need to make an informed choice.

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  11. Cynthia says:

    I only buy meat raised by our local farmers here. They are small farms and the animals live like yours do. It is expensive and very worth it. Factory farming is horrific, heartbreaking.
    Your pictures are beautiful. This blog is really inspiring. Good to know people and places like yours are out there:)

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks for the kind words Cynthia and thanks for supporting the farmers who are fighting against the industrial Goliath. We can’t survive without people like you standing with us and willing to pay a fair price for meat from animals raised humanely.

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  12. Aggie says:

    Bill, do you use rotational grazing?

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