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Table of Contents
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Pastured pigs and how to raise them on the homestead are featured in this week’s Backyard Bounty podcast episode with your host Nicole and Chuck from Sheraton Park Farms.
What You’ll Learn
- Why pastured pigs are a great addition to your homestead.
- Why you need a mentor before you start to raising your own pastured pigs.
- What you need to get started raising pigs.
- Get some great tips on getting started with raising pastured pigs.
- Are pigs really aggressive?
Chuck and his wife Saundra are first-generation farmers with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry as Paramedics and Registered Nursing.
Three years ago Chuck and Saundra moved to Greensboro, NC. Just prior to that move, Saundra had completed a summer internship at a small local butcher shop in West Jefferson, North Carolina. She came home one day and said, “I think there is something to the local food, know your farmer movement”. After a bit of research, they were hooked on the idea, and with a move in the works, they elected to buy a farm and start farming.
Chuck and Saundra now farm 32 acres (20 owned and 12 leased) just outside the 3rd largest city in North Carolina. They love caring for the land, raising animals the right way, doing a good hard day’s work and helping people feed their families quality food they can feel good about.
They raise chickens for both eggs and meat, turkeys, sheep and pigs. All on pasture without the use of antibiotics, hormones or other unnatural inputs. They have grown their enterprise from zero experience to a 6 figure business in just 3 years!
They are rightly proud of the products they produce and are honored that their customers trust them to help feed their families each week.
Sheraton Farm products can be found during market season (April through November) at the High Point Farmer’s Market in downtown High Point, NC and the Clemmons Farmers Market at the Clemmons YMCA, Clemmons, NC.
Watch it on YouTube
Resources & Links Mentioned
- Sheraton Park Farms website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube
- The Grass-fed Life Podcast
- Farrow to Finish School by J & L Green Farm
- Joel Salatin Podcast from Backyard Bounty
*Denotes affiliate links
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Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from HeritageAcresMarket.com, where each week you'll be hearing inspiring stories and educational interviews with expert guests to help your hobby farm thrive. And now, here's your host, Nicole.
Hello, everybody. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole. And today I'm joined by Chuck with Sheridan Park farms. And today we're going to talk about raising pastured pigs both for use on the homestead and hopefully to make a profit. So Chuck, thank you so much for joining me today.
Thank you, Nicole, appreciate you having me.
Oh, absolutely. So you know, I'm really excited to talk about pastured pork. I think the more that folks can raise food in their backyard, the better, and if they can make a profit from it even even better yet. So can you tell me a little bit more about your farm operation and how you got started with pork?
Sure. Yeah. So we're in, we're just south of Greensboro, North Carolina, which is the third largest city in North Carolina. We're currently farming 32 acres, 20 acres of that we own and then we lease an adjoining 12. Conveniently, it's right next to us. It's actually our neighbor's property. So that worked out really well. Because there's no right of way issues or anything like that. It's just it's right next to us. So we've got 32 acres. My wife and I started farming, this will be our fourth full year. We got our first animals on the farm in February of 2018. We started this venture with zero farming experience. I've got about 28 years in the healthcare industry, my wife has 20 some years in the healthcare industry. And she works for an accountant's office by trade now is what she does. You know, the good Lord looks out for drunkards and fools, I tell everybody. And so he's kept his eye on us. What got us into this, my wife had done a little bit of a summer internship at a local small butcher shop in Foothills, North Carolina. And she came home one day and she said to me, she said, You know, I think there's something to this local food like locally raised, ethically raised food movement. And up until then I really didn't know much about it. I was I was pretty, you know, pretty blind to the whole idea. So started doing a little bit of research and diagnosing she was she was right, she was older. And so we watched food Inc. We started reading and listening to a lot of Joel Salatin stuff and learning about regenerative Ag and that kind of thing. And so we got really interested in farming and raising our own food. About that time, I had a job opportunity that was going to require a move for us. And so we decided during the move, we were gonna buy some land and start raising some chickens on our own, basically, for meat for us maybe have a few extra to sale, we didn't go into planning to to be a business, essentially, if we say we sold a few to cover our costs, Hey, that was great. We got some good food out of the out of the whole deal. And so we found this property here in Greensboro and, and bought it and like I said, our initial goal was we were going to go all in on pasture poultry, we're going to do the moving the chickens every day. And you know, the whole pasture poultry movement, and I was commuting back and forth to work and I was I was consuming every bit of content that I could consume to learn about this farming thing that we were getting ready to start. And so I was on my way to work one day and I was listening to a podcast and the name of it is "The Grass Fed Life" by Darby Simpson and Diego Footer. And they were talking about farming enterprises. And Darby made the comment that pound for pound our for our that pigs were a much better investment than pastured poultry. So I came home and made the grand announcement. Hey, we're getting pigs. My wife looked at me like I had two heads. But she being the patient, the patient woman she is she agreed to pigs. So I started searching on Craigslist, I had no idea what I was doing. I mean I was I was completely in the dark on the whole deal. And so searching Craigslist I found a guy about an hour away that had some pigs for sale. And so we kind of work the deal over Craigslist so one rainy nasty Saturday we go up to this guy's farm about these pigs and we pull up and it's it's kind of a beaten up farm. It's kind of rundown. There's this huge barn there, we pull up a couple guys start walking out. And then there's, you know, four or five guys, before you know it, there's about 15 people there. What are we getting into here? Yeah, I'm here to buy some pigs. And one of the guests said, Oh, you're looking for daddy, let me go get him. So they go down the barn, this little man come shuffling out. So he takes us up to where these pigs are. And he's got, I don't know, eight or 10 pigs on this, this little landscaping trailer with some sides on it. And they can tell that I'm a greenhorn. And the old guy looks at me and he says, "Boy, I'm gonna pick this pig up off this trailer, and when his feet get off the ground, he's yours. If you drop him and he gets going, I'll catch him, I don't know how long it'll be. But I'll catch him and I'll get him back to you." So he starts handing these pigs over to me. And I've never, I've never touched a pig. I mean, these are they're eight weeks old, you know, they're pretty small. And you pick a pig up by the by its hind legs, and it's like a washing machine out of balance. The pig just shakes. You know, I mean, they're just squealing and crying, I mean, it's just unbelievable the noise they make. So we finally get these pigs loaded over into the, into my truck. And so we come home with them. And out in the pasture. I've done all the stuff. I've bought the netting, bought the Energizer, I've got the feed and the water. I mean, it's it's just, it's a pastoral setting that to look at, it's beautiful. So we pull the truck down there, and I jump up on the back of the truck, and I hand one of those pigs off of the truck to my wife, and she puts it down on the ground. So this thing starts sniffing around and looking around. It gets up next to the fence. And I had read and heard I don't know, I don't know what I was thinking, but I had read and heard that when a pig touches that electric to their nose, if they're not trained, they're going to go through that thing. That's absolutely correct. That's what they will do. This pig is out here running around outside of this netting. And you've never seen this after you've seen two middle aged, slightly overweight, human beings chasing the crazed pig across a soybean field.
Oh my goodness.
So somehow we managed to get that pig back into the netting and in the interim, my wife has the wherewithal to turn the power off. So this pig gets caught back up in the netting. So she does this WWE suplex move on this thing and pins this pig to the ground. It's squealing, my dog's barking so we get this pig up and put it back on the truck, and we do what any two normal rational sane adults would do. We go to the house and have a beer.
So Saturday night, these pigs ended up sleeping like in true redneck fashion on the bed of my pickup. So about four o'clock Sunday morning, we're both awake, she's madder than snot, what are you gonna do about these pigs. And so email a guy that I had been watching on on YouTube and explain my conundrum to him. And he said, You've got to set up a training pin, you've got to have a hard structure that the pigs can't get through and put your electric in that. So when they hit it, and they get shocked, they go forward, they can't go anywhere, they got to go back. He said after about two days, they'll learn that the electric they want to stay away from it, they can't go through it. So we wait till about nine o'clock we hook the trailer to the truck and me and my wife and the pigs go to Tractor Supply and get some pig panels and some green T-posts, we come back, we set that up. So now we've got a structure that the pigs can't get out of, we put our netting inside. And then we hand these pigs off into this netting and she and I drag up a lawn chair and enjoy watching the pigs squeal as they hit that electric. So that was my first experience with pigs. And I think the take home message there is if you're interested in pigs, find a mentor that can help walk you through some of the very, very basic steps of getting started with pigs. Pigs are much different than chickens, or rabbits or any other bees or any other type of livestock that you can manage. So get a mentor and and learn the ins and outs of pigs. But again, pigs are wonderful animals, getting those pigs has been the best decision we could make for our farm from the business aspect. And also from a land management aspect. Pigs are wonderful.
So obviously you kind of had trial by fire and and went through all the beginner mistakes, it sounds like.
Yeah, we did learn a lot of hard lessons. And even now pit you know, folks will will call me up or email me and say "hey, can you tell me how to raise pigs?" No, but I can tell you how not to. We've made all the mistakes. Now I have to share those with you and steer you clear, though.
Well, that's that's an important part of getting started, I guess and is making those mistakes and knowing not what to do again. But would you say that pigs are are for everybody? Or are there certain people that maybe shouldn't have pigs?
No, pigs are not for everybody, there's a couple things that you're absolutely going to need. If you want to do pigs, particularly on scale. Pigs do require a bit of space, you can keep a pig in a confined area, you know, a pen, and a 10 by 10, a 20 by 20 penned area, you can do that. But if you're going to do that, you've got to have some pretty significant infrastructure in terms of fencing and confinement because those pigs once they get, you know, 100 pounds, 125 pounds or so pigs become very, very strong in their head and neck and it's really, really easy for them to get out of out of a confined area. So if you're going to do them in a small space, you've got to have some pretty significant infrastructure in terms of fencing and confinement. If you decide you want to do a pastured pig, which we think is a better way to to raise those animals, we think it allows them to express their more natural tendencies, there's a lot of valuable land management things that you can do with pigs. You're going to need some infrastructure there in terms of electric fence, some energizers, feeders, waterers, and there is a space requirement. Again, we're on about 32 acres, I've got 37 pigs altogether, right now we're working to ramp that up. But we're very quickly learning that we're going to run out of space. So having a good chunk of land is also something that you're going to want to think about. Pigs are very strong animals. So you need to be somewhat nimble and quick and be able to get into that get out of their way. So there may be some folks you know, if you have maybe some physical challenges and some of that kind of thing, pigs may be something you want to think about, or at least make sure that you've got plenty of help with but pigs are once you kind of get them trained on that electric and you learn some of their tendencies, pigs are pretty easy to manage. Our daily routine now on our pigs, we've got some automatic watering systems in place, we've got some automatic feeding systems in place on some of our pigs, they're just a daily check, make sure the fence is clear, make sure that they've got plenty of feed and water. So they're not for everybody, but they could be for most people.
So do you just raise them for meat? Or do you also breed them? what's what's the best way to do that?
Yeah, so we started out, just raising pigs for meat. That was the initial plan. And so we were buying feeder piglets, piglets that are eight weeks old that we're going to raise out, we're going to feed them up to, you know, a certain way our target weight is about 325 to 350 pounds before we get to processing. So our initial deal was that was what we were going to do. And then we learned that we were losing our source of piglets, we'd found like a really good source for a very high quality pig that done really good on pasture, foraged well, grew quickly, easy to manage. So we started doing some artificial insemination so that we could continue our line of pigs and have plenty of pigs later on. Then, late last year, I attended the "Farrow to Finish School", which is a school that's put on by Jordan Green and his wife, Laura, they have a farm, JLGreen Farms, up in Edinburg, Virginia. And in talking to some of the folks there and talking to to Jordan and the guys that were in the school. And just basically some general observation, we kind of figured out that good quality piglets were becoming more and more difficult to find. So now we've entered into a bit more of a breeding operation, we now have four bores on property, we've continued to do some artificial insemination because our male pigs just aren't big enough to fulfill their duties yet. So we're continuing to do some artificial insemination. But we're gonna try to work and help fill that need for those good quality piglets that folks are looking for. More and more folks are getting interested in raising their own meat, knowing where their food comes from providing some good quality food for, you know, their local communities, and a good quality piglet that has proven genetics that does well on pasture. Those things are getting a little tougher and tougher to find. So we're gonna try to fill that need. And that's something that we're working on right now.
And, remind me, maybe you mentioned it, and I missed it. But what breed of pigs do you have?
So are two initial sows that we've started our herd off of where they were just kind of a mutt pig, had a little bit of Duroc, a little bit of Berkshire, a little bit of Yorkshire, a little bit of Tamworth. And we've started breeding those pigs back with some purebred Duroc, and some purebred Berkshire. So that seems to be the combination that we're working on right now is having Berkshire and Duroc as the foundation of our herd, we are adding a little bit of Hampshire, a little bit of herd for pigs. So we're experimented just a little bit, but we found that mixed breed pigs seem to do well. Some of the more purebred pigs can have some health problems. We've just found that whenever you start crossing those, you get some hybrid vigor, those pigs grow. Well, they do well, they grow fast. And that just seems to work for us. So we're, we're experimented a little bit with our breeds, but primarily Duroc and Berkshire.
So for folks that might have options, or maybe there's not a mixed breed available, what are some of the better beginner breeds?
So I would go with, again, with the Duroc, those pigs, put on weight well, they grow fast. They're easy to keep, you know, another question that I get frequently is, what's the best breed of pig to keep what's the best temperament pig, all pigs are easy to deal with, and all pigs can be difficult to deal with dependent upon how you manage them. One of the things that we found and noticed is that if you're over in those pans with those pigs, and you're giving them belly scratches and scratching behind the ears and giving them treats and that kind of thing. Those pigs are very receptive to you. They come I mean, in lots of ways they act like a, much like a pet. On the opposite side, if you just fill that bulk feeder and fill that automatic waterer and just walk away and never interact with those pigs, they can be a little bit difficult and a little bit cantankerous to deal with. So I think the It's not so much the breed of pig as it is the management and how you interact with those animals.
I think that's to be said, with most animals. I don't know that, you know, you necessarily tame and alligators are big, but you know, chickens are the same way, you just throw them out there, they're not going to be super friendly. But if you pet them or interact with them, they're going to be much nicer.
And with pigs, I will make I will make this disclaimer. Pigs are large, strong animals, and you always need to keep your head on a swivel, know where they're at, be cautious. But again, the more you get over and and manage them and work with them and spend time with them, the easier they are to handle.
I've heard some stories maybe is the right term for it that pigs can be dangerous is that more so just because of their size, and maybe people not interacting with them as often as they should?
Yeah, those those certainly are contributing factors. Whenever the females are in heat, we've noticed that they tend to be more aggressive than whenever they're not in heat. So there's typically a couple of a period there every three weeks that that are females can be a little bit aggressive. And then on the boar side, whenever those females are in heat, those boards have one thing on their mind, and you got to be careful around the males during the meeting time. So those are typically times that you that you need to kind of keep your head on a swivel and know where everybody's at and be cautious during the meeting in the heat cycles.
So do you keep them separated? Or are they all intermingled?
We do yeah, we keep. So right now we're keeping our boars separate from our from our breeding gilts primarily because our boars are brand new on the farm. And I've got a couple that are about 10 weeks old, and a couple that are three and a half, four months old. So they're not to breeding age yet, but we will keep them separate. We will put the boars in with the females whenever everybody gets to size and gets to the appropriate age. And we'll leave them in there until they're about ready to farrow. So pigs will carry, their gestational period is three months, three weeks and three days and ends up being about 115 days. So we'll put the boars in with with the females, they'll stay in with them for about four months, and then we'll pull them out and they'll go to another group of females.
So I imagine most people are going to be raising them for meat more so than production of offspring of for whatever purpose they're. So what's kind of the basics to get started with that you mentioned fencing is pretty important. But what are some other things before you even bring the pigs home that you would need to have?
You know, managing pigs doesn't require a whole lot of infrastructure. If you're doing it out on pasture, you're going to need a training pan. So we use just some pretty standard 16 foot long pig panels, you can pick those up at any local feed store animal supply store, Tractor Supply, Rural King, Top stores. So we use those to set up a training pen, we use a couple of rolls of some fairly inexpensive, electric polywire, we use a Gallagher brand or a Speed Wrap brand. Usually we can pick those rolls up for anywhere between, you know 40 and $80. apiece, depending on what we're doing with them, you'll need an energizer, we've used a couple of different types of energizes, we've used the kind that operates off of a 12 volt battery. And then we've also got some solar energizers, we're starting to experiment with those a little bit right now to see how they do some type of container feed some type of container for water, we found that just a black pickle barrel. Usually you pick those up on Craigslist, or marketplace for $15, $25 with just some pig nipples. And again, those you can pick those up at at Tractor Supply or your local feed store. That's really all you need. And then the pigs. So the beginning stuff is really pretty simple. One thing that I would say is that if you're going to get into pigs and raise pigs, for me, always get at least two pigs or herd animals you're going to find they do much better, they're easier to manage. They're much happier if if they have a buddy or they have a partner. So I wouldn't recommend trying to raise just one pig at a time get at least two.
So if you're wanting to raise them, for meat, it doesn't matter, male or female, I guess? What age is a good place to start? Is it something that you're better off with a younger pig?
Sure, great question. So on the sex of the animal, females are going to be fine, you're not gonna have any issue there. But if you do elect to raise a male, you really need to castrate those boys and turn them into what's called a bear that's a castrated male pig. There is some controversy slash discussion around what's called boar taint. And that comes from an increase in the testosterone hormone. Some folks can taste it in the meat some folks can't. We're raising animals on a production scale. And we're selling that meat to the public by the cut. For us, it just does not make sense to risk whether someone can or can't taste that boar taint. So we just go ahead and castrate. If you're gonna do males, go ahead and castrate them. That's best done whenever they're young. I would recommend start with a young animal. Typically, piglets will get weaned off of the sale at about eight weeks of age. That's a great place to start. Get those pigs as soon as they're weaned off of their moms, and go ahead and put them in your training pen and get them started early. They're going to learn that electric in about, they typically will learn in in a couple of days, we'll usually leave pigs in a train and pan for a week or so just to make sure everybody's comfortable. And they know that they know the fence and really well before we turn them out on pasture,
And then what kind of housing do they need? Is it just some sort of a basic structure or anything particular?
So in the wintertime, we provide and keep in mind, we're in central North Carolina, we don't have a lot of really, really bad, cold, frigid, deep freeze kinds of winters, like folks in the northern part of the United States can get, we can get some, that's where we'll get down into the teens, occasionally single digits, but during the day warms back up. So we provide some three sided structures for those pigs that are portable, we call them the ham house, I can pick those up with the forks on the tractor and move those around. And the reason we provide those is just to keep those pigs in and out of the wind. In the spring, summer and fall, we don't provide a structure for those and we provide them with some, you know, some junk hay, they will typically kind of make a nest, we do provide them, especially in the summertime, you got to make sure you provide those animals with plenty of shade. And some areas where they can build some wallows, pigs don't have the ability to sweat themselves.
So that's why pigs like to roll around in mud, it's cool. It provides a coating on the skin to keep insects, flies, mosquitoes and that kind of thing off of. So they need an area that has some water for a wallow, plenty of shade. And then in the wintertime, something to keep them out of the wind. Again, we provide that little three sided structure works great for some of our adult pigs, we make sure they're in a wooded area, and we give them plenty of hay. And we may not even provide them with a structure. So pigs are very self sufficient. They don't need a lot of housing, no need for a whole lot of infrastructure related to the housing piece. Just make sure they've got some cover from some trees, little bit of hay to nest up in and they're going to be fine.
So it sounds like the startup costs, as far as fuel compared at least some other animals is pretty reasonable.
Yeah. So you really can get started with pigs minus the pigs for 300 bucks or less. By the time you buy a couple of big panels, a few T-posts, the energizer is going to be the most expensive thing that you're going to have to buy. We typically would recommend someone get, you know, a two or three Joule energizer at minimum. Because you do want to have a nice hot energized fans for those pigs. Especially when they're young. Do you want to learn that that fence is hot, they don't want any part of it, you want to keep them away from that fence. So the energizer is going to be the most expensive piece for you. And you can typically pick those up for you know, about 200 250 bucks, not very expensive at all. So yeah, the startup costs are not bad at all.
Well, that definitely helps. You know, some animals are so expensive to get started on. And what about feed? You know, you mentioned that they're on pasture. But I guess is it just feed that you buy from the feed store? Or what feed options or nutrients or anything like that do you give them?
Yeah, so we, we buy our feed from a local milling company, which is about 15 minutes down the road here, they do a custom grind for us. It's about a 16% protein feed. If you got some local feed mills in your area, they're going to be able to provide you with a good balance swine feed the commercial feeds, the Purina Southern States, Bartlett, all of those companies provide typically a good balanced nutrition feed for those pigs. We do provide our our pigs with free choice ration, we could get our pigs to you know the 325-350 mark without providing them with a whole lot of extra feed, but it would just take a lot longer. So we make sure that they've got plenty of feed available for them. But again, if you got a local meal close to you, those guys are going to have what you need. If you can't find that typically your feed stores are going to have a good balanced swine ration that you can pick up for a pretty reasonable price.
And so I guess expanding on feeding, what, what's the average age of butcher? How long do we need to take care of these animals before we can process them?
So typically, you're gonna take about seven to eight months, that's from from birth to process and seven, eight months to get a pig to good venture size. What we found with our animals, and in talking to a lot of the farmers that seeing this seems to be sort of the sweet spot is that 325 to 350 pound range on the pig whenever you go to processing. anything smaller than that the pig seem to be pretty lean and don't have quite as much fat and marbling is what you would hope to see through some of the carcass, anything much larger than that and the fat tends to start retarding some of the muscle growth and you don't get a good loin, you don't get good low end shops and that kind of thing. So, for us again, we found that 325 to 350 pound range to be kind of the sweet spot.
And so for raising pigs for butcher, in my mind, I'm sure I'm wrong here, feeding a pig for seven months to get to 350 pounds sounds expensive. But obviously, you know, if you're able to profit from it, I'm mistaken there. So what is the profitability of pigs? Is it... how many pigs would you need to to be profitable?
So that really is going to depend on the market that you're in. Again, we're in Greensboro, North Carolina, where we live right outside of the third largest city in the state where within an hour and a half, we have about 4 million people. So we have a large market. And within that market, there is the full gamut of socio economic balance for folks, we target folks that are food conscious, they are interested in where their food comes from, they're interested in knowing their farmer, they're interested in clean food that's raised on pasture, folks understand that that does take a little bit more money to purchase that high quality of product that we produce. If you're interested in in doing pigs as a production model or as a, as an enterprise, I would recommend starting with three that's going to give you one to put in your freezer and to to sale. And for those two that you say Oh, you'll be able to pay for for your pig that you've put in your freezer. We're to the point now we can realize about a $700 to $1,000 profit per pig. Once we raise them up that can that includes feed costs, butcher costs, the whole deal, we can realize somewhere between $700 and $1,000 per pig.
Wow, that's great.
We didn't start out there. So, you know, over time, we've built clientele, we've built a reputation, we've built. Folks understand that they're buying a high quality product from us, and so we can command a little bit higher price than other folks may be able to. Again, because you know, we target the folks that are interested in quality meat locally raised, Know Your Farmer, and just a higher end product.
So what are some of your main outlets I saw on your website, the the farmers market? Do you also ship or is it all pretty much just local business?
So far, everything's been local, we do two farmers markets per week. And then we also sell to a small local niche grocery store just down the road a little ways. And that's another outlet. We do a lot of own farm sales, we have a lot of folks that come direct to the farm to buy, we're trying to crack, it's trying to crack that shipping nut. We did do a shipping experiment a couple of weeks ago, didn't work out very well. But we learned some valuable lessons. So we're working on trying to get the shipping piece down and get that get that to where that's something that we can offer to customers. And we can you know, get our product out to a little wider audience. The shipping of meat is just, that's just a packaging, the dry ice, the time in which you have to ship it the cost for shipping. It's a little bit of a cost prohibitive thing. But we're trying to figure that out.
Sure. Well, and especially right now, there's a lot of shipping challenges for everybody with shipping delays and things.
And you know, frankly, Amazon is spoiling us all. I mean, you know, it's it's super easy, you know, to order a computer mouse on your phone tonight, and it's at your door, you know, tomorrow by lunch.
So Amazon kind of ruined us all. And those of us that don't have those big outlets and those big connections with UPS and the Postal Service, we're still floundering and trying to get that deal figured out.
Yeah, I definitely experienced that with our, our little shop as well.
I wanted to ask you, going back to the husbandry side of things, you mentioned that there was a lot of benefits of raising them on pasture and the land management aspects. And I just was hoping that you could touch on that.
Sure. So that first set of pigs that I was talking about when we bought the farm that were own, there really hadn't been a whole lot done to it other than there were some crops, just some row crops that were being raised, corn, soybean, tobacco, winter wheat. And so what our pastures now were previously fields where these crops were being raised, and that soul was hard packed soil, didn't absorb any water, there was a lot of runoff. I mean, it was just no nutrients whatsoever. I mean, it was just it was in pretty rough shape. So that first year we ran those pigs across one of those fields, let them till that up and stir up that latent seed bank, put down some manure, we were throwing some junk hay out there, so they were kind of stomping that carbon in. And so now those fields that were originally just a hardpan, hard packed dirt, we've got some really nice grasses growing on it. So pigs are great at stirring that latent seed back up, aerating the soil, fluffing it up, and just add some life to it. We've also found in running our pigs through some of our wooded areas, they do a fantastic job of clearing some of that understory, some of that underbrush and knocking that stuff down. We'll follow them with a chainsaw and start cutting down some of the junk trees and the smaller trees, opening up some of that canopy. And so we've started in some of the areas on our farm. Now we've started to build some beautiful silvopasture that are perfect to run our sheep through, for example. And so this all becomes a very symbiotic relationship and everything just kind of feeds on itself, we bring the pigs through and let them stir the ground up and flip that up, we come along, and so maybe a little bit of cover crop behind it a little, you know, some rice, wheat, some oats and that kind of thing, let that start springing up, we bring the sheep back across that. So we're now generating some forages for our sheep, we run the sheep across that, then we'll bring our pasture chickens behind that and let the pasture chickens, you know, take advantage of some of the sheep manure and, you know, dig around for grasses and bugs and worms and all that kind of stuff. And then it's time to bring the pigs back through. So we just create this continuous cycle of animals moving across our farm. And we can increase the production capacity of the land, while we're getting, you know, we're building soul, you know, everything's putting manure down, we're stomping the carbon back in and we're just building some life back into this farm, that when we bought it, was I mean, it was just becoming barren. And you know, unless you were just pouring the chemicals to it, nothing would grow here. And so it's that symbiotic relationship. And the pigs play a huge role in that there are tillage tool, there are creators, there are land clearing tool there, I've got a group of pigs right now in some bamboo that's 30 feet tall. And these girls are just tearing this stuff down and pushing it over and they're eating it. I'm in there just opening that stuff up. So I get excited talking about pigs and what they can do with land because my grandmother told me, she said, "Oh, you'll never grow any grass, with them pigs around." And now she can that she can't believe what we're doing on this farm with getting this grass to grow that we've had pigs on.
That's amazing. So do you need to rotate their fields and things for disease and worms like you do other animals?
Yes, absolutely. So we keep those pigs moving. We typically will leave pigs on the spot. And that's another question we get how long can a pig stay in an area? Well, it depends on how big the area it is, depends on how many pigs you got there depends on how big the pigs are, ten 100 pound pigs are going to do a different amount of damage than ten 200 pound pigs, they're just there's more pressure on that. So we do keep everything moving. We want to get them off of their manure course pigs do tend to have a bathroom area within their paddocks. So we do want to move them off there. We also want to distribute that manure around, we don't want pigs just in one place where they're just this, this overabundance of manure and it's not being spread out. And then also, if you leave pigs on an area too long, they're going to compact the ground, particularly around feed and water stations. And it's going to be more difficult to get grass grown in those areas. And I've done that a couple of times. I've left pigs in the spot too long. And they've really compacted down around where the feed water was. We're moving some sheep today. And we're moving their hay feeder and the guy that was helping me he said "Something's been here before." And I said, "Yeah, I had the pig feeder in there", because it was just compacted and there wasn't any grass growing. So you got to keep those animals moving pigs and pigs need to keep moving from space to space on a pretty regular rotation.
Sure. That makes sense. So are there any other common beginner mistakes or, or even misconceptions about raising pigs that you've found along the way from talking to other people? And then, you know, other mistakes that you've made as well?
Yeah, so one thing, one of the big misconceptions is that pigs think, and again, if you're moving those pigs, and you keep them rotated around, and you distribute that manure out over over a broader area, we have very, I mean, very little odor at all, the only time we really get much odors, if we've had just a ton of rain, and that manure starts to liquefy some and you can get a little bit of an odor there. But otherwise, I mean, the farm doesn't, doesn't stink. I mean, you really don't smell those pigs. Mistakes that we've made, not moving them frequently enough. We again, we have had some pigs that we've left in an area for a little bit too long, and we've, you know, we're trying to... we've had to go back and recover some of the damage that's been caused there, making sure that the fence stays on, we have accidentally left the fence off and they do get kind of curious and they will push across it. And then also not making sure that the area around your fencing is clear. Pigs tend to berm, they push leaves and sticks and material around, and they will push that right up to the edge of that fence, because that's as far as they can go.
And over time, they'll push that up against that fence and that fence will ground out and you'll lose your energy on the fence, so making sure fences stay clear. But otherwise, I mean just good. Just good general management practices. Always make sure they got plenty of feed, they got plenty of water and the fence is good. Those are the three key the three key things to being successful with pigs.
Wonderful. Well, obviously, you know there's more than we could talk about just in our short podcast here, but I know that you have some really great resources, your YouTube channel and your website. So Can you share those with us so that if somebody is wanting to get more information, they can get that information from you?
Yeah, so we've got a YouTube channel, and our YouTube channel, it's kind of interesting how that started. We started our YouTube channel, we wanted to just do some videos that we're gonna post over on our web page, to give our customers a little bit of an insight into you know, who we are and how their foods being raised and give them kind of a behind the scenes look. Well, one video turned into two into three into 150 videos now. So we've got a YouTube channel, it's Sheraton Park Farms. If you just search us on YouTube, you'll find us over there. We talk about all things pigs, chickens, she just general farming stuff, we do land clearing and tractor work. We got all kinds of stuff going on over there. But our primary focus is on pigs and on pasture pigs. We also have a webpage, it's SheratonParkFarms.com. You can find us there. And then we're also on Facebook, and also on Instagram. I love to talk pig with folks. So if you've got a question, please reach out to us. We're glad to try to, you know provide what information we can and help folks out. We think this is a great lifestyle. We think pigs are a great animal to have on your farm. And we encourage folks to give them a try.
And of course, as always, we'll put the links in the show notes that folks can find you easier there. And Chuck, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you sharing your time and your education with us.
Nicole, thank you. It's been a pleasure.
And for those listening, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.
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