Hogs are known for their big animal impact. Pigs are omnivores - and nobody eats like an omnivore. Just think about how wide-ranging our own diet is! At White Oak Pastures, we use the animal impact of pigs to regenerate land and keep our soil and pastures healthy. So how do hogs fit into our planned grazing strategy?
This is part two of a three-part video series on how White Oak Pastures uses animal impact to holistically regenerate land that was previously industrially row-cropped into productive, pastured savannah.
In case you missed it, here is part one, Spotlight On Our Hard-Working Poultry.
VIDEO: PASTURE-RAISED HOGS WITH KYLAN HOOVER
For many years at White Oak Pastures, we have been expanding our farm, acquiring former row-crop land in the Bluffton area and converting it into pastured savannah. Many of these row-crop fields are bordered by pine tree plantations. (According to Will Harris, "What corn is to Iowa, pine trees are to Georgia"). These border areas were once used for pine pulp production, which is called "silviculture" (the farming of trees).
When White Oak Pastures acquires this land, these border areas are frequently a monoculture, with straight lines of pine trees and, usually, overgrown underbrush. This plant life can be so dense that it is difficult for many animals to even go through the area.
Our farm aims to create a savannah-like landscape, which includes 20-30% shade for our animals and plant life. So in addition to planting trees in our pastures, we work to regenerate these former silviculture areas - turning them into "silvopasture".
This is where our pigs fit in, with their big animal impact. Hogs are our first line in the forests, eating their way through thick forest of plant life. Because of the animal impact of hogs, next, goats can make their way through. Eventually sheep and cattle can go through what was once dense brush, and we humans can start to plant and encourage different perennial species.
Hogs can also be useful in our pastures, adding nutrients (read: manure) throughout our farm. Letting pigs forage on pasture requires an active hog field team. Because pigs are hungry eaters and do root down into the soil, we move them into different sections of pasture frequently to spread out their impact.
Pigs are omnivores, foraging plants, grubs, and anything edible. We supplement what they forage with a variety of feed. Currently, much of the feed we use is peanut processing byproducts from a nearby peanut facility and using these byproducts as feed is actually diverting them from the waste stream.
We also use pigs in our zero-waste loop on the farm, feeding them poultry eggs that we cannot sell (eggs that have been found to be fertilized, through our candling process). The eggs, used as a feed supplement for young pigs in particular, help boost a hog's immune system and growth rate. Pigs naturally forage for animal protein like insects and grubs, but the eggs are a great source of supplemental animal proteins - and our pigs love them.
Because the hogs eat supplemental feed, they function as net nutrient importers for our pasture. Their manure, full of nutrients from their forage and from their supplemental feed, adds new nutrients to our pasture. This makes hogs an important part of our land management practices - whether in the forest or on pasture, pigs help regenerate our soil.
Adding pigs into the multi-species ecosystem at White Oak Pastures has allowed us to holistically manage our land, and provide delicious pork products for our customers. Check out some of our many products from heritage breeds including Tamworth, Berkshire, and Gloucester Old Spots.
We also sell cuts like pork tenderloin medallions or bone-in rib pork chops, as well as ground pork. We're proud to offer these pork products - hogs are part of the diverse animal ecosystem we have here at White Oak Pastures, and they play a unique role in our land management practices.