We have created pig paddocks in our old organic garden. Here, we are experimenting with forage cover crops to further increase soil organic matter, reduce soil compaction, aid in water retention, and promote a thriving microbial and fungal community in our soil.
We use cover crops and perennial forage crops to supplement our pig’s diet with natural forage. The cover crop mix we are currently using includes a warm season mix of cow peas, mung beans, sorghum-sudangrass, German millet, collards, and okra. Our previous winter mix included white clover, yellow clover, winter wheat alfalfa, cereal rye, orchard grass, purple top turnips, collards, and winter peas. The legumes fix nitrogen in soil and all our cover crops assist with carbon sequestration. Our cover crop mix we use changes based on the season. We feed local, non-GMO feed from a local feed mill to ensure our hogs receive a balanced diet. Our hog production manager, Aaron Lorenz, says “the land likes it, the pigs like it, and I like it”.
We work with Green Cover Seed, a company that advises us on the proper cover crops for each unique situation. It is important not to leave soil exposed. Our pigs have the unique benefit of being quickly concentrated in areas where we want focused impact. They are a mobile soil improvement team. In this manner, we can use our pigs to improve soil health all over the farm, in as small or large an area that we need. Our stocking density is 50 pigs per half acre.
We are excited to bring this innovative pastured pork production method into our farm model. The pigs have a lot of fun rooting around in the new cover crops as they rotate through our paddocks, and we are happy to nurture the quality of the soil that feeds us all.