August 16, 2014

"They Won't Tear Up Your Yard"

That was the sales pitch we got when we bought Waldo. He was one of about 20 or so piglets running around with two adult sows (and a bunch of goats and chickens), and there was no sign of rooting anywhere. I suppose it was meant to be a good thing, but it was the one thing about the American Guinea Hog that disappointed me. There is so much excellent information out there about using pigs as natural tillers of the soil. That had been an important reason I wanted pigs, but once I set my heart on the Guinea Hogs, I had to accept whatever their natural behavior was.

Well guess what.

Waldo rooting to his heart's content.

They do so root! Waldo does and Polly does too. I was so happy to see this.

Pigs root to find things to eat: grubs, worms, roots, squirrel buried acorns, etc.

I'm guessing the reason there was no rooting at the breeder's was because there were too many animals in the paddock (which Dan really disliked). The soil was so compacted and trampled that not much was growing. I suppose rooting there was difficult if not impossible. To see an example of Guinea Hog rooting results at its finest, check out "Rooting It Up" at Windward.

So, we need to develop a plan / schedule of what will go where next year and where to put the pigs. Now that Dan has the 2-wheel tractor, our ability to grow field crops is greatly enhanced. And now that we have pigs, we're well on our way to a "work harder not smarter" solution to sustainability on the homestead.


Su Ba said...

Good little piggies! My two guys have been rooting up a storm too. It's been raining a bit almost every day,so the ground here is quite soft. As a result they have been doing a good job rooting up the brush and rocks for me. As of yesterday I've been throwing in grass clippings into their pen so that they can mix them up with the soil. I notice that they nibble a bit but root most of it around.

The sod where I've been moving their pen is real thick. I have a devil of a time cutting through it, but they have been successfully rooting it up. Good pigs! I'm so glad that I got them. Looks like I'll be able to turn that area into a garden without much effort.

My two are mostly ferals, so I expected them to root. In fact, I wanted them to. I wasn't aware the Guinea Hogs were not suppose to be rooters.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Go Waldo and Polly! Doing just what I thought all pigs did best.
I think it might have put me off buying them if I thought they didn't root, as it is such a useful pig activity for the smallholder. I can see a re-think bubble above your head now, with crop rotations etc!

Leigh said...

Su Ba, I'd think ferals would be top of the line rooters! Very exciting to learn they can turn over rocks. Good idea about the grass clippings.

Gill, I honestly had 2nd thoughts after she told me but I'd already put a $50 deposit on Waldo and we were there to pick him up. The breeder may be the only one in the world who things they don't root. LOL

Anonymous said...

This is just one of the reasons I want a couple piglets next year. I would like to do like you are, and get something that I can breed to have each year, and put meat in the freezer. The rooting, especially with our hard dirt and weeds galore is just icing on the cake!

Tuesday said...

Such good little piggies doing their jobs!!! (they are both sooo cute too!)

Pigs are definitely on our list to have.

Farmer Barb said...

Well, um, who needs pigs if they DON'T root? When I saw the first picture I thought,"Hey! That looks just like the Nature Center pasture." Pigs root. Everybody has a job and THAT is one they specialize in. Yea!

Mark said...

Rooting pigs, milking goats, some other sort of meat animal in the pasture: I gotta get my fences up. I dunno, I think I'm getting the homestead barnyard heebee geebees. Now that I have my 'gateway' laying chickens, it's getting harder to wait until retirement for the rest. Maybe next year's meat birds will do it for me. (Ha! Like anyone's gonna believe that!) ;-)

Quinn said...

I can't believe someone would say any type of hog doesn't root! Maybe it was just pointless (from the hogs' viewpoint) at the breeder's place, if the paddock was so hardpacked and barren? But still...hard to imagine!
Glad your two are working out so well. I'd like to have pigs again, but it really isn't practical here.

Mama Pea said...

Go, Waldo! Go, Polly! Just goes to show that environment is everything! Methinks your piggies are in Hog Heaven.

We're thinking about (dreaming of) making a part of our woods a small pasture. Ask Waldo and Polly if they would ever be interested in taking a summer's vacation in northern Minnesota, will you? ;o)

Renee Nefe said...

Glad that your piggies are doing just what piggies do. :D

Dawn said...

Our our turing the ground lovely, we put them in my future vegetable garden area and when they have turned that area over we will move them down a bit to the next area, they love it and love it more when I tip a bucket of water into there wallow they dive in and splash around I am sure they are smiling :-)

Harry Flashman said...

We have wild hogs here. The acorns have started falling early, and the hogs are coming down and rooting up the ground around the trees while they forage. These are not nice little pigs like yours but behemoths with bad tempers. The dogs and I are careful to stay away from them. They mostly come at night though, so it all works out. Everybody has to eat.

Harry Flashman said...

I tried to get my wife to let me buy a couple of pigs like Waldo, but she said the goat episode should have been enough to answer that question.

Unknown said...

Nice tractor! Cute Waldo :) Doing what pigs do...

Ed said...

Pigs can literally move mountains of dirt in very short periods of time. I speak from experience.

The only way to prevent them from rooting is to put a ring in their nose like modern youth do to themselves these days. However on a small scale, rooting is very beneficial for the ecosystem.

Sandy Livesay said...


And you don't have to pay Waldo and Polly to work!!!! They're doing a mighty fine job for you and Dan.

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

Are you going to create a earth covered shelter for them to be in, in winter? I saw a nice permaculture video where it was done. Apparently saving a bit on feed costs due to the pigs being warmer. :)

Leigh said...

Stephanie, I hope you can find American Guineas. They are a wonderful breed and I hear they make excellent eating.

Tuesday, except I think the cuteness factor fades as they grow up, LOL

Barb, yes, I'm really happy with this. Every critter contributes the thing they love to do. What more could anyone ask for?

Mark, I hear you! Dan was always asking if we were ready for the next critter and I was always full steam ahead. He has no regrets, because they do help out a lot. (How's that for enabling? :)

Quinn, what can I say! I did later see on Craigslist that she was selling all her hogs and goats; probably a good thing.

Mama Pea, I agree! And as far as asking Waldo and Polly, if you offer food, they'll follow you anywhere. :)

Renee, me too!

Dawn, isn't it fun having pigs?

Harry, I would be extremely leery of wild hogs. Do you ever hunt them?

Nancy, tractor, yes!

Ed, I've seen those rings for pig noses. Happily, a return to more natural animal husbandry is making a difference; a partnership between humans and critters. Very beneficial for everyone.

Sandy, we pay them in table scraps and head scratches. :)

Cloud, hmm. Sounds like Sepp Holzer's animal shelters. I'm not sure we'll get to that this year, maybe never if we want to move the pigs around. I agree about keeping animals warm during cold weather. It's much better if they don't have to use all their calories trying to keep warm. I have discovered that the pigs love to burrow under a mound of straw at night. I learned this when I encountered a happily grunting pile of straw and realized it had a pig inside! A good shelter with lots of straw will probably do the trick.