Planting the Pig Pasture
By Gavin Dinnel
When you raise pigs, you have to be prepared for them to tear things apart. Pigs love to root in the ground for things to eat, and they do it to make cool beds to lie in and wallow when it is hot. They will take your lovely green pasture and turn it into a barren dirt field in no time at all.
How do we take this negative and turn it into a positive? For me, my goal was to find something that I could plant that would provide a nice green cover, would provide nutrients to the soil, and could provide feed for the sheep for a couple of months and for the next batch of pigs that will come in January.
And what miracle plant is it that I decided on? Turnips! Yes, that favorite root vegetable of kids and adults alike is what I planted in our pig pasture. Specifically we decided on Appin Forage turnips from Welter Seed and Honey out of Iowa. These turnips have a large amount of leafy material and grow quickly. They are also multi-crowned to allow for quick regrowth after grazing.
We have been very happy with the turnips, and with the growth of all plant material in our pig pasture overall. As you can see from the pictures below, it is very green and there is a good variety of plants. There are a couple different volunteer squash and several volunteer tomatoes. Clover, grasses, barley, and of course some weeds are all interspersed in the area.
The sheep have been enjoying the evenings that I let them into this paddock to graze the variety of plants. This is a great way for us to utilize all of this space that would otherwise go unused and provide more feed for the sheep.
Seeding this area was easier than I expected. Using a hand seeder commonly used for lawns, I waited for the forecast to show a strong chance of rain. Before the rain moved in, I broadcasted the seed throughout the pasture and the rain pushed the seed into the ground. That was all I did. There was no disking, tilling, or any other work involved. The pigs did all the hard work, and I just had to throw the seed. We had excellent weather for germination and, just a few days later, saw thousands of sprouts across the ground.
Take a look at the before and after pictures to see exactly how much this area has changed in just 60 days. The investment in the seed and time is minimal, and the rewards are plentiful. I highly recommend anyone needing to seed an area for grazing to consider turnips!