Last Saturday, after Kate and I finished the Mulefoot hog house and called it quits on the chicken house, we poured each other a glass of wine and pulled our Adirondack chairs up to the fence that encloses the Mulefoot pigs’ pasture pen. We were relaxing, taking in the sights and catching up on the prior week’s events when we noticed that whatever the pigs were eating was making quite a crunching sound. Not only were they crunching, they were squealing, snorting and wagging their tails sufficiently to make Kate and me believe that they were enjoying themselves.
After a bit of investigation, we discovered that the Mulefoot pigs were happily munching hackberries that had blown out of one of the huge hackberry trees near the edge of their paddock. Earlier this season, we noticed that the chickens devoured windfall hackberries, so why not the pigs? I checked to be sure that they still had plenty of commercial hog feed in their bowls … and they did. So we concluded that the pigs simply preferred hackberries over extruded beige pellets.
Kate and I raked up a pile of hackberries and leaves and tossed them into the pig pasture and went back to visiting in the Adirondack chairs.
A short while later we noticed the Mulefoot pigs reaching for the tall lush grass on the outside of their enclosure. It’s true they have clipped the choicest grass in their paddock, so Kate and I pulled many handfuls of that lush, green, unreachable grass and tossed them into the pen. Once again, the pigs made all kinds of happy sounds, and their tails were positively whipping back and forth.
Carol Ekarius’ book on livestock breeds notes that Mulefoots perform well on pasture … in fact she says they do not do well in confinement at all. That characteristic automatically endeared the neat little animals to me, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they preferred a variety of natural forages over the extruded pellets. Once our Mulefoots had eaten their fill of grass, they moved to the pellets, ate for a little while longer and then trundled off to make a nest in their new house.
By then it was dark and cold … a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Photos courtesy of Kate Will.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.
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