Plowing With Pigs: You Don't Need a Tractor to Get Crops Planted

| 6/3/2015 11:05:00 AM

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.When I first got into Mulefoot pigs a friend recommended that I ring their snouts or risk ruining my pastures. I decided to forego the ringing and use the pigs to plow up new growing spaces. Take a look at a pig and watch it root -- you'll no doubt agree that their snouts look and act very much like chisel plow shanks as they tear up vegetation, turn the soil and eat all the grass roots, weed roots and grubs they can find. One day, while watching them root, it occurred to me that using pigs as plows would be a great way to break a little sod, get rid of the pesky grass and fertilize the ground in preparation for planting gardens, small fields of small grains and even mangle beets -- that the pigs would happily harvest themselves come fall.

 Planting mangles and corn with a Cole Planet Jr. Planter 

So when I laid out the pigs' wooded pen, I fenced in a dogleg of fine Kansas sod that would one day make a great place to grow corn, wheat and forages that would support the pigs themselves, such as the giant mangle beets whose tops are every bit as palatable as their 20-pound roots. My ancestors used pig-harvested corn and mangles to help make the bacon, so I figured why not try it for myself. Last weekend I fenced the pigs out of the dogleg and planted some crops that will soon support my efforts in the kitchen and that the pigs will also enjoy.

Mulefoot sow and piglet 

Mulefoot pigs are most definitely not the other white meat. They are a heritage breed and they prefer to live outdoors -- which is where they thrive -- not in confinement. They have loins that are too short and far too much body fat for the modern hog industry. But these animals know how to look after themselves and are awesome when used to plow up ground for planting.

  Fencing out the pigs 

1/22/2012 1:04:55 AM

Great use for the mulefoot! We didn't use ours to plow up a garden area but may in the future. Am very fond of that wonderful meat so we will have more mulefoot from time to time.

Suzanne Cox
8/24/2011 10:57:12 PM

Hank, you originally gave us this idea several months ago before we had any pigs. We now have 4 pigs around 4 mo. old in a 50x50 foot garden area fenced in with electric. They have only been there for six weeks, but are already making progress. We've got 3 other garden areas this same size that we want to rotate them to when they get through with this one. I was wondering, how many pigs did you put on yours and how long did it take them to get it weed free? Thanks!

Darcy Monier
5/26/2011 1:06:56 AM

We too turn our pigs loose in the garden in the fall, they make sure there are no leftover plants of veggies from the previous harvest. They go off to market and I get to plant my garden. Great way to plow and stay sustainable!

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