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Pigging out in a food forest

Duck pond

Heirloom cattleSepp Holzer raises cattle, bison, yaks, water buffalo, ducks, and chickens on his farm, but his centerpiece animal is clearly the pig.  His swine are nearly self-sufficent, and also help out by eating spoiled fruit in the orchard, increasing plant diversity by creating small patches of bare ground, and regulating the snail population.  Holzer scatters feed on the ground when he wants the soil loosened, and his pigs till that specific patch of earth.  And, of course, they provide meat.

Butchered pigs

Holzer's pigsHolzer's pigs (and other livestock) live in rotational paddocks that encompass his entire farm.  So the pigs move through the vegetable garden when it's fallow, through the orchard to clean up windfalls, and through the green manure areas busy improving the soil.

The pigs are stocked at a density of about one to five pigs per acre, and are allowed to do a moderate amount of damage before moving to the next paddock.  Holzer ensures that perennial tubers like Jerusalem artichokes aren't entirely dug up by swine snouts, and finds that pig action spreads smaller tubers around so that the plants actually expand before the Edible tuberslivestock come through again.  In the vegetable garden, he makes sure to leave lots of crops unharvested at the end of the year, including beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage, and potatoes, so that the pigs have something to eat during the winter.  And after the pigs leave a paddock, Holzer seeds bare ground with green manure crops, tree seeds, or vegetables.

For those of you who want to follow along at home, the trick to making sure that pigs don't create a moonscape is variety choice and plenty of space.  Holzer's favorite breeds are Mangalitza, Swabian-Hall, Duroc, and Turopolje, heritage breeds that may or may not be available in the United States.

This post is part of our Sepp Holzer's Permaculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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I'm intrigued with this series but I'm still trying to figure out how his methods apply on a smaller scale. I love the concept but I don't understand how apples lying on the ground feed livestock through the winter. Here they would either rot or the deer would eat them pronto.
Comment by Lisa Fri Mar 2 10:51:48 2012

Lisa --- I know what you mean about bringing it down to the backyard scale.

I don't entirely have answers about the fruit, but here are my guesses. First, many storage pears will stay on the tree for a long time if you let them. Maybe some of the storage apples do too? He didn't talk about persimmons, but I've seen persimmons still ready to eat on the tree around New Years. So, if some apples and pears act similarly, they could hang up there out of reach of the marauders, then drop a few at a time to feed the livestock.

Comment by anna Fri Mar 2 13:10:01 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime