Archive for January 28th, 2009

Why aren’t your pigs rooting?!

Last week, as I was cleaning out the chickens in the orchard, a car pulled up by the house and on seeing me wave, the driver walked determinedly over to me. He had a grim look on his face and my spider senses started to tingle.

“Are they your pigs?”, he barked?

I paused for half a second. What’s happened? Did someone from the livery stables up the road fall off because their horse spooked at one of the pigs grunting? Are they out on the road? Is the bloke from the council, here for an impromptu inspection?

“Yes,” I replied making a real effort to stop myself from asking why.

“Are they ringed?”, was his second question, which threw me completely. I stood there staring at him like a prat until I worked out what he meant.

“No,” I stammered.

“Then why aren’t they rooting?”

“Erm, they’re Kune Kune pigs, so they don’t tend to root the same way that traditional pigs do. Just peel back the turf.”

“That’s what I was told we got ours, but they’ve ruined a two acre paddock!”

Ah. I suddenly got what this was about. He’s got a couple of Kune Kunes and, no doubt being youngsters, probably out in a fairly wet grass field, have rooted the entire place up because the grass either has no nutritional value for them, or because there’s no grass left as they’ve poached it up thanks to the rain. Either way, they’re hungry and know that when in doubt, dig deep for roots, beetles, bugs and other assorted tasties.

He’s been feeling misled regarding the purchase but was no doubt keeping a stiff upper lip and all that and then, through the hedge, saw my lot who are on the bank, clearing the undergrowth and brambles to allow grass to grow come spring. They’re barely rooting because, well, there’s nothing too root – and what there is, is at the top so they don’t need to dig for it, just push back the top soil.

Here’s how, courtesy of Bailey!

Going in...

Going in...

Stand clear!

Stand clear!

I told you to stand clear!

I told you to stand clear!

Mmmm, tasty bramble roots! Yum Yum!

Mmmm, tasty bramble roots!

From a distance, it looks as though all four pigs are being perfect angels, but it’s only when you look closely (and know what you’re looking for) that you can see the tell-tale patches where they’ve been gnawing at roots. But, being brambles, the roots are at the surface, so very little damage is done!

To cheer him up, and to demonstrate that contrary to popular opinion, Kune Kunes do root, I showed him Tia and Scrumpy’s little project from December/January:

What do mean, there's no buried treasure?

What do mean, there's no buried treasure?

(Note: the brown patches used to be green and smooth, and the entire enclosure was level. Look closely and you’ll spot the new hillocks that, when you stand in the hole, tower above the top of my wellies!)

Either sow could have been a contender for Gold in the porcine Olympics, but there was a simple reason for the activity. There was nothing for them to eat, so they found their own. Pigs are grazers, it’s no good giving them lots of nuts a couple of times a day and expecting that to do the trick – they like to nibble away throughout the day. If there really is nothing, they’ll sleep instead, which is why so many people keep them in sheds with or without access to a concrete yard over winter.

Although I did my best to convince him otherwise, and spoke at great depth about rotating grazing areas and reseeding, I have a horrid feeling that he is going to ring his pigs’ noses 😦

So, here’s my top tip for anyone who is thinking about getting pigs, as pets or otherwise: Pigs root! Learn to live with it!