Raising livestock on pasture isn’t new, but with the advent of confinement livestock operations and the industrialization of meat production, chickens, cows and pigs were moved inside and shut off from the natural world. Feed, water, pharmaceuticals and intensively managed animals living in man-made environments somehow became the norm. Getting these animals back outdoors has become the goal for many farmers, as well as consumers.
Many issues associated with confinement — manure management, odors, water pollution, disease due to crowded conditions — are the result of too many animals and not enough space. Likewise, managing livestock on pasture means respecting the limits of the land, understanding the animals’ natural behaviors and properly managing both.
“As with any other livestock, outdoor pigs, when not appropriately managed, can elicit damage to their environment,” said Silvana Pietrosemoli, research associate, North Carolina State University, Alternative Swine Research and Extension Project.
Pigs root in the soil, and this natural behavior is often maligned as the reason pigs aren’t able to be pastured successfully. But rooting behavior is controllable and can be beneficial to pastures, too. Wallowing is another pig behavior which can have detrimental environmental consequences. Soil compaction is another concern, and pigs produce a lot of manure. Continue Reading →