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pigs in woodland and steep slope?

Ynys
by Ynys

Hi

We are going to keep pigs soon and have 26 acres of a very mixed bag of land with about one third being ancient mixed broadleaf that could do with some management and thinning.  After doing a lot of research and speaking to people who have kept pigs in woodland we are happy to release them in their occasionally but are worried about how steep some parts are.  A large part runs along our river which is at the bottom of a very steep slope.  Fencing would be very difficult here.

Does anyone know how agile pigs are or able to keep away from such areas?

 

last edited on
HarmonyHerd
#1
by HarmonyHerd

Pigs are fine on steep slopes, and are remarkably agile,  but do not like going down a steep step, and will not venture over "an edge" unless another pig pushes them.  Would it be possible to just string a bit of wire across the drop, attached to a couple of stakes at either end, just as an extra defence?

oaklandspigs
#2
by oaklandspigs

You'd also need to watch out for the "river" part of you set-up.

Pigs are very good swimmers, so if they get to the river/stream they're likely to swim/paddle their way out to freedom !

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Grego
#3
by Grego

If you train your pigs to electric fencing before they are let loose on the slope, then string a few strands of electic wire across the base of the slope, you are in with a fair chance of them staying at home. Without having the experience of pigs on a steep ground, I would fence it regardless, as an insurance and make it fairly bomb proof, with both pig wire and electric, and several feet in from the edge; that's because I am knocking on and don't like chasing-(can't now!), after anything which I have only an outside chance of catching, even though I am ok at swimming!

Yernagates
#4
by Yernagates

It's easy to do a lot of harm in a short while with pigs in ancient woodland...  "In there occasionally" should be OK, but even with that you may find, for example, bluebells disappearing in favour of less-palatable plants such as anemone.  I remember seeing an ancient wood in Sussex, half of which had been "pigged" a decade or so before – you could still see the vegetation change at the fenceline.

Pigs (or rather their ancestors, wild boar) are of course a natural component of European woodland, but the usual density of wild boar in the wild is a maximum of 10 individuals per square kilometre (and often much less).  That's equivalent to an average of one pig in your whole 10 ha of woodland, or perhaps half a dozen pigs turned out for a couple of months or so each year.

Turning out only in the mast season (assuming you have plenty of oak, beech or chestnut) will have less effect, because obviously the pigs will be concentrating on the nuts and not digging up wild daffs and bluebells.  Ringing them also restricts the digging they can do.

If you have areas of dense bracken with little other vegetation you could control it by penning them up on it in the winter (unrung) and letting them dig up the rhizomes, which are full of starch.  This will also bring the soil up through the blanket of bracken peat, allowing the seed-bank to see the light and thus helping to regenerate the woodland.  I believe they will also help control dense bramble similarly.

Yernagates
#5
by Yernagates

I'm assuming this woodland does not have Site of Special Scientific Interest or another nature conservation designation?  (For example, all ancient woodland here in Hampshire is a County Wildlife Site if not SSSI or Special Area for Conservation.)

If SSSI or SAC, you have a legal obligation to consult Natural England before letting the pigs in (criminal offence if not...).  If CWS (also called SNCI, SINC etc, depending on county), you'd be very well advised to consult your Wildlife Trust.

alchemist
#6
by alchemist

Don't like to contradict you Yernagates, but not all Hampshire ASNW is SSSI or SAC in Hampshire. We have about 46 acres that is definately ancient, but only part of a National Park, and formerlly part of a SINC. I wouldn't run pigs in it though, as too much interesting flora that they would probably eat just to be cussed.

last edited on
Yernagates
#7
by Yernagates
Posted by: alchemist

not all Hampshire ASNW is SSSI or SAC in Hampshire.

You may well be right, but that's not what I was led to believe...  I'll check.

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