Our property was in majority without fencing upon purchase. Although there is some very old fencing between ourselves and the beautiful 65 acres of bush land to our south, these fences are not sturdy enough to prevent the wildlife feasting on our pasture night after night; nor are they going to keep a determined large pig from exploring the scrub.
Our beautiful girls (our pigs) are now very respectful of electric fencing and we have managed to keep them contained by a single low lying (approx a foot high) electric strand connected to a solar system on half strength. However, regardless of how much they respect this and how well it contains them 99% of the time, I hold great fear that if for any reason that fencing failed our lovely girls may stray into danger or wonder off to discover the great yonder and not return. Therefore up until recently and whilst they have been so very little (in pig size!) we have kept them contained within electric fencing and an external fencing of stock wire. This has meant moving them around in small sections of our orchard and our front yard. Definitely not a long term solution nor our long term approach, however it did enable us to spend a lot of time with them whilst they have been settling and getting to know us.
The time arrived however where we needed to move them into their own paddock, and so a few months ago we enlisted the support of our lovely fencing contractor to start work on a the big job of fencing the external perimeter of our 7 acre space which will from hereon forward be referred to in our household as the ‘pig paddock!’. We walked the external boundary of the fencing and fell in love with the large overhanging trees that lined it, and the potential for encouraging more bush land to provide shelter and exploration opportunities for our pigs. The idea that this all needed to be cleared for a new fence went completely against both of our dreams for the space, so after a few days of deliberation it finally occurred to us that our fence doesn’t have to define our boundary. As silly as this sounds suddenly a huge relief was felt. This bush land that we love so much on our south is not ours and we are kidding ourselves if we don’t face the reality that someone may one day purchase the property and use the land for pasture therefore clearing it. We want to encourage the growth of trees as much as possible, both for our simple love of them, but also from a permaculture perspective in acknowledging a baseline % of trees for every acre of property. Trees provide so very much, they will give our pigs shelter, roots to explore under ground, structure to brush against, falling leaves and limbs with which to nest when farrowing, stimulation and a break in the monotony of pure pasture.
So the decision was made, we would fence our paddock a full 10m inside of the boundary. This 10 m will provide a space to drive our vehicles around the external of the pigs if needed. It also allows us to use these lovely strips of land to plant out trees. I have aspirations for the southern boundary to have a 10 m strip of natives including some large gums planted down it; whilst the western side (the side our road travels along) would be beautifully planted out with apple orchards providing apples for our pigs and ourselves of course.
It did feel odd at first driving around and taking note that not a single other paddock is fenced so far within their boundaries and I had to reconcile that we weren’t giving up or decreasing on usable pasture space, but instead we were actually increasing the productivity of the land and preserving what we believe is so very important.
Additional to this external area we plan to plant out (when we obviously win a large sum of money as the cost of this quantity of trees would be hefty!), we also plan to plant a number of fairly fast growing natives throughout the paddock itself. We really want our pigs to find shelter and comfort in their yards and hope that some vegetation will provide this for them.