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8 Tips for Grazing Pigs on Pasture and Forested Areas

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Raising pigs on pasture is a heavily debated topic. This is because, left to their own devices, these animals can be quite destructive. However, under intentional land management practices, they can actually improve the soil structure significantly. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about how pigs improve land over time and steps that you can take to avoid issues with your rotational grazing system.

How Pigs Improve Land

“Pigs are the hardest working employees on the farm and they don't even know it.” Aaron Bradley of Colfax Creek Farm

Outdoor pigs on pasture and in forests can improve the land over time if they are managed properly. When you have pigs on pasture or in a forested area, their waste not only replaces a portion of the plants that they consumed, but they also add new nutrients from their supplemental feed.

The nutrients in the pig manure act as a fertilizer and their rooting disturbs the soil surface which stimulates new growth & aerates the soil, reducing soil compaction.

The use of pigs in land management systems is also beneficial in clearing overgrown land and ridding pastures of invasive plant species such as kudzu, buckthorn, knotweed, Virginia creeper, thistles, and whatever else is taking over your pasture.


Watch the Video Interview with Aaron Bradley: "Pigs Are The Best Employees: Pasture & Forested Pigs Improving Property."


8 Tips for Grazing Pigs on Pasture and Forested Areas

“Y'all, you gotta manage your pigs like people... with love and kindness.” -Rhyne Cureton

Grazing animals in an intentionally planned pasture rotation system helps to regenerate the soil and improve soil fertility over time.

If you are having issues with pigs destroying property or getting out of their paddocks, take a look into your management system before blaming the animals.

“It's about having a system, a management system that sets your animals up to be successful.” -Aaron Bradley of Colfax Creek Farm

1. Consider the Breed

You may have heard people say that some pig breeds don’t root, but that just isn’t true. What is true is that some breeds are more gentle on the land.

If you don’t want as much soil disturbance, then you might want to consider a breed that is known to root less, such as a KuneKune. However, KuneKunes will root if the soil is loose enough, especially sandy soil.

2. Let Them Root & Wallow

“Let pigs be pigs” - Rhyne Cureton

Rooting is a natural pig behavior that shouldn’t be discouraged, but managed instead. Allowing pigs to root while on pasture is good for the soil and for pig health.

Rooting aerates the soil, helps to get rid of invasive plant species, and opens up the soil surface to stimulate new growth.

All pigs root if given the right conditions. As the farmer, you will have to train your pigs to root less. Quicker paddock rotations will greatly help reduce rooting issues and cause them to focus more on above ground vegetation. Generally once that vegetation is gone, they will begin to root.

3. Use Discernment and Flexibility in Pasture Rotation

There is no easy answer to how long a pig should stay on a piece of land. You will need to decide how often to move your pigs within the context of your own operation. Your pig rotation system may not work the same as your neighbors so be discerning and flexible.

The main factors that influence the rate of rotation include:

Soil Type

Sandy and loamy soils can handle the weight of pigs longer than clay soil can due to compaction. Consider the soil type in your pasture when deciding how often to rotate your pigs.


Is it bone dry or has it been raining for two weeks straight? If the ground is saturated from rain, you may need to move the pigs sooner than originally planned.

Number of Pigs

The stocking rate of your pastured pigs will affect your rotational system. The more pigs you have in the paddock, the more often you will need to move them.

Breed of Pig

Breeds that are more gentle on the soil can be moved less than breeds that are prone to heavy rooting.

Pasture or Forest

You don't want pigs to be in one area of forest for too long and you may need to let forest ground rest longer. This is because vegetation takes longer to grow back in a forested area compared to an open field where they can get all the sunlight they need.

Tips for Pasture Rotation

There are some things that you can do to keep the soil changes even across the property.

1. Move Within the Paddock Daily

Moving the feeders and waterers closer to the next paddock each day can keep the pigs from overusing one spot and help to avoid a “sacrifice” area.

2. Don't Wait for Bare Soil

Move the pigs before the soil is bare. This will help to reduce erosion and stunted plant regrowth.

3. Keep an Eye on Them

Monitor the pigs in each paddock. If they are favoring one area over the rest, you may have to adjust the fencing to keep them from overusing the “favorite” spot.

4. Create a Wallow

Create one dedicated wallow area in each paddock. Reuse this same wallow each time the pigs come through to avoid compacting soil all over the paddocks.