The Southwest Grazing Network will host an evening pasture walk on July 23 at the farm of April Prusia, W8707 Sawmill Road, Blanchardville. The pasture walk begins at 6:30 p.m.

Prusia has been grazing heritage hogs for eight years and estimates that up to 50% or more of the pigs’ diet can come from grazing during the green season, with the remainder as a grain supplement. Before pigs followed poultry down the vertically integrated, confinement model, raising hogs outdoors was more common.

“My own recollections of hogs outdoors was a ‘craters of the moon landscape,’ bare pock marked scorched earth; not a good practice, especially on this hilly landscape in southwest Wisconsin. Admittedly, I was skeptical,” said Gene Schriefer, agriculture educator for UW-Madison Extension. “I tend to be open minded to ideas, but found myself in the old, ‘nope, won’t work, bad idea’ mindset. I kept hearing more and more producers attempting and learning to manage hogs outdoors, and started taking a look.”

While there is range of management, Schriefer did find and see some producers successfully keeping permanent grass cover on pasture without having the hogs rooting it up. However, there is considerable debate on whether hogs should be outside at all, even among the grazing community.

But producers are finding eager customers to purchase product with demand often exceeding supply.

“If there is consumer demand at an acceptable price point, someone is going to fill that market,” Schriefer said. “We need to learn how to do this responsibly without harming soil and water quality. Sometimes we need to look at different opportunities to generate revenue on the farm.”

This pasture walk will look at challenges in managing pigs to prevent rooting behavior, controlling parasites and pasture impact of hogs. As part of a USDA SARE grant, Prusia and others have also been reviewing the opportunity to develop a mobile processing unit for on-farm harvesting.

For more information on this pasture walk, contact Schriefer at 608-930-9850.