Authored by Monica Meyette
In 2013, my husband and I started our small farm together in beautiful Snohomish, WA. After learning about some of the ethical and environmental concerns about factory farming, we made a commitment to educate ourselves and learn to do better, which led to the purchase of five acres, a handful of chickens and a dream of being able to respectfully raise or grow our own food sustainably, humanely, and responsibly. Our family has grown from two to three, with a baby on the way this summer, and we currently have horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, and dairy goats.
We brought home our first pigs a few years ago with the goal of clearing brush for pasture and raising happy pastured pigs. Our pork, especially our bacon, which I cure and smoke myself was such a hit with customers, and we very quickly more than doubled our operation. Up until this year, the pigs had only been raised spring through summer, and the impact on our farm was manageable without too much added infrastructure aside from the large shelter I built on skids to move around as we rotated pastures.
Then I brought home Bluebell, a pregnant sow, and we wintered our first pigs. Wintering pigs anywhere can be a challenge, but in the Pacific Northwest, mud is definitely our biggest hurdle. Unless you want to build a barn and keep your pigs on concrete all winter, you will have lots and lots of mud.
We tried to combat this by selecting the site for our winter, sacrifice, and farrowing penon a good slope with shelter from trees, two French drains, and 8” of hog fuel. Within only a few months, the pigs had rooted up around their house obstructing water flow, drainage, and creating a huge stinking mess. Frequently re-shoveling the drains helped — barely — but we knew we needed a more lasting solution to prevent erosion and control drainage. Pigs root (Bluebell has uprooted small trees on her own) so finding a solution to drainage was going to require thinking outside the box.
I learned about Lighthoof Mud Management after attending a farm tour held by our local conservation district. It is a product designed for horses, but I was immediately intrigued by its potential for other applications and decided to give it a shot with the pigs. Being on a limited budget, a barn and concrete pad are years away, not to mention I prefer my pigs to be able to go outside and exercise, bask in the sun, and browse and graze in their winter paddock.
Install was very simple, with hardly any site prep. My husband and I did it in an evening together. Since I haven’t heard of anyone else testing this product with pigs, I wasn’t sure how it would go pigs are super curious and tend to be destructive to even the most durable products. Their first day in their new mud-free pad, they rooted through the top gravel until they hit the panels and the panels prevented them from rooting any further! They then spent the next few days checking the gravelled area to make sure there weren’t any treasures below (aside from the Lighthoof!) and then left it alone altogether.
It is our goal on our farm to be responsible stewards of our land and the surrounding creeks and streams, and we are so happy to have found a user friendly product to not only save us money and work in the future, but to protect our land from erosion and runoff. Thank you, Lighthoof!
We caught up with Monica recently and she wanted to let us know some more great news. "Six months and a dozen pigs later: only added two wheelbarrows of gravel to a few high traffic areas where the Lighthoof was starting to show from the gravel settling. My sow has rooted up adult trees in the pasture - and she could not damage the Lighthoof."
Thanks Monica! We're so glad Lighthoof could help!