Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????  (Read 1957 times)


  • Joined Apr 2018
Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« on: August 07, 2018, 09:49:23 pm »

Can anyone advise me on how to improve this land? Itís a small paddock with three Shetland sheep in. The top 2/3 of the field is grass, the last third is nettles, thistles and dust! The soil itself is clay soil and due to the drought itís currently looking like the Wild West. Not one blade of grass is growing and with such a small paddock we need every inch for the sheep. I was pondering the idea of fencing the bottom third off with electric wire and getting two (fattening) pigs to turn it over for us so we can seed it later in the year or even next spring. Iíd really appreciate some opinions and more ideas if you have them? I did rake it all over in early spring and seed grass but unfortunaly the weeds won. Iíve kept chickens for a few years, this is our first year with sheep so Iím very new to all this. As you can see from the photo the land is on a fair,y steep slope. Good old Rossendale!


  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 03:46:18 pm »
Pigs might help break up the soil a bit so that you can put some seed down straight after them (get some sort of green cover growing before winter, otherwise the rain will wash away you soil/nutrients).  Pen them tight in an area and then move on to another area as soon as they done enough "damage".  Keep the sheep off the entire bare area.

However if your grass seed is still there in the ground and just needs a drop of rain to germinate then that's another matter - fence off the area and pray for rain (keep the sheep off it until the grass is well established). And in the mean time, pull the nettles and thistles out by hand (doesn't seem to be too many).


  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Dumfries & Galloway
Re: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 07:14:10 pm »
Since your land is on a steep slope , pigs will make level areas moving soil and rocks to the bottom of the slope on any area they are fenced onto .  I agree with  Foobar  dig out the weeds now when they are weak and before they seed

Black Sheep

  • Joined Sep 2015
  • Briercliffe
    • Monk Hall Farm
Re: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 08:42:55 pm »
We're not too far from you in Briercliffe so I completely empathise with the slopes, nettles and thistles! We have had a section (approximately half an acre) of a field fenced off for pigs and had three Tamworths in there for the last six months. They haven't turned over that much of it and mostly confined their efforts to the bits that weren't covered in nettles etc! However that may well be because they had so much space they could be choosy - so the suggestions to pen tightly sound sensible.


  • Joined Mar 2010
  • Just when I thought I'd settled down...!
Re: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2018, 08:50:57 pm »
I'd be worried that pigs would do too much damage. They'll also fertilise that area massively - feeding the nettles and thistles that will recover faster than the grass. What's at the bottom of the slope? Any rosk of soil or muck getting in to watercourses?
I'm not sure how you could tell what state the seedbank is in, but if you wanted some clearance I might look at poultry rather than pigs, for a lighter touch.

You could also try feeding hay bales with deliberate wastage that gets trampled - the idea is that the seeds in the hay drop out, and the fibre of trampled and dunged-on hay traps some moisture and promotes germination, and protects the soil. It's a bit like using "green hay" to restore a meadow, but you're feeding your animals too. Doing this would also relieve some of the grazing pressure on the existing grass. If you look this up, it seems to be used more with horses currently.


  • Joined Oct 2011
Re: Would pigs improve this nettle and thistle desert? ????
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 04:22:26 pm »
Pigs will damage the soil structure you have, when they root the bring up rubbish and weed seeds. I have a wheeled strimmer which I knock down thistles and nettles, they will then sometimes eat them. If you do it before the flowers start to set you will not spread the seed.
  I am on clay and everywhere looks like this, but as long as you do not allow them to graze to the roots it will regrow. The shorter it is the longer it will take to recover. I would divide off a third and give them some hay. One shower and you will see the difference.


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