One day, after a particularly hard two hours or so of chaos and animal-induced aerobic exercise, I had an ingenious idea. I went up to the hill and let all the other Hogs out from the escapee’s pen! Man, you’d have thought I'd lost my mind (our Ranch hands certainly did). What happened next was awesome. The penned Hogs joined up immediately with the escapee Hog and all of them acted as a giant herd. We worked for about 3 minutes to move the now co-joined group back to “safety” (as they saw it) within the confines of the electric fence.
Now, as a matter of procedure, when I have one Cow or Hog out, I let all of them out, and herd them back in as a group – it works miraculously.
In the video above you will notice some of our Free-Range Hogs in the foreground. The Cattle in the background were absent one hour before this video was taken and the Hogs were hiding out near some pine trees as they typically do; but, when the Cows came around, the Hogs came out in the open and began grazing. It was as natural as you could imagine – they just wanted to act as a herd.
We have found, oddly enough, that this type of behavior and social interaction is enormously necessary for proper animal health and nutrition. To stay at optimal health, the animals need to feel protected, calm and at peace with their environment. This creates the best tasting, most flavorful and delicious meat for two reasons:
First, healthy animals have no need for conventional medicine – something that has a tremendous impact on meat flavor.
Second, healthy animals are not in a constant state of stress and therefore have very little adrenaline in their systems. Animals in confinement, particularly Hogs living on concrete, have continually tense muscles which results in a horribly tough meat texture.
Herd animal behavior is kind of a funny thing…they do stuff we don’t normally associate with domestic animals.
For example, I will often see our bulls hovering near a fence line, only to find the Cows and Heifers on the other side. Now, you might think to yourself, “Hey, that used to happen in High school, quite often,” but we’re not talking romance here.
No, for the most part Bovines of both the Male and Female type aren’t really interested in each other until about the time of the Female's estrus cycle – they are sort of no-nonsense kinds of lovers and just associate at exactly the right time in order to get the job done, then he is typically off to see the next lady…a real player. So, in a sense, it might have been like high school, but I digress….
Anyway, what my Cattle were doing that day was just herding up together. No females were in heat, so the Bulls typically wouldn’t be interested. They simply wanted to be together as a herd, fence or not. You can see this in the photo above - our Bulls have 15 acres, the Cows have 40 and they are all grouped up next to eachother at the edge of each acrage.