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There was an exchange on facebook recently that we saw too late to weigh in on, but it brought up some questions that we assume other people had.  Actually they weren’t questions, but rather statements from folks that don’t know us and haven’t talked to us; however, we’ll help set the record straight and offer answers in case others wonder.

The Invasive Species Order and Declaratory Ruling are aimed at hunting camps, not farms, so why are you complaining?

The letter of the law is how enforcement is enacted.  Nowhere is it written that this is intended for hunting preserves.  It does state an exemption for “sus domestica used in domestic hog production.”  It assumes two species (not breeds, species) of pig based on either living condition or breed—it’s rather unclear which.  We’ve asked the DNR for clarification several times and they steadfastly refuse to clarify what domestic hog production is, or what a “hybrid” entails, or how a person can raise generations of “feral hogs” on their farm.  Lastly, we have a letter from Rodney Stokes, former DNR director, to Rep. Ed McBroom stating that swine who fit the Dec. Ruling description (straight or curly tails, erect or floppy ears) cannot be raised for any purpose (negating the domestic production exclusion).  Confused?  Go by the LETTER of the law, not the “intent.”

What breed of pig is this?  Is it "feral" or "domestic?"  Looks like a Mangalitsa from here.

What breed of pig is this? Is it “feral” or “domestic?” Looks like a Mangalitsa from here.

They are only after “Russian Boar” pigs.  Get rid of your Russians and raise some other kind of pig!

This begs ignorance on many levels.

They list about 10 monikers in the ISO:   Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar.  Russian Boar is only one of them.  Do you know if you have a feral hog? An old world swine? A wild swine? 

Hybrids are also illegal.  Did you know that the Boar breed, with it’s many variations, is the root stock of every pig breed?  That is why the Declaratory Ruling is so vague and really describes every pig known to humans.  Every pig is a hybrid!

An Osabaw Pig could be mistaken for an "old world swine."

An Osabaw Pig could be mistaken for an “old world swine.”

Our Mangalitsa stock crossed with one Eurasian Boar sow.  She was the root stock.  We crossed her offspring with purebred Mangalitsa for 4 generations.  We culled all the half and ¾ Mangalitsa sows last December, leaving us with only 7/8 Mangalitsa sows.  By breeding standards, that leaves us with “purebred” Mangalitsa stock. (A “fullblood” animal is 100% breed bred, usually with a pedigree or papers of some sort, according to my internet research.)  The problem is, the Mangalitsa is a very heritage breed pig that fits 7 of the 9 Declaratory Ruling standards!  We STILL have illegal pigs per the Declaratory Ruling.

This law is vague.  Just because you are willing to play “Mother May I” with a state regulatory agency doesn’t exonerate you or make you “safe.”  In all the “exempt” letters we’ve seen, there is hedge-our-bets language like “if” and “that we’ve seen so far.”  A law that is so subjective that you have to cooperate with the authorities to know if you are legal or not is unconstitutional because it violates your right to due process.  You have a Constitutional right to be able to read a law and determine if you are in compliance or not.  Laws may not be written with a “Mother May I” caveat.  But if your Constitutional rights don’t matter to you, then, by all means, work with the DNR and MSU to decide if the pigs you intend to raise in your backyard to feed your family make you a felon or not.

 

Heritage pigs come in many shapes and sizes.  This is a "Bearded Pig."

Heritage pigs come in many shapes and sizes. This is a “Bearded Pig.”

You are in trouble for raising Russian boar hybrids, not for raising heritage hogs.  Be honest.

Anyone who’s read my writings over time knows that I’ve called our pigs Mangalitsa hybrids or Mangalitsa crosses and I’ve stated that we bred in Russian or Eurasian Boar to introduce hybrid vigor. In the last year we have culled our sows to get closer to a pure Mangalitsa bred pig.  We currently have “purebred” Mangalitsas.

However, I’ve shown in other posts (What’s a Farm?) that every heritage breed hog and even the common 4-H pigs all are described in the Declaratory Ruling.  As the DNR points out, if you wonder if your pig could be an Old World Swine, consult the Declaratory Ruling.  Does your pig have a curly tail?  Could be a hybrid.  Does it have shoulder height and hoof length?  Could be illegal.  Does it have erect ears? There’s three characteristics and it only takes one to determine that your pig could be illegal.  If you still wonder, ask a DNR officer to come look at your pig, behind the fence on your farm and fed and sheltered by you, and to determine if it’s feral or not.  See my last paragragh above for my thoughts on that.

 

You can’t keep pigs inside a fence! 

These sows are 4th generation pigs of this line and are 7/8th Mangalitsa. They had marvelous babies outside, with just shelter, food and water provided.

A mama pig and one of her babies enjoying green grass and dirt–hog heaven.

Seriously?  This question was raised on a “Pastured Pig” forum.  The person who said it has raised pigs outside on dirt.  We’ve raised What’s the alternative?  The only one I can think of is a closed, climate controlled barn full of concrete.  The person who said this referenced the problem Texas has with feral pigs.  Remind me again how getting rid of my pigs on my farm, safely contained behind my fences affects the pigs in the woods of Michigan, let alone has anything to do with Texas hogs.

Also, pigs outside fences (feral pigs) are not capable of breeding through fences, or jumping or climbing eight foot fences, or driving pick-ups.  Nor is any particular breed of pig more capable of these things than any other breed.

 

I heard the DNR made Mark kill all his pigs.

We haven’t “depopulated” our farm.  We still have our pigs.  We have butchered pigs for people to eat under various circumstances, but we still have our sows, butcher ready hogs, and weaner pigs.

Technically, the DNR has not shot anyone’s pigs, nor have they used physical force to make anyone to shoot their own pigs.  However, they have used harassment and threat of enforcement action (felony charges and fines of $10,000 per animal) to try to coerce cooperation with their “law.”  Some people chose not to stand up to them and “depopulated” their animals before the DNR enforcers arrived.

 

Are you saying feral pigs aren’t a problem?

No.  Pigs of any breed that are outside a fence could be a problem.  They do eat people’s flowers and may dig up a corn field or create a wallow along a stream.  Does Michigan have pigs living in the woods?  Yes.  The DNR says 1000-5000 and multiplying like rabbits.  Mark figured out how that should look in the woods in a video (Feral Swine Math).  Yet 99% of the outdoors enthusiasts we’ve talked to have never seen a pig in the woods.  Hunters have only killed 40-50 in any given year and the number is dropping. 

If pigs outside of fences are the issue, how is getting rid of our pigs going to change the feral hog population?  The DNR holds that they are going to prevent more pigs from getting loose.  However, they assume that only the 10 listed types of hogs get into the woods.  That is simply not true.  They hold that in order to protect the environment from potential harm they must take our properly kept property, even though there is no proof that our pigs, simply based on how they appear, are a potential harm.   Good husbandry (proper fencing, food, water, shelter) is not an issue with this law in any way, shape, or form.

The fact is that the Declaratory Ruling describes every pig known to humans because pigs of all breeds have gotten out into the woods and adapted to wild living.  Which begs the question of whether or not an animal can change species when its lifestyle changes.  This is what they potentially assert by claiming there are two species of pigs.

 

Is one breed of pig more likely to become feral?

Baby pigs, dairy cows, and a hay field grazed by chickens: Domestic food production or feral hog refuge?

Baby pigs, dairy cows, and a hay field grazed by chickens: Domestic food production or feral hog refuge?

“Feral” refers to an animal that was under the care (husbandry) of humans and is now living outside the husbandry of humans.  Any animal, regardless of species or breed, can become feral.  Do some have a greater ability to survive?  Yes.  When we raised hog house pigs on dirt we found that about half of them did well and half couldn’t cut it.  Was that a breed difference?  I don’t think so because they all came from the same place and looked the same to start with (white, curly tail, four legs).  We also know that the Mangalitsas are a lot hardier than those white pigs, and that our pigs now are even stronger as far as disease resistance, parasite resistance, ability to utilize forage, and mothering ability.  Are our pigs now “more likely” to become feral?  Truth be told, we only have jail breaks when the pigs follow us out an open gate (and follow us back in) whereas our white pigs were always looking for a hole in the fence and refused to go back through it to go back in (creating lots of interesting stories).   Our white pigs were more likely to escape the fence and head for the swamp than our heritage breed pigs.

 

Hope this answers a few questions about the pigs, our farm, and the Michigan DNR’s administrative law.  Please contact us if you have more questions!

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