Hogs on the loose cause pig problems

For the Gazette
Monday, September 18, 2017

GOSHEN — After receiving several complaints of pigs on the loose, the Board of Health is investigating a piggery operation owned by Cosimo Ferrante of Hilltown Grazers.

“We do take this very seriously,” Elizabeth Bell Perkins, chairwoman of the Board of Health said. “It has an impact on property owners concerning the damage that can be done as well as their rights to a peaceful and quiet existence.”

The town’s animal control officer, Don Tryon, said that he has been called multiple times to different properties in the Spruce Corner Road area to remove the Ferrante’s wayward pigs.

“I have responded several times in just the past couple of weeks,” Tryon said. “There has been some property damage but not in every case.”

Resident Joel Carr of Spruce Hill Road said that on the weekend of Sept. 9-10 he had two separate visits from Ferrante’s pigs.

The first was a sow that he saw in his backyard on Saturday. Then a large pig returned on Sunday. She wasn’t alone for long.

“Last Sunday we had a litter of pigs born out in the backyard here!” Carr said. “I had a mother and ten little piglets about 20 feet from my deck in the high weeds.”

Tryon said that the pigs can be hard to catch depending on the situation.

“On Sunday the piglets were only about an hour old,” he said. “The sow was bedded down and did not want to move.”

Tryon said that mother and piglets were eventually returned to the farm safely.

In another incident in July, Carr said he went into his garage to find that a pig had knocked over a five-gallon bucket of corn on the cob which she was happily feeding on.

“I haven’t had a lot of damage from the pigs but my neighbors have,” Carr said. “Last year wasn’t bad, but this year I have seen them around all summer.”

Unfortunately for both Ferrante and his neighbors, the incidents of pigs going rogue has been an ongoing problem for several years now.

Ferrante breeds Heritage pigs at 86 Spruce Corner Road on 1,200 acres of farmland that he leases from by Timothy Barrus. The best farmland is located in Goshen and parts of the property also run into the town of Ashfield.

At one point in 2012 after several complaints from neighbors about property damage done by pigs rooting up lawns and landscaping, Ferrante was ordered to move his livestock to the Ashfield side of the farm.

At that time he was informed that once the town had solidified a piggery permitting process he could apply for a license to raise pigs in Goshen.

In 2015 the Goshen Board of Health began developing the towns first piggery regulations, and the piggery permitting process was introduced this year.

Ferrante said he was granted his license to operate a piggery in Goshen this August.

According to Ferrante, the ambiguity of not having specific rules to go by hindered his ability to make improvements that he says would have helped in solving the issue of roaming pigs.

“This process held me back two years,” Ferrante said. “I wasn’t going to spend a bunch of money on something and then have the town come back after the process was in place and say it wasn’t done right.”

Ferrante said he had prepared designs for a feeding slab in one area that would help in keeping the pigs in a more centralized part on the farm.

“It is not like I need to be held accountable to do this,” Ferrante said. “I could have a lot more by now if it hadn’t been for the interference from the town making it hard to operate my business.”

Neighbors like Carr, however, say that it is a lack of adequate fencing that has been creating the problems all along.

“He doesn’t have the right fencing. It may keep cows in but it doesn’t work for pigs,” said Carr adding that it is “just wire” that is in some places shored up with “wood pallets.”

Ferrante maintains that his fencing is adequate and that pigs will inevitably find ways to escape now and again.

“I don’t think it is a major problem. It is not like we are talking about 30 pigs coming down the street,” Ferrante said. “There is always work to be done and now I have more clarity to do it.”

Whether or not there is a problem and if Ferrante is in violation of any regulations will be determined by the investigation.

“I am currently leading the investigation with other health agents, and we are working within the rules of the process that we must go by,” Bell Perkins said.