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Tips for finding food resources for pigs?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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In addition to the myriad of other things going on in my life on the small farm here, I just got notice that my two piglets are ready for pick up next week. I have fencing under control, but the food issue is a weak link.

What do others here do for the pigs food? I have pasture and lots a brambles for a paddock shifting system but that's about it so far. I'm kind of leary about scraps from restaurants and want to be as organic as possible. Maybe farmers markets?

Suggestions??
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
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Location: Houston, Tesas
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Kevin - Feedipedia is the most comprehensive and tested source that I know of, this can partly help...

Feedipedia: An on-line encyclopedia of animal feeds | Feedipedia ...

www.feedipedia.org/‎

The main objective of Feedipedia is to provide extension and development workers, planners, project formulators, livestock farmers, science managers, policy ...
 
Renate Howard
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If anyone around you makes cheese, you can use whey. I give mine soaked oats and that with the grass seems to be enough for them, tho in the winter they started looking poorly on just oats and straw/hay. They also get excess eggs.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I'll be getting a cow in a couple weeks so I'll have milk to give the pigs.

I did see on the blog from the Sugar Mountain website that they plant kale and turnips in their pig pastures. Interesting idea, hadn't thought of anything like that.

That Feedapidia site sounded a little over my head. I'm just getting a couple pigs.
 
John Polk
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If you plan on keeping pigs over the winter, consider a crop of pumpkins/winter squash.
They keep for a long time, and pigs love them - both for 'toys', and food.

 
Renate Howard
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They like potatoes too.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I think I would just grow them till the fall and butcher them. At least for this first time till I learn more. These are Tamworths and I hear they can get pretty huge.
 
Renate Howard
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Then plan on collecting acorns in the fall and keep them just a little past when the acorns run out. They'll get pretty big on the acorns!
 
Kevin MacBearach
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What about chestnuts?
 
Renate Howard
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If the pigs eat enough chestnuts it makes their fat almost liquid when they are butchered, but it is also supposed to be delicious meat and they grow well on them. Some feed them corn for a few weeks before butchering to solidify the fat some. If you're anti-corn probably many other grains would do. I prefer oats but I hear in some places you can buy barley directly from the farmers for a really nice price. I've yet to see anyone selling barley in Kentucky.
 
Renate Howard
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& btw, pigs LOVE pumpkins/winter squash and you mentioned farmer's markets - talk to the people and see if you can stop by at the end of the day and buy damaged ones or maybe they'd even bring you the damaged ones as they harvest them for you to pick up at the farmer's market. Especially the agrotourism pumpkin patches get large numbers of broken pumpkins as people accidentally step on them walking through. You could offer to pay a pittance for them and see if they think it's worth it to gather them for you (or let you gather them). Also if pigs clean up apple drops it decreases the amount of coddling moths and other troublesome apple pests, so you may be able to gather drops for your pigs from an apple orchard or maybe even work a deal to run the pigs through their orchard during the few weeks the apples are dropping (one is late spring the other is near ripening)
 
Ben Walter
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I would add sweet potatoes to the list. The pig love rooting them up and I think my pigs figured out that if they rooted them out and let them sit in the sun they get sweeter. I could just be imagining that. The sweet potatoes are high in vitamins and carbs and the greens have about 20% protein. I'm planting out a bunch this year to fatten up a few pigs (and feed to sheep, chickens, cows and make silage) with pecans as well.

That's fascinating that chestnuts can have that effect on the fat texture. Does anyone have experience finishing on mostly pecans or acorns? and did you notice a change in fat texture?
 
mike clark
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I get out dated veggies{greens,fruit,berries} out dated baked goods,from grocery store,also apple pulp from cider mill,baked goods from fassets bakery and has cut the grain bill dramatically.if you want to raise them off grain you will have to hustle to beat out the other pig guys I have found.i have eight piglets,four meat pigs and four gilts to be bred this fall.cheese products work great to grow them but tend to smell,used soy last year and the waste rotts,very nasty.they say garbage in garbage out,but my pigs have an acre fenced in,they get to be pigs,and taste great.good luck.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:What do others here do for the pigs food? I have pasture and lots a brambles for a paddock shifting system but that's about it so far. I'm kind of leary about scraps from restaurants and want to be as organic as possible. Maybe farmers markets?Suggestions??


We pasture about 400 pigs from breeding through finishing. Our pastures are the vast majority of their diet. Once winter snows set in we are up off the ground now ice pack until spring so we replace the pasture with hay on winter paddocks. We are using managed rotational grazing techniques adjusted for our herds, seasons, terrain, soils and climate. We buy no commercial grain feed (e.g., corn/soy, etc) for our pigs.

We supplement the pasture/hay with dairy which is almost all whey from making cheese, yogurt and butter.

We also grow a lot of pumpkins, sunflowers, beets, kale, rape, turnips and such no-till in our winter paddocks and out in the grazing fields.

We plant a variety of legumes including clovers, alfalfa, trefoil, etc to suck free nitrogen fertilizer down from the sky and boost the protein of our forages.

We get a small amount of other inputs such as a little day old bread and spent barley from a local bakery and brew pub but that is infrequent and doesn't go far with 50,000 pounds of pigs. Fortunately pigs really do eat pasture because that is what we have in an essentially unlimited amount. They thrive on it.

See these articles:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/2013/05/25/vermont-planting-weather/

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+rotational%20grazing

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+feeding

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:sugarmtnfarm.com+feeding%20whey

I would strongly suggest not using restaurant scraps or school scraps or any other form of post-consumer wastes. It may be illegal where you are and it runs biosecurity risks as well as the possibility of broken glass and cutlery mixed in which could hurt the pigs. Stick with pre-consumer wastes like pumpkins in the end of the fall, sweet corn that didn't sell, etc. Learn to grow as much as you can for your livestock. That is the best food.

We also keep a lot of chickens for their organic pest control ability. As a side benefit they produce a lot of eggs from our pastures which we cook and feed to our younger weaner, shoat and grower pigs. Cooking doubles the available protein and those ages are the ones that benefit the best from this bonus. Look for systems like this that can integrate on your farm to produce multiple functions.

Our pigs chow down on thistles, brambles and burdock. Some of their favorites. Clover is high on their list of foods. Move animals based on parasite life cycle breaking and forage growth rates. Stay out for >21 days, Move <18 days, preferably a lot less to avoid soil compaction but depending on numbers of animals and size of paddocks. Let paddocks rest when they can seed at least once a year or two to replenish the seed bank.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 
Renate Howard
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In confirmation of what Walter said, mine love clover and eat it down to the ground in their paddocks before they'll eat much grass. They also like winter rye (a lot).

They dump their swimming pool almost daily pushing under it to get to the earthworms the moisture attracts.

I find the nursing sows need the eggs the most - they have trouble keeping weight on while nursing, tho it could be natural because I've read sows get fat between litters and use the body fat to make milk when they have babies.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Eggs are better used for the younger rapidly growing animals because they are so high in protein and easily digestible. For the sow, if you need something auxiliary to help her keep weight on, try bread. Sows need a lot of calories and water to make milk. Better to scramble the eggs, shell on is fine, lightly and then creep feed them to the piglets.
 
Renate Howard
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If they need fat for milk, wouldn't the fat in the yolk be better than bread? Just wondering. Because bread has to be metabolized into fat and from what I read that's the reason sows lose weight - they need the fat for the milk and use it up faster than they can convert it from a grain diet. Tho in my herd the lactating sows have to compete with the greedy mid-sized piglets (who are already fat) to get the food I give them, so separating a sow from the herd so she can get extra food makes sense, tho I'm still trying to keep them all together as a herd to see how that works out.
 
Walter Jeffries
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I'm assuming a limited number of eggs are available. In such a case I put the eggs to the smaller pigs first as they are better able to utilize the eggs than they might some other foods. Sows can certainly get the eggs but they have the ability to utilize things the piglets can not utilize such as pasture. This is a matter of prioritizing. A show should also go into pregnancy with a nice layer of fat that is her reserves. Piglets have no such reserves. Eggs are very high in available protein - something that benefits the piglets greatly but are of less benefit to the sow.

Your piglets may benefit from having a paddock separate from feeder pigs. Normally sows go off to a private space away from the herd and then rejoin it when they're ready.
 
Renate Howard
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Thanks Walter!

Something I'm having trouble getting my head around is what is "healthy" for pot belly pigs. In the photos they show only fat ones, and according to sources who raise them for meat or veterinarians, even rescues, those pigs are all overweight and a healthy one (that will have fewer health problems) is quite a bit leaner, as they tend to get over time on pasture. When I got my pigs they were very fat - the females were in danger of having vision problems from the folds of fat over their eyes. It took a long time (and a litter of babies) to get them down to a leaner weight, and you can't see ribs, the spines aren't visible, but they look more feral than what you'd picture as pot belly now.

I'm not trying to hijack the thread, but even show pigs, I think, are often fattened up to way beyond what a pastured pig should look like, so when someone begins to pasture their pigs they're fighting against the pictures they've seen of what "pigs" look like or should look like. Pastured pigs can be very lean, but all reports say the animals are healthier and raise larger litters with more survivors as well.

I found this link on body condition for pigs and according to that, my sow only ever got to the thin side of healthy, so maybe I worried for nothing, used to seeing her obese like she was when I got her. http://www.vaalliance4potbelliedpigs.org/medical/body_score.htm
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Thanks Walter for this great information! It's pretty easy to move their small fence through the pasture so I might move them daily if it will help supplement their food with grasses and brambles. I notice that their very hard on the pasture, more so than even a horse! I'm wondering how long it tales for the pasture to recover, or if it will ever really recover from such a "scorched earth" effect.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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We have a few pigs in the Tsitsikama area (South Africa) I noticed that they had been eating the Port Jackson (Acacia Saligna) leaves they could reach in their paddock. I chopped some branches the other day and threw them in for the pigs. They really enjoyed them. Port Jackson is a terrible invasive species here in our part of the world. So I am happy that the pigs will eat it. But does anybody know if it is any good for them? Does it have any real nutritional value?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPGTYcWC2iQ&feature=share&list=UU4zQQks33o_THGnHN-Xm9uw
 
Ben Walter
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Location: Deland, FL
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I came across this information...it's geared more towards ruminants....

Acacia Saligna

More here
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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thanks Ben. This is useful. I will continue with the experiment and report back to the forum.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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