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diet for Finishing pigs

 
Isaiah Ari Mattathias
Posts: 80
Location: Oregon
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Question regarding finishing. I've heard it's best to finish on hazelnuts or walnuts, is this true? Also, the term "finish", does this mean eliminating grain and that their diet is exclusively pasture and pounds upon pounds of nuts? I figure it would take a lot of nuts to satisfy Big Pig (Large Black/Tamworth mix), and he may even lose weight if I eliminate feed. Also someone told me not to feed pig in the last couple of weeks before butcher because it will ruin the meat (??), but I can't find anything to confirm this. Are there any special tricks in the finishing stage to produce great quality meat/lard as well as ensure a very enjoyable exit for Big Pig?
 
Bob Blackmer
Posts: 31
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
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Finishing on pasture or in the woods give a great quality meat. The forage available also converts the fats to good healthful fats for you. We finish on feed and forest forage. Occasionally on corn and forest. Some breeds fatten differently than others, (usually a difference in percent body fat) but often its just a matter of how fat you want your pig to be. We try to finish at 350 lbs. Usually 7-8 months. This usually gives a hanging weight of 250-275 lbs. Stopping feed for weeks will starve the pig and it will lose weight fast. The processor might appreciate it if you cut feed the day before killing, but this just helps keep the processing cleaner as the pig will likely have less manure in its guts. I just read the book Tree Crops the other day and it said that pigs finished on nuts alone, (which can be done) will have fat that doesn't congeal. This means the lard will not solidify and changes the bacon curing process. I thought that was interesting. I say put the pig on full feed in the forest and send it when its a good size.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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We raise, and finish, without commercial hog feed/grain. See http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs for the diet we use. It is predominantly pasture which is supplemented by whey. The meat is delicious.
 
J.D. Ray
Posts: 76
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Walter, how old are your hogs when you send them to butcher? And how much do they weigh?

Thanks.

J.D.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Live weights of finisher pigs are typically 225 to 300 lbs at about six to eight months as some people like them larger vs smaller. We also do roasters in the range of 30 lbs and up.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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What is the growth curve of a typical pasture fed pig? How would you know if you're doing a good job? In other words What should a pig weight be at 4,5,6,7,8 months of age? I realize the answer is "it depends" but a ball park would be helpful. I've been adding a lot of greens and all the garden excess to their diet. They eat 50 percent of the pasture before they are moved to the next paddock.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:What is the growth curve of a typical pasture fed pig? How would you know if you're doing a good job? In other words What should a pig weight be at 4,5,6,7,8 months of age?


That is an interesting question and one that is on my list to research. Each of our weaner piglet cohorts are 50 to 100 piglets typically so I'll be able to get some interesting data. The problem is weighing them them out in field conditions - very different than with barns.

I had started this in the spring with one group but then they simply got too big to pickup even if they had been willing to cooperate. Pigs are very ticklish - being picked up reminds them of being grabbed by a a predator since normally in pig lives they never are picked up by anyone under normal circumstances, just by predators intent on eating them.

What I need is a field scale but that is too expensive and problematic as we have multiple herds spread across the mountain. Someday. Since I don't have a field scale I'm planning to repeat this experiment just using lengths which are easy to measure and something we record each week on the finishers going to market. Stay tuned.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1250
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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Walter Jeffries wrote: Pigs are very ticklish - being picked up reminds them of being grabbed by a a predator since normally in pig lives they never are picked up by anyone under normal circumstances, just by predators intent on eating them.


This is very true, though I've noticed that they seem to be more upset when they are being put down. I've had little trouble picking them up, but when I try to put them down, they get squirming. I think it might have to do with a reflex to falling or a reflex to the possibility of being released by a predator. Either way, at five months old, I'm done picking them up.

I've also read elsewhere that people are ticklish in the places where they are most vulnerable to predator damage and that the act of tickling each other could be an evolutionary teaching tool to help young animals learn to protect their vulnerable areas. It trains the reflexes to immediately respond to touch in areas like the belly and neck as a means to protect organs and vital arteries. Something to think about during your next tickle fight.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Evolutionarily it makes sense and that is what we were thinking too.

A little trick we've figured out is when picking up piglets, pickup two and press them gently together - then they don't scream. We joke about always maintaining electrical contact. It is amazingly effective.

Of course, by the time they're 20 lbs or more it becomes challenging to pickup two together...

Cheers,

-Walter
 
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