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starchy, sugary foods and pig health

 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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my partner and I are exploring practical ways to raise pigs in a silvopastoral/forest fed system. we understand that, with enough fine-tuning of the farm system, utilize chestnut and oak acorns for a significant portion of the pigs' diets.

but what about apple? I envision growing organic apples, where the best 30% are sold, more are processed, and the wormiest/oldest are given to the pigs. or even growing all of it for the pigs if one doesn't have an effective way to market apples. (tradeoffs)

and what annual vegetables are practical? I'm thinking about cucurbits like winter squash that grow heartily and produce a lot in fertile soil (and with a rotation or two to stay ahead of downy, borers, squash bug, etc).

between nuts, tree fruit, cover crop, grass forage, and annual veggies, it seems that at any given time of year there could be a crop or two of on-farm produce to raise pigs on, but my underlying question is about pig nutrition. how healthy and productive will these animals be on a system where they may only eat one or two types of feed for ~6 week periods--especially if it's pretty sweet stuff? anyone out there with experience in this? tips for diversifying? thanks.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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ariel greenwood wrote:...it seems that at any given time of year there could be a crop or two of on-farm produce to raise pigs on, but my underlying question is about pig nutrition. how healthy and productive will these animals be on a system where they may only eat one or two types of feed for ~6 week periods--especially if it's pretty sweet stuff? anyone out there with experience in this? tips for diversifying? thanks.


Seems like it would be fine because that's what pigs in the wild would eat! I've been feeding my pigs (and sheep/cows/turkeys/chickens) apples from wild trees along my road. Over 700lbs but the season is just about over. The pigs do get grain too.

Pumpkins & squash (think Blue Hubbard) are great annuals for pigs (and other livestock) because they are so big.

Jerusalem Artichokes and comfrey are good pig perennials. Don't forget trees like persimmon & hazelnuts.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1253
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I've had really good luck growing greens like collards and kale in a pasture for pigs. As long as you have a place where they are allowed to go to seed , you'll have enough for a lifetime. Same with squash and pumpkins. I save all the seeds from squash I eat and use them to start new pastures. They might not be true to type but a pig does not care. I also collect apples from all the abandoned trees around here. I just finished feeding them all the frost tender plants from the garden. Last night we got frosted so... just in time. That was all the beans, tomatoes, peppers, beets, salad greens etc. Oddly enough, my pigs aren't too keen on sunchokes. They eat them, but not happily. I'm not too keen on them either... but they grow like crazy. I bought 6 small tubers at the grocery store 2 years ago and planted them just for kicks. Last week I collected ten gallons of sunchokes from just a 3x3ft area. That was not nearly 1/10th the area that the plants occupy. Pigs better get used to them. They got a lot more to eat.
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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thanks for the feedback, CJ and Craig.

Craig, how time-effective is your system? is this homestead or for profit? I'm just curious how to make this relatively low input along time in addition to cost/mateiral - ie, creating self-sowing pastures w/kale and squash instead of replanting w/as much deliberateness as I would a garden for human harvest.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1253
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I'm not exactly sure what you mean by time-effective but I'll give it my best shot.

I'm really limited in the time I have to do all the work that needs doing so I find as many ways to minimize my effort and maximize results. In this case the results I'm trying to achieve are good quality food for my family, good quality of life for the animals we care for and better soil in the long run so I can keep doing the first two things. To this end I've not brought any fertilizers to my homestead aside from that which is provided by the pigs, chickens and rabbits rear ends. I mainly have my animals on pasture, or in the gardens depending on time of year. In winter I'll buy feed for the chickens but that pretty much is the only thing that I buy in.

As for the pastures themselves Here's how I did it this year. I divided my field into paddocks for the chickens and pigs to graze and till. That was the bulk of their diet. It's basically an old hay field that went fallow for a decade or so. It was brush-hogged 7 years ago before I moved here. Lots of grass, trees, grapes, apples, raspberry, blackberry and all that stuff that goes with.
In a separate area (the whole backyard) I kept chickens over winter so by spring the area was well fertilized and mostly barren. I ran a tiller over it to fluff it back up and then broadcast a seed mix with the following

Squash and pumpkin (mainly from saved seeds) Summer squash and winter squash varieties so that you have a longer harvest window.
Sunflowers (from saved seeds)
Clover (bought at hardware store)
Beans (Grocery store bagged beans) Just about any kind you think will do well. I used soldier beans.
Kale, collards, (saved from plants that I grew out of a random packet of greens mix) Red russian kale is pretty hardy but the collards are really fast growing.
Dandelion, lambs quarters, wood sorrel, milkweed and burdock (wild sown)
Mangles (seed packet/bag)
Buckwheat (bought a 50# bag at the hardware store)

Actually I divided the seeds into two bowls. One for the big seeds and one for the little ones. That just made it easier to evenly toss around. Once the seed was broadcast, I just worked the surface over once with a rake. That was it. I didn't water it at all and just watched it grow. Chipmunks got some of the seeds but there was just too much for them to get it all.

The animals were able to eat down the pasture to a point where the pigs would just start to do some serious rooting and then they would be moved to the next paddock. Aside from the pasture, they get all of the garden waste, kitchen scraps and a bit of bread stuffing from time to time. I got a sweet deal on some dry stuffing (pounds and pounds of it) after last thanksgiving and have been randomly tossing some in with the animals.

As the backyard began to over grow it's space, I would thin it out and feed that to the animals as well. I averaged about 10 gallons of greens, and 5 gallons of squash per day from that area. The beans came out just as they started getting tough. There were many buckets full of those. I break them off at the ground and feed the whole plant to the critters. Pigs like the leaves and chickens eat the beans. The roots stay in the ground and leave nitrogen. Sunflowers are cut off at the base and tossed to the animals once the petals fall off. They all like the seeds but the pigs will eat just about the whole plant. I continued to harvest and bring things to the field paddocks all summer and into the fall.
Last week I selected my laying hens from the larger flock and set them up in the backyard to eat up the last of the ground cover. And they did!

So as far as time is concerned I spent about 4 hours tilling the area, 25 minutes seeding it, roughly 5 minutes a day harvesting and feeding the overgrowth to animals. It took 15 minutes to set it up with electric net fencing and a coop for the chickens. And roughly one week for the chickens to completely clear it out, ready for next year.
I have enough saved seeds to repeat this in that same area next year and double it in size for another area. I think that it works out well to have one area for the animals to paddock shift on pasture and a separate area to grow fodder crops. My goal will be to keep advancing the pasture in ways that I'll be able to have winter and summer paddocks which will grow different foods so that I don't have to do as much harvesting and carrying. Though to be honest, five minutes a day isn't that big of a deal.
For my effort, I've obtained just over a hundred chickens, tons of eggs, two pigs and two rabbits (probably 8 by tomorrow morning). Along with that I've added fertility to the soil, skills and knowledge to my brain and all the physical benefits that go with living actively. Not a bad deal.

I use similar techniques in my annual garden with good results too. I don't spend too much time planting seeds or weeding. I just make sure an area is ready for them, then I just toss a few varieties around and see what happens. For a family of four I knocked about 100 dollars a week off the food bill during peak production. And of course the chickens and pigs all go in the freezer next month so... they will extend the benefits through the winter even though I'll be buying more veggies from the stores.

I hope that answers something.
If I had to guess, I'd say I spend about 25 minutes a day doing all the work that needs to be done here to maintain gardens and animals. Of course new projects and daily life take time too.
If you have other questions let me know. Writing this all out helped me to see how much I really got out of my effort. So far... not bad

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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We feed apples - pigs love them and do well on them. One trick I have is to plant apples, pears and nut trees in double fenced lanes between pasture paddocks. The fencing is setup to keep the larger animals off the trees. Small animals can creep graze under the trees. All the animals are getting drops from the fruit and nut trees. This is also a place that I plant things that need to seed out.

We raise our pigs using managed rotational grazing. Their diet consists primarily of the pasture/hay plus a supplement of dairy (primarily whey). See http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs and follow the links there. We don't buy or feed commercial hog feed/grain.

We have varied pastures with grasses, millet, brassicas, legumes, chicory and many other things. I seed a variety of things and then observe both what the pigs like and what does well in our climate and soil. Specifically I'm looking for stuff that does a good job of establishing and self seeding as that is better in the long run.

We also grow pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes, beets, turnips, etc in the winter paddocks in addition to the pasture and fruits. I do not find these efficient to sell but rather they make excellent animal feed in the fall and winter.

It is a good idea to get your soil tested. Our soil is complete supplying all the minerals needed. However the farm we buy winter hay from is low in selenium. Knowing this I feed our soil and sometimes kelp in the winter since our soil contains plenty of selenium.

Cheers,

-Walter
Sugar Mtn Farm
in Vermont
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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Craig and Walter, thank you both tremendously for taking the time to articulate your system. it's helped me to wrap my head around the possibilities and seasonality of feed & forage. sharing this w/some folks I know exploring the same stuff. I may return with more questions but I really appreciate the insight in the meantime.
 
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