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feeding pigs off ground? (novice over here)

 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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hi all,

I recently moved from piedmont NC to the Santa Cruz mountains area of California (anyone else out there?). my job was supposed to be a bit more varied but right now I'm working almost exclusively as a goat and pig farmer. the funny thing is I've never raised goats or pigs before. the reason they have become my responsibility is after I worked out my job arrangement the prior farmer on this property left rather abruptly, so stabilizing the animal situation was the greatest need. good thing I'm loving it. I've been farming to some degree since '07 but more in the kitchen garden/culinary farm capacity.

anyway, the pigs. I have a million questions, most of which I am finding answers to get me started through web searches, forums, Storey's Guide, cruising Walter's website, and of course the Permies forum. (oh, and observation. lots and lots of observation).

but here's a question to which I've so far not found an answer:
is it OK to feed pigs grain (and various scraps & compostables) straight off the ground? when I feed them their organic grain soaked in goat's milk I of course put it in a trough, but right now I don't have enough troughs/bins to match the need. so I have been putting some of the grain on the ground, and the pigs seem to devour it just fine, cleaning up every bit. I don't do this with the grower pigs or sows as I'm feeding them ad libitum and would be concerned about waste, but for the gilts and boars who are fed a few lbs 2x a day they seem to clean it up completely--little to no observable waste of the pellets.

this runs counter to everything I know about common-sense animal husbandry, and yet when I consider how the pigs root around and eat up grubs and tubers, I figure they are surely ingesting dirt or somehow negotiating it in their mouths. plus I almost wonder if feeding them off the ground might be a bit more engaging than straight out of a tub for them.
 
Renate Howard
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Location: zone 6b
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I feed mine on the ground. We tried tubs but they were always pushed out of reach at feeding time and I got tired of climbing in with hungry pigs to fetch them every feeding. They do spend their free time rooting and get their water really muddy then drink it - I can't see where eating food off the ground adds any risk. I do try to feed them on the compacted, clean parts, tho. When it rains and the ground is muddy you may need to figure out something, because they'll bury half of it while fishing out the other half.
 
Tom Scialla
Posts: 22
Location: The great state of Georgia
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Feeding pigs off the ground is just fine. They eat stuff they find on the ground or in the ground all the time.

 
Steve Hoskins
Posts: 65
Location: NW lower Michigan
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Carolina to California... Quite a move.

Yes, feeding in a trough lessens "waste" but if you are feeding whole seeds, you may welcome the quality pasture that sprouts from the "wasted" or turned in seed. With planning, this can be helpful.

I have used the pigs to poop out seed balls too, since clay has been hard to find here. So yeah, picture me walking around the pasture, stopping to stare at poops, looking for clovers and kale.

I think the more you soak them, the less they leave behind. Soaked grains smell a lot more than dry ones, or at least that is an observation I have made.
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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Steve Hoskins wrote:So yeah, picture me walking around the pasture, stopping to stare at poops, looking for clovers and kale.


I'm slightly unsettled by the fact that this seems normal to me.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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forest garden hugelkultur
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A hole in the ground seems like a good solution. They can't knock it over and they won't miss as much of it ( maybe).
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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thanks for the responses folks. Steve, yes indeed, pretty drastic. I like your notion of feeding your pigs what will eventually sprout to improve forage. I need to get to where I can move my pigs more frequently but that's a pretty cool thought.
 
Steve Hoskins
Posts: 65
Location: NW lower Michigan
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How often are you able to move em?

I ask because I have created problems with compaction.
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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the last time they were moved was about 3.5 weeks ago. today I noticed some damage on trees above and beyond typical disturbed soil (and even disturbed soil may not be acceptable in my mind) so I know I need to move them again, and much more frequently thereafter. I know a guy further up the coast who moves his every day, not returning them for a full year!

while there are places on the property with a true coast live oak savanna with a productive understory, this area is denser and coniferous. so I'd need to move them more often and supplement more with scrap forage to keep their disturbance at a net-benefit degree. fine-tuning the stocking rate, and following through to manage that, will be a challenge for sure.
 
Cj Sloane
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ariel greenwood wrote:...this area is denser and coniferous.


The reason why pigs are found in hardwood forests in Europe is because they ate/killed all the conifers.
 
Topher Belknap
Posts: 205
Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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Am I the only one who came here hoping for pictures of flying pigs?

Sorry.
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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Cj Verde wrote:
ariel greenwood wrote:...this area is denser and coniferous.


The reason why pigs are found in hardwood forests in Europe is because they ate/killed all the conifers.


yikes! alas, I believe it.
 
Julia Franke
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Location: Berks County, PA
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Steve Hoskins wrote:
So yeah, picture me walking around the pasture, stopping to stare at poops, looking for clovers and kale.



I don't find that weird at all (does this all go back to Paul's eco-scale theory?)

I have been told time and time again from my dad who spent a lot of time around his grandfather's pigs - Pigs poop in one place. Is this true?

Thanks!
 
Cj Sloane
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Pigs poop in one place if the paddock is relatively small.
 
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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Cj Verde wrote:Pigs poop in one place if the paddock is relatively small.


yeah, ours make a tidy pile in the spot furthest from them when they are in an enclosed space (like a farrowing pen). out n about in the pastures and woods the manure seems a bit more dispersed, but still organized into general areas where it's clear they only venture to defecate - few signs of rooting or walking once the piles begin to appear.

I do wonder, though, about smaller enclosures moved more frequently. do mob grazed pig pastures have a more even and trodden dispersal of manure?
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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ariel greenwood wrote:do mob grazed pig pastures have a more even and trodden dispersal of manure?

Yes.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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