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planning: feed for larger herd  RSS feed

 
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Our pigs which are on pasture with no commercial feed reach market weight of about 250 lbs live (180 lbs hanging) in about six months, a month longer over winter. This is pretty typical. The reason is that most pigs rate of gain and gain of meat per pound of feed changes around then making that the most economical time to take them to market. This is also the age where marbling develops. You can eat a pig at any age, bigger or smaller, younger or older. Some breeds do take longer. I would suggest focusing on how the development fits your needs (time, economics, etc) rather than worrying too much about age.
 
Posts: 80
Location: Oregon
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Walter Jeffries wrote:Our pigs which are on pasture with no commercial feed reach market weight of about 250 lbs live (180 lbs hanging) in about six months, a month longer over winter. This is pretty typical. The reason is that most pigs rate of gain and gain of meat per pound of feed changes around then making that the most economical time to take them to market. This is also the age where marbling develops. You can eat a pig at any age, bigger or smaller, younger or older. Some breeds do take longer. I would suggest focusing on how the development fits your needs (time, economics, etc) rather than worrying too much about age.



Truly amazing! "No commercial feed", this is something I am striving for.
 
Isaiah Ari Mattathias
Posts: 80
Location: Oregon
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Good news, we're getting somewhere! I moved pigs closer to the barn after moving the fencing, this time mostly going with the 14gauge aluminum. Just in time, as a big storm hit, it was quite cold/wet outside and I didn't have shelter for them yet. The barn is working nicely for them, and they're getting along with chickens and 2 goats. Thankfully it was a nice tight run, and they have not escaped yet. I found a store called "Down to Earth" in Eugene who sells some seeds in bulk. I got a grass and clover mix, enough for about .25/acre and reseeded yesterday. a LOT of work raking, broadcasting and covering. I am considering a bigger purchase of bulk seeds, but have many choices and I can't quite make up my mind. The choices proposed to me from Alseed were:

1.) "A pastured hog mix in the past consisting of Piper Sudangrass, Field Peas, Annual Ryegrass, and Forage Rape. An annual mixture that would need to be reseeded every year but has produced excellent tonnage and energy for hogs. Hogs can handle and utilize higher protein feeds like brassicas and legumes.

2.) If you're looking for an annual mix that you'd reseed every year I would consider : ryegrass, turnips, forage rape, field peas and/or sorghum/sudangrass or sudangrass.

3.) If you're looking for a perennial forage mix I would consider berseem clover, red clover, and perennial ryegrass or festulolium.

4.) As far as something you could seed this fall for overwintered grazing you could put in a mixture of winter rye and austrian winter peas. These two species would give you good grazing potential into the winter months and would recover in the spring (assuming they weren't rooted out over the winter).

OK that was more like 4 choices, but I'm thinking, might it be best to do an annual + perennial (I assume I will definitely have to replant anyway in areas where the pigs root)?

It seems like option 2 would provide the most protein, but should I be looking at more than protein (other vitamins, minerals, fiber etc)?
 
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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The perennial species I would consider would be red clover, chicory, plantain. IME, the grasses will come on their own, dont spend your money there. Alfalfa is another choice, but it really need long rest periods between grazings for it to be effective. I dont think annuals are worth the work and expense of reseeding every year. Annuals are just the standard ag money treadmill. Perennials are the gift that keeps giving, to you and to the soil.

Joel Salatin doesnt even seed his pastures, and reports amazing results of grasses and clovers sprouting from the long dormant soil seed bank when animal impact finally makes the conditions right for germination.

When establishing a new pasture, you really want to sow it, and allow it to grow ungrazed for the better part of a year. Maybe one grazing at the end of the year. This allows the root reserves to really grow strong, so that the plant can regrow well after a grazing. If you graze too soon, the plant might have enough top material to feed your animals, but it wont have enough root reserves to regrow. So you kinda end up back to square one.

good luck!
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Ari Mattathias wrote:I assume I will definitely have to replant anyway in areas where the pigs root



I find that with proper grazing management and rest periods during critical seed formation times that the 'annuals' reseed themselves quite nicely and many things that are listed as annuals actually come back up from the roots. e.g., Kale, rape, turnips...

I also find we get minimal rooting with proper managed rotational grazing. Not zero but nothing like I read of some people describing. See:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/2011/10/03/rootless-in-vermont/

Where there is rooting they don't clean out all the roots but rather eat some. Mostly their looking for tubers and grubs. They tend to break apart root masses and I observe that if 20% of the roots are left in an area it springs back up nicely. What little rooting they do is probably beneficial to the pasture, aerating the soil.
 
Isaiah Ari Mattathias
Posts: 80
Location: Oregon
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Thanks to you both.. noted on the red clover, chicory, plantain.. Anything to add, or could this provide enough protein/nutrients?
 
Isaiah Ari Mattathias
Posts: 80
Location: Oregon
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Just wanted to provide an update. We stopped buying feed shortly after September. The Winter was of course a tough one, very dry, but the fruit/veggie/pasta pre-consumer compost helped a lot, as did the hay we were able to source. Hay became a favorite for the pigs, which was amazing because in Summer/Spring they would not touch it. We butchered Big Pig in December. Shortly after our guilt got out one day and almost found her way into a neighbor's vineyard (about 14 acres away up the hill), thankfully it was fenced in and she just rooted around/took out some grass. We were 4 hours away and high tailed back, by this time she was found by some neighbors who managed to lock her into last seasons garden, and they were happy she tilled it for them. By about 1:30am I managed to jog with her all the way back to our place, coaxing her with bread all the way. That was a long night. I realized at that point I needed to focus on the forest fencing, even though this was a first. I wanted her to be our sow but I couldn't count on leaving her alone in the forest. I never found out how she was able to get away, and I walked the 8 acre perimeter several times. She made it to 185lb hanging weight, and the marbling was awesome. We've determined we will need 2.5 pigs to get our family of 8 through Winter, sharing some with a neighbor or at a potluck, and this includes our 10% donation. We fretted after having to butcher her, but we couldn't source grass fed beef at a price point we liked and can never go back to store bought pork again. Suddenly the breeder who sold us the piglets calls and says he's quitting raising of pigs after some 60 years, and offered us his stock. 2 boars, 2 pregnant sows and 15 weaned piglets. We ended up with his favorite Tamworth sow who is due within 2 weeks, she was exposed to a large black. So here we go again.
The pork we did not keep sold quick, and we more than broke even. More importantly, the buyer who runs a CSA was very pleased and wants to buy more. Pastures are muddy and mucky, we're doing some logging in May and will invest in fencing/seed. Thank you all for helping us through such a great learning experience, your help is very appreciated. If ever in Oregon please pm me for a pork dinner
 
Posts: 105
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Ari Mattathias wrote:
The pork we did not keep sold quick, and we more than broke even. More importantly, the buyer who runs a CSA was very pleased and wants to buy more.



Congratulations Ari! Thanks for the follow up.
 
Posts: 231
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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This question seems to fit with this topic:

What is a good number of animals to keep as a group so that they stick together and do all their piggy work as one merry tribe?

Right now I only have 4 and they seem very social and are never far apart. This seems like it makes them easy to manage although I have nothing to compare to. Maybe it depends on the breed, I just don't know. I'd like to get more but I think I'd like them to stay together as a herd. What size of groups do they live in in nature?

Thanks for anyone who can share their observations here.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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S Haze wrote:What is a good number of animals to keep as a group so that they stick together and do all their piggy work as one merry tribe? Right now I only have 4 and they seem very social and are never far apart. This seems like it makes them easy to manage although I have nothing to compare to. Maybe it depends on the breed, I just don't know. I'd like to get more but I think I'd like them to stay together as a herd. What size of groups do they live in in nature?



They tend to form cohorts of about three to seven, maybe 12 animals. I find that around 30 animals is very good. Up to 200 is manageable but we're using fairly large pastures to do that. At the level of about 100 there are enough animals to do serious bush hogging but it still takes several passes to clear brush. Pigs have a bit of a larger than life mythical reputation for brush clearing. If they're being rotationally grazed to maximize foraging then they're generally moving too fast to bush hog so I have to slow them down to get mob grazing.

-Walter
SugarMtnFarm.com
 
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