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Feeding Pigs Animals: Thoughts

 
Sheldon Nicholson
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I am trying to figure out how to get my pastured pigs off grain...

Yes, I have read a lot of Walter Jeffries stuff.

Here are the options as I see them:

Whey: Works well according to Walter Jeffries. Must have a nearby cheese producer... unless you want to invest in a large cheese operation just to feed your pigs.

Other Dairy including milk: Probably is a great option. However it requires labour to harvest the dairy... it is probably more economical to market the dairy to humans directly rather than feeding it to pigs.

Eggs: Walter Jeffries also recommends eggs. I just don't see these being worth the extra effort of collecting the eggs, caring for the chickens, cooking and feeding the eggs to the pigs. Once again I bet you would make a lot more money by just selling the eggs to humans.

Chicken meat: If you have a large laying flock they would need to be culled which would produce meat for the pigs. This makes sense because I imagine the pigs would do all the butchering for you and not many people want to buy old laying hens for meat so they are not worth much.

Fish: According to a lot of permaculture people fish systems are the most productive... I don't know the source of that information. I have read on these forums that feeding fish to pigs makes the pigs taste fishy... that doesn't make any sense to me and I am wondering if anyone had personal experience with this?

Rats/Small Rodents: I am trying to think of an extremely low cost, low labour way to get protein for pastured pigs... rodents seem to be very productive and low maintenance in my experience. I have never heard of anyone intentionally raising rodents, though. This type of operation would probably have to be kept a secret, due to public paranoia around rats and mice.

There has got to be a better way to raise pigs. Pigs in the wild do not receive any human help... how do they feed themselves a balanced diet? Why cant we replicate that with our pasture systems?

I dont have answers, I am putting my thoughts out there and looking for feedback from this very knowledgeable community. Thanks!

 
Rhys Firth
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alfalfa/Lucerne chaff with a little watered molasses mixed in to cut down the dust.

Lucerne is highish protein so the would grow well, grass rather than grain based, the sugar in the molasses gives energy and bales can usually be sourced for less than grain.
 
Suzanne Cornell
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Location: Chemung NY
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I have been contemplating pigs myself. One thing I know they LOVE acorns and nuts. High source of protein and oil, makes delicious pigs. Only problem if you do not have many oak trees you will have to wait a long time to grow them... Or you could ask a neighbor who has oaks if you could rake up there accords for them? Just an idea.
 
Jami McBride
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"Other Dairy including milk: Probably is a great option. However it requires labour to harvest the dairy... it is probably more economical to market the dairy to humans directly rather than feeding it to pigs. "

Yes dairy (keeping and milking a cow) takes a lot of labor. However so does growing and harvesting pig feed beyond the grasses they will eat, or buying and shlepping purchased feed for that matter. It's all work/time/money, you just have to decide what trade offs you prefer to do.

Raising an organic cow and selling it's milk will bring a good return. This is why I sell some of our naturally raised, raw milk to pay for the extra nice cow hay and alfalfa. The rest of the milk goes to the pigs, chickens, dog, cats, ducks and geese. I make butter, and sometimes kefir and cheese, but we really don't drink milk. To many years without any natural raw milk and we just got out of the habit. Having a family cow as the bases for one's farm-food-chain makes good $ sense.


"Eggs: Walter Jeffries also recommends eggs. I just don't see these being worth the extra effort of collecting the eggs, caring for the chickens, cooking and feeding the eggs to the pigs. Once again I bet you would make a lot more money by just selling the eggs to humans."

Not so much in my area. At $3 a dozen I consider it less work to feed the extra to the animals instead of cleaning, packaging and selling, but that just me.


"Chicken meat: If you have a large laying flock they would need to be culled which would produce meat for the pigs. This makes sense because I imagine the pigs would do all the butchering for you and not many people want to buy old laying hens for meat so they are not worth much."

I don't like the idea of my pigs getting used to the taste of blood. I have to many animals crossing paths with the pigs to be comfortable with this notion, not to mention the feathers and mess. But I have used this idea of old chickens, to many smallish roasters and skinny ducks as dog and cat food. Feed, is a good use for these.


"Fish: According to a lot of permaculture people fish systems are the most productive... I don't know the source of that information. I have read on these forums that feeding fish to pigs makes the pigs taste fishy... that doesn't make any sense to me and I am wondering if anyone had personal experience with this?

This option does sound easier than feeding chicken I do not know about it changing the meats taste. However, if you were concerned simply stop feeding the fish a couple of months before butchering just to be on the safe side. Have your pigs finish off on grasses and alfalfa.


"Rats/Small Rodents: I am trying to think of an extremely low cost, low labour way to get protein for pastured pigs... rodents seem to be very productive and low maintenance in my experience. I have never heard of anyone intentionally raising rodents, though. This type of operation would probably have to be kept a secret, due to public paranoia around rats and mice."

Many places and people intentionally raise rodents. I know I did as a kid. Rodents used for schools and science, rodents used for feeding reptiles and rodents raised as pets. But the animal I would select for animal-feed wouldn't be rats/mice, unless we are talking about chicken feed. Then rodents would be just the right size for swallowing. What about raising rabbits instead?


"There has got to be a better way to raise pigs. Pigs in the wild do not receive any human help... how do they feed themselves a balanced diet? Why cant we replicate that with our pasture systems?"

Wild pigs eat invertebrates such as worms, insects, and insect larvae. And they will eat small mammals, eggs and young of ground-nesting birds and reptiles along with grasses and forages. But you should remember that pigs in the wild are smaller and leaner, they are not the meaty pigs we love to send to the butcher.







 
Walter Jeffries
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It is going to depend a lot on what your local resources are and what your local markets for things are. In my situation with local egg and dairy prices it would be better for me to feed milk and eggs to our younger pigs where we get the greatest nutritional leverage than to sell eggs or milk. Cheese is a value added product that helps concentrate the dairy and get a better price but for a lot of work. I love cheese but am not planning to get into the cheese business. Orchards and nut trees produce a bounty of food during the fall as do summer crops like pumpkins, sunflowers, mangels, beets, sugar beets, etc and some of that can be stored over for winter. Spring is a bit of a dearth until the pastures come in. Our biggest resource, about 80% of what our animals eat, is pasture. Planting the pasture up in quality with soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, small grains, amaranth, chicory and other forages vastly improves it's feed value. Our fresh pasture seasons are our easy seasons when the pigs grow fast even just on pasture. Any supplement boosts them. Use your locally available resources or what you can produce yourself to minimize your feed costs.

With the above in mind, managed rotational grazing is absolutely key to getting the most from the land while improving the quality of the land and managing it sustainably. See this page and follow the feed and grazing links:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs

Also see this and follow the links in each article to deeper related articles:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2014/09/17/one-day-of-rotational-grazing-shoats/

Land is what we have so pasture is what we use the most.

Then there is the whole issue of pig genetics. We've spent over a decade hard selecting over thousands of animals for pigs that thrive in our climate and pasture management system. See this article for some discussion about how genetic lines affect this:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/01/13/classic-large-white-sow/

Every farm will be different depending on what resources you have, your climate, etc. Don't forget to develop your market and customer base as you go. Successful sustainability includes making a profit so you can keep going. Otherwise you get paved.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Stephen Dobek
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Location: Rutledge, GA
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I've fed some alternative stuff to pigs and seen others try to get off the grain. It's definitely possible, but probably difficult.

At my first internship we fed a bunch of beef lamb and chicken organs that we had in the freezer to the hogs, and they friggin' loved it. These were items that were too old to sell and even though myself and the other interns enjoyed eating these things on occasion there was simply too much to eat. The hogs really, really, really, loved lamb liver. Maybe you can find someone with a ton of this stuff laying around. Someone who's raising a bunch of cows or sheep or chickens should have these things in storage since they're hard to sell to the public even though organ meat is the best. We also fed the baby meat birds that didn't make it in the brooder.

I've also seen corn free/soy free feed used. This was some combo of sunflower seeds/millet/barley. The results weren't good, sows had small litters of generally small piglets that didn't grow very quickly with lots of losses in the first couple weeks. The feed was gray in color and it had the effect of graying the meat on finished animals. I'm all for corn free/soy free but whatever this stuff was, it wasn't good.

Nuts/Fruits/Acorns are the wave of the future, or the past I guess too. I firmly believe in the power of a silvopastoral system for pigs and really any species of livestock. Pigs will readily eat any kind of nut - pecan, beech, hickory, walnut...their jaws are powerful and can crush through the hard outer shell of these things. They love persimmons, mulberries and hawthorns and a whole bunch of other fruits and if you've got acorns you'll be sitting pretty. The only drawback of these things is that they all take a fairly long time to grow and start bearing so either buy older trees from a nursery or start propagating yesterday. Honey locust might be something to consider, quick to grow, quick to bear and animals love the foliage and the pods.

Pasture plants to consider would be jerusalem artichokes, groundnuts, chufas, mangels and vetch.
 
Ci Shepard
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC
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One thing to consider is how your hog feed will affect the taste of the pork ... I fed goat milk daily and scraps including meat to a pig once and could not eat the meat after butchering. It was edible, of course, my husband did not mind it, but it was very different than what we were used to. To me it tasted gamey and strong. This would be a greater concern if you were selling or sharing the meat.
 
Stephen Dobek
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I agree with Ci. Pork flavors quickly so something that's kind of pungent like fish might give you bad results.
 
Jami McBride
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I'm finding with most animals raised for meat it's a good idea to finish them on a clean, bland diet before culling. I've heard even sheep taste better when all grains are removed from their diet at least a month before butchering.

I don't feed any grain, but I found this very interesting.
 
Sheldon Nicholson
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Thank-you everyone for your great advice. Sorry I took a while to reply.

Reading that Walter Jeffries has successfully raised pigs on just pasture, no supplemental feed, (but it takes 2 months longer) me and my farm partner have decided to just get started. We are going to lease a few acres, buy some pigs (numbers depend on land size, aiming for 5/acre) and just start rotating them around every day. I am going to be using Allan Savory's Holistic Planned Grazing methods to plan the moves. We are going to talk to a potential land partner tomorrow!

We will be experimenting as we go to see what supplemental feeds produce the best results and are easily available for us. We are going to try to use no grain whatsoever (even spent barley from a brewery) because we feel "Grain-Free, Pasture Fed" will set our pork apart from other locally produced pork and allow us to get a higher price.

I'll probably be posting our results sometime in the future.

Thanks!
 
Walter Jeffries
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Sheldon Nicholson wrote:Reading that Walter Jeffries has successfully raised pigs on just pasture, no supplemental feed, (but it takes 2 months longer) me and my farm partner have decided to just get started. We are going to lease a few acres, buy some pigs (numbers depend on land size, aiming for 5/acre) and just start rotating them around every day.


Keep in mind the caviots: good pasture, good pig genetics, good managed rotational grazing, etc.

This isn't just a matter of setting out random pigs free ranging in an area. The rotational grazing is key and good pig genetics really matters. Management, developing an eye for the animals is key - that comes with time. Pasture takes time to develop and not all pasture is grass - it is a mix of forages. Ease into the mud slowly.

Sheldon Nicholson wrote:We will be experimenting as we go to see what supplemental feeds produce the best results and are easily available for us. We are going to try to use no grain whatsoever (even spent barley from a brewery) because we feel "Grain-Free, Pasture Fed" will set our pork apart from other locally produced pork and allow us to get a higher price.


There are lots of good possible supplements to pasture such as the spent barley from beer brewing, apple pomace from cider making, garden gleanings, produce, dairy, eggs, etc. I would caution none to be too large a percentage of the diet, to keep the diet varied and what we do is keep pasture as the primary component of the diet. This produces a high quality pork. There are some things like the corn based ethanol mashes which research has shown can cause undesirable soft fat when fed over certain levels, 7% of diet for the ethanol mash for example. Variety is good.

-Walter
 
Dan Boone
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As for fish feed altering flavor adversely, I don't know about pigs but it's 100% true as to another large omnivore (bears). We ate quite a few bears when I was growing up in Alaska and the taste difference between a bear that spent a month foraging blueberries on a mountain and one eating dead washed-up salmon down by the river was DRAMATIC. Blueberry-fed bear is yummy, fish-eating bear is rank and disgusting. I don't have any trouble believing it's also true for pigs.
 
Jared Woodcock
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I have seen a lot of ragged pigs on pasture because people want to learn how to raise pigs and go grain free at the same time. Start your pig journey using some high quality grain and as you getter with managing your pastures then you can cut the grain. As for justifying this by saying wild pigs do it, you are right but wild pigs are not at all like our domestic pigs, they are small, lean and they take up some large territory. I have a friend with some ossabaw island hogs which are basically wild pigs, they do well on pasture but they are also escape artists, the other option for a beginner would be kune kune or American guinea hogs.

Good luck
 
Jay Grace
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Look into American Guinea Hogs.
They pasture well,and are a bit smaller which translates to easier handling and won't eat you out of house and home if you are running them on newly acquired pastures.


When I raised berkshires I feed my sow skipjack shad by the dozens. ( Easy to catch a few hundred 1lb fish in a day) But I wasn't about to eat her. It just gave her that extra boost of fats and proteins while she was breed and while she was feeding her piglets.
 
Lion Gladden
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Well not the most healthy idea, but I knew a farmer who picked up the leftovers from the local elementary school and fed them that. Pretty funny, he used to keep a calendar of the school lunch in the hog pen.

For a much more natural/healthy diet, consider asking your local organic restaurant if you can haul away their slop.

Another food that I don't think was mentioned. I often make homemade tofu, one of the byproducts of which is "okara:" (basically the soybean leftovers). Besides many other ways to utilize it for humans, it's a good animal feed.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Lion Gladden wrote:Well not the most healthy idea, but I knew a farmer who picked up the leftovers from the local elementary school and fed them that.


Before doing this check on the legality in your state. In some states it is outlawed. In other states it must be cooked for half an hour to kill disease. Also be cautious about broken glass, cutlery, plastic gloves, wire ties, etc which can kill the pigs.
 
Lion Gladden
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All excellent points. Beyond that, most school lunch isn't healthy for either children or pigs.
 
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