• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Some pastured pig questions

 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are in our second year with pastured hogs. While we do feed non GMO ration, we are blessed to rent on ground with good forages and ample persimmon, hickory, and acorn; with some mullberry, walnut, and blackberry. Some questions for you, since I'm eager to learn how to do this better with rented ground constraints, but also on my future sivopasture/keylined/multispecies/... homestead:

1. It looks like you're working with some kind of small framed pig (maybe kune kune?). Do you think this is necessary to achieve grain (and whey) free hog raising in the Midwest?

2. Do you have a good idea of yields for a small pig like this, and what marketability looks like locally? Is the market and margin there for anything besides really high end charcuterie?

3. Are you chopping their feed down and bringing it regularly? Are there strategies you're working on to keep forages at hog level?

4. How long will it take a hog in your system to be marketable size?

5. Thisv one is more general: With regard to parasite life cycles, do you have an idea of how long one should wait to regraze a paddock with hogs (similar climate to yours).

I've probably got more on this subject, but I'll try to let you catch up on all the questions.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Luke Groce wrote:While we do feed non GMO ration, we are blessed to rent on ground with good forages and ample persimmon, hickory, and acorn; with some mullberry, walnut, and blackberry.


AWESOME!

Luke Groce wrote:

1. It looks like you're working with some kind of small framed pig (maybe kune kune?). Do you think this is necessary to achieve grain (and whey) free hog raising in the Midwest?



Kunekune x Ossabaw Island Hog at Versaland. Will keep introducing breeds of outdoor vigor and mutt-i-tude. Smedium-framed (that's what I call ours) are advantageous from a management perspective.

The short answer is:

Grain & whey fed hogs can finish in around 6 months (almost independent of breed)
Pasture-raised hogs need 11-14 months to finish on pasture in the Midwest.

So...first calculate how much the TRUE pasture-raised meat premium is (a lot) the improved Omega 3/6 ratio of pastured meat (for your own health).

Then add up your feed bill for the 6 month finished pig. Buying in grain. Pouring feed or maintaining feeders. Hauling whey, etc.

1) Which is more economical - low-input pastured hogs that take 12 months to finish and consume essentially no purchased inputs?
or
High-input grain-fed hogs that sort of walk around on pasture but that finish in six months on purchased feedstuffs?

If you have a large and steady stream of compost or waste vegetables that is a third option worth calculating.

Luke Groce wrote:

2. Do you have a good idea of yields for a small pig like this, and what marketability looks like locally? Is the market and margin there for anything besides really high end charcuterie?


Yes. For the record, there are carcass differences between pure-pasture hogs and grain-fed hogs beyond just breed differences. University of Kentucky did some good carcass analysis of different breed

here: https://dhn-hes.ca.uky.edu/content/heritage-hog-carcass-yields

and

here (2): http://uknowledge.uky.edu/yield_reports/

I'll be back to answer 3, 4, and 5 later - gotta go run errands!
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Luke Groce wrote:

3. Are you chopping their feed down and bringing it regularly? Are there strategies you're working on to keep forages at hog level?


Not chopping feed all that often, just when it's in a paddock above hog-level. Was less work to let pigs self-harvest. Utilizing giant ragweed or mulberry when it is considered a weed or in a long-rested pasture is another story - a quick chop and drop does wonders.

Luke Groce wrote:We are in our second year with pastured hogs. While we do feed non GMO ration, we are blessed to rent on ground with good forages and ample persimmon, hickory, and acorn; with some mullberry, walnut, and blackberry. Some questions for you, since I'm eager to learn how to do this better with rented ground constraints, but also on my future sivopasture/keylined/multispecies/... homestead:

4. How long will it take a hog in your system to be marketable size?


Approximately 11 months.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Luke Groce wrote:

5. This one is more general: With regard to parasite life cycles, do you have an idea of how long one should wait to regraze a paddock with hogs (similar climate to yours).



I shoot for minimum 45 days rest.

Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm (a pastured pig badass, major contributor to web forums and all-around cool dude) works with a 21 day minimum for breaking parasite life cycle.

I figure 45 days is not only extra-safe to break parasite life cycle, but also give optimum regeneration time for cool-season forages (ideal mix of total topgrowth tonnage and protein content)
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Luke Groce wrote:Do you think {small frame} is necessary to achieve grain (and whey) free hog raising in the Midwest?


We work with large framed pigs (Yorkshire, Berkshire, LargeBlack, Tamworth, GOS, crosses of these) and they do great on pasture, even on 100% pasture. I know people who work with breeds down as small as the Pot Bellied on pasture and are happy with them and other people working with the big farm breeds like us. What really matters, in all of the breeds, is that the line is selected for pasturing. Size, like breed, is mostly a personal preference although there are some characteristics of meat such as marbling and lard that follow some breeds more strongly. Never dis' a man's choice of dog, truck, religion or pig breed - in that order. You might get away with his wife but don't dis' his dog.

Luke Groce wrote:Do you have a good idea of yields for a small pig like this, and what marketability looks like locally? Is the market and margin there for anything besides really high end charcuterie?


There was a paper done about some of this topic:

https://dhn-hes.ca.uky.edu/content/heritage-hog-carcass-yields

Based on our experience in the market, I think you may have a hard time with the odd pigs other than to very specific niche customers looking just for that - think chefs. The question then is will they take enough to pay your bills. Survey your market. You might even want to do multiple breeds and lines to hit different niches.

Grant Schultz wrote:I shoot for minimum 45 days rest. Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm works with a 21 day minimum for breaking parasite life cycle.


21 days is the _minimum_ I want to see for a rest. But there are a lot of other factors after that. How long depends on the season, forage growth, what other paddocks are available, which rotation system, regular or grand rotation, etc. Some fields thus get rested for a year or more while others typically get rested until after 21 and after forages have regrown to be ready for grazing. The 21 days in the minimum, then look at how the forages are doing and I also like to consider do I want this pasture to go to seed this cycle. Seed is cheaper than feed but self-seeding is 100 times cheaper.

In the end the rest tends to have more to do with forage growth than the calendar.

-Walter
 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thanks to both of you for taking on those questions. I have looked at that University of Kentucky paper before. Its very interesting. Especially since we've got access to some great breeds around here, and I've been trying some of everything out myself.

Walter: I like the idea of hitting up all the niches. We already work with some great restaurants. I'm sure they would love to have an even more unique whole hog to include in their charcuterie programs than what we've offered (but I may not be able to sell more than half a dozen of them at a higher premium than I have thus far with my current animals).

Grant: Those calculations are exactly what I'll be doing as I game plan next year. The cash flow budgets could look a lot different if the feed bill was out of the picture. I'm also partial to my mutts. I've liked their carcass, yield, temperament, vigor and all around health way more than my pure breed hogs.

Follow up question for both of you: Does feeding your purely pastured hogs through the summer get tough, as senesced, fibrous forages become the norm in pastures?
or do they not become the norm in your pastures because of key lining and good management? Do you suggest planting summer forages, or some grazing scheme, or something else that might help (besides the ragweed and mulberry)?

I'm intrigued by the idea of having them follow behind another species to keep them on some of the most tender forages, but what animals I have, and what property I'm on will obviously be determining a lot of this.

Thanks again!
 
kerri leach
Posts: 12
Location: SE IA Zone 5B, Clay highly eroded hillsides
1
chicken fungi hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi Grant, Walter and others. I have a question about winter feeding while trying to avoid grain. When one doesn't have whey available, and pigs can't get at roots worms, and grubs, what other suggestions do you have, or observations have you made? I still feed a small amount of grain due to grazing old CRP wih some clover and reed canary. It needs work. My current plan is supplementing my gestating and nursing sows and growers with eggs (ideally running layers on compost and scraps) in addition to fish oil and Fertrell premix. I can hard boil the eggs as they are better for digestion, run through the meat grinder, mix the rest in and feed it out from the freezer. This sounds like a lot of work just to avoid feed, but will hopefully ensure my less than ideal hay will be not so deficient and rate of gain adequate. I run Mangalitsa and AGH. Overkill? Other ideas not so intensive? Thanks so much!! Kerri Leach. SE IA
 
Andrew French
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good Morning Grant & Walter -

Lets talk hay. What kind of hay are you using to overwinter pigs? First cutting, second cutting, alfalfa, maybe corn silage? The uniqueness of pigs lies directly within their omnivorous appetite, how can we best balance their nutritional needs in the winter - sans whey if that is not an option, which it may not be for many folks. Cheers.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Luke Groce wrote:Does feeding your purely pastured hogs through the summer get tough, as senesced, fibrous forages become the norm in pastures?


For us, here in New England, the summer is the easy season. We can raise pigs purely on pasture, that's 100% pasture, through the warm months and they gain well producing an excellent carcass.

Caveats:

Were were not able to do this as well with our original generations twelve years ago - through hard culling, selective breeding, we have vastly improved our genetics and their ability to thrive on pasture in our climate under the management style we use on the diet we feed. This is a long process of adaptation. Breed the best of the best and eat the rest. In time it means herd improvement.

We started with very poor pasture quality and poor soil quality. Through years of managed rotational grazing and planting up the pastures with soft grasses, legumes, brassicas, millets, amaranth, small grains, chicory and other forages we have improved the quality of the food available. Seed is cheaper than feed. We can not machine work our fields so we hand broadcast the seed with nature: with the mob, with the frost, with the storm to get good soil contact for the seed. I over broadcast a bit by the recommendations to account for a little seed loss. Smaller seeds do better with this than big seeds but even oats (very cheap) work well and the pigs love oat grasses.

While seed is cheaper than feed, self-seeding is 10 to 100x cheaper than seed. Managing the rotation cycles so that plants naturally reseed themselves helps tremendously.

The other huge thing is setting up for managed rotational grazing - get the perimeter well fenced and then start subdividing as you have money and time.

Winter is harder as hay is not as good as fresh pasture. This is when having stored apples, pumpkins, sunflowers, whey, spent barley and such become more important.

We can do it on 100% pasture, especially with our current genetics. But normally we also have about 7% dairy which helps with calories and lysine - that gives faster growth. If you don't have dairy available (e.g., whey, cheese trimmings, excess milk, etc) then consider looking for other sources like eggs (cook to double available protein), spent barley (high protein but not balanced, low calories) or what other resources you might have. Adapt.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
kerri leach wrote:hi Grant, Walter and others. I have a question about winter feeding while trying to avoid grain. When one doesn't have whey available, and pigs can't get at roots worms, and grubs, what other suggestions do you have, or observations have you made? I still feed a small amount of grain due to grazing old CRP wih some clover and reed canary. It needs work. My current plan is supplementing my gestating and nursing sows and growers with eggs (ideally running layers on compost and scraps) in addition to fish oil and Fertrell premix. I can hard boil the eggs as they are better for digestion, run through the meat grinder, mix the rest in and feed it out from the freezer. This sounds like a lot of work just to avoid feed, but will hopefully ensure my less than ideal hay will be not so deficient and rate of gain adequate. I run Mangalitsa and AGH. Overkill? Other ideas not so intensive? Thanks so much!! Kerri Leach. SE IA


Grain isn't evil, just expensive. I don't buy and feed grain because of the cost. I figure that the cost to bring pork to fork divides into three main parts:

30% Piglet
30% Feed
30% Processing
10% Other

The rest is pure profit. Add it up... I'll wait...

The way we make our income is we take on parts of each of those thirds. We keep our own breeder stock so that drops the cost for the piglet. We grow most of our own feed (pasture, eggs) so that drops that cost. Soon we'll do our own processing so that will drop that cost. There isn't much I can do about that last 10% since I can't make fence wire, etc. By taking on vertical integration steps we keep more of the money on the farm.

As to winter, we primarily feed hay. Hay is not as good as fresh pasture, by far. But it gets our pigs through the winter. Pigs need to learn to eat pasture first. Then learn to eat hay. Over generations I believe that there is some physical evolution going on to favor those who thrive on this - after all, I culled those who can't. Winter is when supplements become more important such as the whey, cooked eggs, pumpkins, sunflowers, apples, spent barley from beer making, etc. I find I gain the most nutritional leverage feeding these things to the younger pigs.

A little lardy pig helps with winter. I keep Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth which are not high lard pigs. I have selected them for more ability to put on weight on pasture - to deal with scant calories. People who buy our feeder weaner pigs and put them on a grain diet see them explode as a result. On a high calorie diet they get very lardy. On our diet we get about 1/2" to 1" of back fat depending on season and sex. I would think the Mangalitsa and AGH would do well with this but from what I have heard they have a slower growth rate.

-Walter
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Andrew French wrote:Lets talk hay. What kind of hay are you using to overwinter pigs? First cutting, second cutting, alfalfa, maybe corn silage? The uniqueness of pigs lies directly within their omnivorous appetite, how can we best balance their nutritional needs in the winter - sans whey if that is not an option, which it may not be for many folks. Cheers.


I buy all the hay that one farmer produces, about 100 tons, and then about half again that from another farmer. The result is I'm buying all cuts. I get it in round bales of about 1,000 lbs and wrapped which ferments it some. Our hay is not as good as I would like. If available I would go with a high alfalfa to soft grass hay mix. But I don't have that here in Vermont. Ours is courser grasses, soft grasses and some clovers. It is good enough but not great. I have it custom dried to about 25%. I have not tried corn silage but would like to do so someday. Our pigs both eat the hay as is straight out of the bales and composted. See:

http://www.sugarmtnfarm.com/?s=hay

Without whey look to what other local resources you might have such as eggs (chickens eat bugs in the summer and pigs in the winter), spent barley, apples, pumpkins, sunflowers, produce, etc. Adapt to the local opportunities and always be ready.

-Walter
 
kerri leach
Posts: 12
Location: SE IA Zone 5B, Clay highly eroded hillsides
1
chicken fungi hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A little lardy pig helps with winter. I keep Yorkshire, Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth which are not high lard pigs. I have selected them for more ability to put on weight on pasture - to deal with scant calories. People who buy our feeder weaner pigs and put them on a grain diet see them explode as a result. On a high calorie diet they get very lardy. On our diet we get about 1/2" to 1" of back fat depending on season and sex. I would think the Mangalitsa and AGH would do well with this but from what I have heard they have a slower growth rate.

-Walter

Walter, they DO explode on grain. The Blond Mangalitsa on grain can get to 5" backfat. The Manga grain fed is about a 12-13mo grow out, and no grain could be 18mo, however the management used on some of my breeding stock is growing them slower on much less grain input 4 7 generations, and that slower carcass helps the marbling. They are long and lean, not the typical bubble with 4 little legs poking out. My goal is to keep it under 2" and my chefs are happy with that. I tried to calculate from eggs alone and the Lysine per egg that it would take something like 47 eggs per KG of pig growth (if 100% egg diet, which of course makes no sense). The 80% hay, and the rest in various other forage/feedstuff is our current next stage. I have hope that with generations we will see more adaptation to zero grain, and are culling heavily. I think a clamp is in order for future winter root crop feeding for sure. What you have done with the pastures as you describe certainly is our goal, and our poultry and sheep have been helping the pasture improvement for sure.

Have you had experience with any other silages like french mammoth sunchoke or comfrey as a perennial forage source for winter feeding? I would think a 1-2 acre intensely managed crop like this with an old timey forage chopper could provide a lot of winter feed (I think/hope) without having to intensely manage a garden seeding annually.

Do you worry much about winter fat sources, as the whey and hay and stored vegetables would be pretty low (other than their own reserves)?

Thanks Walter! Kerri
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
kerri leach wrote:Have you had experience with any other silages like french mammoth sunchoke or comfrey as a perennial forage source for winter feeding?


We use the sunchokes for a late summer / early fall forage by rotating the pigs through areas that have them. I haven't stored them for winter. Our winters have deep snows that hard pack so grazing through the snow isn't possible like it is in some areas where they have wind that sweeps away the snow or just less snow. Once we're up on snow pack we're on hay which is stored pasture fermenting from summer. Pumpkins, apples and such go a ways into winter but I've never grown enough to feed all the way through winter. I keep at it.

kerri leach wrote:Do you worry much about winter fat sources, as the whey and hay and stored vegetables would be pretty low (other than their own reserves)?


Yes, In the fall we sometimes get cheese or such from the dairy and we'll cave that to save it for winter calories. Winter is our hard season. Setting the compost piles going helps as that increases digestibility of even rough fiber foods. Eggs help - our chickens eat pigs in the winter. If we keep their water and light going strongly then they keep laying pretty well although it is not as strong as in the warm months. Longer nursing times in the winter help. Sows instead of cows.

-Walter
 
kerri leach
Posts: 12
Location: SE IA Zone 5B, Clay highly eroded hillsides
1
chicken fungi hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you, Walter. I appreciate your experience. I am wondering as far as chickens eating pigs - this is offal, organs, and other from processing? Frozen, fresh, cooked, or it depends? Are you producing enough pig "extras" to keep your layers happy without much else beyond compost piles and some hay though the winter?

Thanks again! Kerri Leach
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
kerri leach wrote:Thank you, Walter. I appreciate your experience. I am wondering as far as chickens eating pigs - this is offal, organs, and other from processing? Frozen, fresh, cooked, or it depends? Are you producing enough pig "extras" to keep your layers happy without much else beyond compost piles and some hay though the winter?


Yes, but the chickens don't eat whole pigs, the eat scraps. We butcher pigs every week so there is fresh trim every week available to feed the chickens.

We sell out almost all of all of the pigs each week. We don't keep much in the way of freezer inventory but rather our our stock is out grazing and we slaughter on-demand. This works because most of our meat goes to fill standing orders with local stores and restaurants who order each week and then customers who have pre-ordered well ahead.

However, there are still some bits, like the trim, typically some liver, some skin, some neck bones, a heart, perhaps half a dozen tongues in a particular week, often kidneys, etc that don't sell.

First this goes to our own family's plate. We eat low on the hog, what won't sell.

Next what remains goes to our livestock dogs.

Chickens come next - grinding their food or even cooking it improves digestibility, especially with tough membranes like skin. Cooking may or may not happen any week. I would like to build a solar cooker for this - on my to-do list.

At the bottom is the compost pile which returns extra nutrients to our soils.

The hens also eat a little bit of hay, much more grass and clover in the summer, as well as drinking a little whey, cleaning up mice and anything else they can find. Keeping their lights going, sufficient fluids and meat keeps them laying.

-Walter
 
I'm full of tinier men! And a tiny ad:
The stocking-stuffer that plants a forest:
FoodForestCardGame.com
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic