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Anyone feeding their pigs "unfinished" compost?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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I've been thinking about this after watching geoff lawton's "Chicken Tractor on Steroids" video. If it works for chickens, why wouldn't it work for pigs? Geoff's method is to have piles in different stages of maturation that are a mix of food scrapes (what we would just normally throw to our pigs), fresh cow, or horse manure (what our pigs might come into contact with on the pasture and eat), and hay, or woody materials (what would be little, or no interest to our pigs).

My idea would be that this could be a way of - 1. Stretching out the volume of the food scrapes by mixing it with green and brown compost materials. 2. Increasing nutrient density of food scrapes and other brown/green materials through fermentation, appearance of bugs and grubs, and general breakdown of what would otherwise be non-digestible materials.

Reason I'm toying with these ideas is because I just don't see pigs as a very sustainable option for the small homesteader. The "pigs on pasture" scenario, while looks nice in the early stages, ultimately looks to me as a way to turn a grass field into a motor-cross track. Plus, we're bring on huge volumes of a food scrape inputs onto the farm. It would be nice to have pigs tied into the other systems on the farm such as cows, poultry, and gardens, instead of tied into restaurant and grocery store compost dumpsters, and the feed store.

Appreciate any and all feedback.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's my experience trying this with chickens: http://www.permies.com/t/55362/chickens/critters/Chickens-compost

The upshot is, unless one has a very robust system with lots of surplus to return, the compost gets played out pretty quickly, in my experience.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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They will likely pick through the compost for the good bits and then spread the rest all over the place. I've tried this at various stages and that seems to be mostly what happens. It looked like they ate more than they really did because the feeding area was empty. In reality they spread it out, stomp it down and wait for more "good bits". I'm concerned about mixing in the manure. I know that they will sample manure of various sorts from time to time, but they might not be too keen on having cow manure spread on every bite of their food. After a while, that might start to come through in the finished meat and fat itself. If anything, I would leave the ingredients separate and toss it all in with your pigs in different piles. What they don't eat right away, they may come back to in a few days once it's fermented, rotted, off-gassed or whatever.

The pasture thing actually does work quite well if you manage the numbers of animals and their habits according to your land's abilities. I've been able to raise out six pigs on less than two acres of land in a season with nothing but goodness all around. The pigs are fat, happy and healthy at slaughter time and the fields look no worse for it. I think the big thing is to move them once they've tilled over about 15-20% of the ground. That is, they eat all the greens stuff they want and they get to root around until they've turned 1/5th of the surface into mini craters. Then they move. Bring in the chickens to help with the manure, seeds, and bumps. Chickens are pretty effective at smoothing out the dips and bumps from the pig's digging. Once the chickens are out, I reseed with clover, vetch, alfalfa and brassicas. I've been working this out for the past few years and so far I'm thrilled with the progress. I have one area that I kept pigs on for too long purposefully to see the results and to remove a lot of shitty undergrowth without poking my eyes out. It looked like the moon with a few big trees at first. Just last week little shoots and sprouts began emerging. It's all the little repair weed species that I need, not only for that space but also for seed and animal fodder. So again another triple winner.

If you are worried about the land being over-pigged, just cut the pasture with a scythe or brush cutter and bring it to them in their pen. They'll pick through it and turn the rest into bedding and compost. Mix what's left with the pig manure and compost that. Let the chickens on that pile once it's done.

There's a few way to make it work. If you can tell me more about how many pigs you have, the land size and slope, the climate and your goal with the pigs, I'm sure we can optimize your situation.

It's time to make breakfast.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Composting predigests rough materials to make them easier to eat. It works. I've been using this for years. See:

http://www.sugarmtnfarm.com/?s=deep%20bedding%20pack

What goes into the compost may be legally described in your state so keep that in mind. e.g., You probably can't put meat scraps in there.

Kevin MacBearach wrote:Reason I'm toying with these ideas is because I just don't see pigs as a very sustainable option for the small homesteader. The "pigs on pasture" scenario, while looks nice in the early stages, ultimately looks to me as a way to turn a grass field into a motor-cross track.


Pastured pigs is very sustainable and it should not look like a motor-cross track. If it does you're doing it wrong. I use managed rotational grazing to raise about 400 pigs on pasture. I have 40 to 100 breeders plus their offspring at any time. Over 80% of their diet comes from our pastures. See:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs

It works. It works well enough that I built my own USDA/State inspectable butcher shop where I cut the meet for our farm each week to deliver to local stores, restaurants and individuals. The proof is in the pudding.

-Walter
 
Tyler Ludens
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Walter, do you have an estimate of how many pigs per acre of pasture you stock on average?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Walter, do you have an estimate of how many pigs per acre of pasture you stock on average?

Not Walter, but I distinctly remember this article of his when I was researching getting into pigs myself. Roughly 10 pigs per acre
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks! I notice the pigs are also fed on dairy products which seem to come from off-site:

"So what you ask am I going to do with 17,000 lbs of Vermont cheddar cheese?!? Why, feed it to the pigs of course!"

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2005/09/24/middle-of-the-road/

One may get an impression that the pigs live only on pasture and farm-raised vegetables, which does not seem to be the case.

 
Kyrt Ryder
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Indeed, Walter amplifies their growth rate with off-site inputs.

I'd like to know this too Walter, how would your management change without the inputs? Faster rotations, lower stocking rate or just accepting slower growth? [Or some other possibility I haven't considered]
 
Walter Jeffries
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Indeed, Walter amplifies their growth rate with off-site inputs.

I'd like to know this too Walter, how would your management change without the inputs? Faster rotations, lower stocking rate or just accepting slower growth? [Or some other possibility I haven't considered]


Our big off site input is the dairy, mostly whey, which makes up 7%DMI of our pig's diet. Without the dairy I would keep more chickens which would produce more eggs from our pastures and then I would feed the eggs to the pigs. I already do this but would ramp up from the current range of 100 to 400 chickens to a range of 1,000 to 5,000 hens. The hens get virtually all of their diet from our pastures. In the cold season they eat pigs to replace the bugs in their diet.

That is the single biggest change I would make if there were no off-farm inputs available. But the reality is there is a great deal of off-farm inputs readily available because both pigs and chickens can eat such a wide variety of feed stuffs and our society 'wastes' so much. This 'waste' creates opportunity. Use it.

However, realize, as I explained above, I've already planted up my pastures with a wide variety of forage mixes and I already do managed rotational grazing with genetics I've hard selected for this for well over a decade. If you're just starting out you also need to do these three things: plant up the pastures, implement rotational grazing, have good livestock for your management system.

All pastures are not grass.

Grain isn't evil, just expensive.

Use the resources you have.

-Walter
 
Walter Jeffries
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Walter, do you have an estimate of how many pigs per acre of pasture you stock on average?


I have better than an estimate, I have years of measurements in the field. I find I need about 23 sq-ft of pasture per hundred pounds of pig per day. That comes to about ten pigs a day for maximum sustainable grazing density using my pigs, on my pastures in my climate without additional feed. Supplemental feed can boost those numbers but keep your rotation speed high to avoid soil compaction.

See these articles:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2014/09/17/one-day-of-rotational-grazing-shoats/
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2007/10/12/how-much-land-per-pig/
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/08/07/pasture-post-pig-grazing/
http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2013/09/25/south-weaner-paddock/

-Walter
 
Walter Jeffries
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I notice the pigs are also fed on dairy products which seem to come from off-site ... One may get an impression that the pigs live only on pasture and farm-raised vegetables, which does not seem to be the case.


Pastured does not mean that the only feed the animal eat is pasture. Read the whole article rather than just headlines. They live on pasture. We rotationally graze. Over 80% of their diet comes from pasture as the norm. I've raised groups with 100% of their diet coming from pasture they will grow more slowly and leaner, of course. It's a matter of growth rate improving by supplementing. Genetics also matters, a lot.

See this page and follow through the feed discussions and the grazing discussions to understand it deeply:

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Tyler Ludens
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I meant in general, one might get the impression that "pasture-raised pigs" might mean the pigs just eat the pasture. This is a topic we've been hashing over in other threads - is it possible to raise animals without outside inputs. There seem to be very few examples, and it is difficult to get details about how much land is needed, what exactly the animals eat, etc.

http://www.permies.com/t/56315/permaculture/Critters-permaculture
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Part of the reason that it's so difficult is that it's so heavily dependent on which land is being used by which animals. Climate and soils and genetics are HUGE factors.

Thanks for explaining how you'd adjust the pig's diet Walter, much appreciated. Though I will confess curiosity over whether or not you could obtain that much egg production without inputs on that land base.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:curiosity over whether or not you could obtain that much egg production without inputs on that land base.


I already do. With our typical hen population we produce tens of thousands of eggs a year with no additional feed. I've been doing that for a long time. I don't buy chicken feed. Not a philosophical issue, just that grain is expensive and I'm cheap. I expect the birds to work for a living. Their primary job here on our farm is organic pest control. In addition to the livestock, manure and compost piles we also have a marsh just downhill of us that sends lots of winged chicken food our way - bugs. If you don't feed the chickens they learn to forage and do a very good job of it. When available they also clean up anything the pigs don't get but that isn't necessary for their diet. The drink a little whey but not all that much and again not necessary to their diet.

-Walter
 
Walter Jeffries
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I meant in general, one might get the impression that "pasture-raised pigs" might mean the pigs just eat the pasture. This is a topic we've been hashing over in other threads - is it possible to raise animals without outside inputs. There seem to be very few examples, and it is difficult to get details about how much land is needed, what exactly the animals eat, etc.


Aye, and I can't be responsible for all the ways that people use the word. Some people use the word 'pastured' to mean dry lot pigs. Totally different. Some have the pigs on pasture but free-feed corn/soy. Again totally different. I've done four batches with zero off-farm inputs. It works. They're slower growing and leaner. Since I have the resources available like the dairy I use them. It speeds up growth and improves marbling. I'm not a fanatical philosopher - I'm practical. I use the resources I have. It pays the mortgage.

For exact details on how much land it takes to do it without any outside inputs refer to the articles above. The 23 sq-ft per hundred weight of pig per day is based on no other feed. That's about 10 pigs per acre. Caveat is you need good management skills, good pasture, good animal genetics, etc. A random person throwing random hogs on random land will not likely succeed at that stocking density. Ease into things.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Tyler Ludens
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This is off topic, I'm sorry, but, what do the chickens eat in the winter?

 
Dale Hodgins
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Walter, I know that you are doing your own butchering now. Are you butchering all of the pigs that you produce and if not what percentage. Also, how many finished animals do you produce in a year?

Do you feed all of the entrails to the chickens?
 
Walter Jeffries
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Tyler Ludens wrote:This is off topic, I'm sorry, but, what do the chickens eat in the winter?


See above where I wrote: "In the cold season they eat pigs to replace the bugs in their diet."

Pigs make great food for chickens. They're made of meat, similar to bugs.

Each week when I get done butchering there are left over items that don't sell. Skin, bones, heart, kidney, tongue, etc. The demand for these things is very limited. The demand for loin is almost infinite. To balance this these oddments go to our table, to our dogs and to our chickens. For the chickens I grind the skin, trimmings, etc to make it easier for the chickens to eat in bite size pecks. The pigs are made of pasture so in effect the chickens eat pasture right through the winter. They also eat a small amount of hay and what ever else is available. Chickens are omnivores.

Cheers,

-Walter
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ok, sorry, that was so confusing to me I guess I couldn't figure it out! :p

 
Walter Jeffries
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Ok, sorry, that was so confusing to me I guess I couldn't figure it out! :p


*grin* I just like saying I feed pastured pork to my chickens...
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Watching this thread with interest . . .
 
Kyrt Ryder
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To address the thread's topic specifically, I've done it for a period. Back when I had my first two weaner pigs I ran out of hog feed and didn't make it to the feed store for several weeks. Between the pasture they were moving through and the garden scraps and brush clearings they were getting [these little guys loved maple leaves and cambium and blackberry leaves, and they learned to like Nettle Leaves as well] they did pretty darn well.

But I felt it was worthwhile to import the additional fertility so when opportunity presented itself I went back to buying in feed.
 
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