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Feeding pigs

Feeding pigs wheyNow for the thorny part of pig-raising --- feeding.  As with most other livestock, the modern method is to pour grains (and soybeans) down their throats to produce fast growth.  At the other extreme, diversified farmers like Walter Jeffries raise their pigs with absolutely no purchased grain, counting on fruit-tree-filled pastures, crops planted during fallow periods then grazed rotationally, and byproducts such as whey and brewer's barley to fulfill their hogs' nutritional needs.  Going back in time yet further, a hog was a bit of a farm garbage disposal unit --- you'd keep just one or two pigs and they'd subsist on all of the food waste that came out of a homestead kitchen, plus mast from the forest.

Feeding pigsWhile I'd love to mimic Jeffries' method in the long run, we're in the reclamation stage of our homestead, so I suspect we'll be taking a hybrid approach our first year.  Klober notes that a quarter of an acre of good legume pasture will provide 25% of the nutrition for 10 growing hogs, so I'm hoping a similar amount of poor forest pasture will provide at least a bit of nutrition for 2.  But we'll also supplement with storebought feed (and with our food scraps, which will be much more copious in late summer).  Klober says we should expect to feed each hog 650 to 750 pounds of storebought feed over its short lifetime, and I'll definitely be keeping track to see how much we knock off that estimated total.

Finally, there are two schools of thoughts on how much food to offer growing hogs.  Some farmers provide unlimited feed, which does make pigs grow their fastest.  On the other hand, if you limit feed to 90% of their appetite, you end up with a leaner carcass (although you don't lower your food bill any since the hogs grow more slowly).  Most modern farmers aim for leaner meat, but as Simon Fairlie wrote, farmers used to consider lard one of the most important byproducts of hog production, so the choice is up to you.

Now's the time to start mushrooms!  Learn how in my 99 cent ebook.

This post is part of our Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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The lard is an important component of the homestead. Fat is one of the most overlooked foods that is often taken for granted, and lard and butter are the easiest to produce on the small homestead.

With the current rage either low-fat, or buy exotic Irish butter and coconut oil, homegrown lard is often overlooked.

How come cattle panels instead of hog panels? I have a love/hate relationship with both, you can't live with them or without them.

We go full-feed with our pigs with added homestead scraps and milk. They graze and do what they do despite having feed 24-7. Our big thing here is that we need them to be gone before the rains set in or they ruin the wet ground too much. So we could grow them slower, but it ends up making a mess and isn't worth it for a little more feed, IMO, in our location/climate.

Comment by Nita Thu Mar 14 13:56:35 2013
Justin checked out this book from the library yesterday, so I've been following along with you on this one. I sorta felt like putting the book down after the first 20 pages because I knew we'd be doing it differently than an all-grain diet. I remember it saying a growout period of 90 to 120 days -- but I was planning on growing them out for more like 8 months (on less feed and more pasture and scraps plus spoiled dairy and/or bread if we can find it), which wouldn't be profitable on a larger scale but I think would be fine for us since it's just for our own use.
Comment by mitsy Thu Mar 14 14:21:11 2013

Nita --- We chose cattle panels in part because I'm very new to fencing and don't really know what I'm doing. :-) But my theory is that I want to be able to use them as permanent fencing and keep other types of animals in those paddocks in the future, so I wanted a bit more height than hog panels afford. Unfortunately, when the panels showed up, they weren't quite what the feed store lady said they would be on the phone, so the holes at the bottom aren't small enough to keep in much --- we may have to add something there after all. I'd be very curious to hear your take on the utility of the various types of livestock panels. (And I agree with you on the importance of fat front.)

Mitsy --- I know what you mean. I'm very curious to see how your and our hybrid feeding approaches stack up. Now I understand why you wanted to be sure to get your pigs early, too if you want them to have such a long grow-out period.

Comment by anna Thu Mar 14 18:27:14 2013
Hogs will tunnel under wire. Need to bury bottom end or create some kind of underground barrier.
Comment by Errol Thu Mar 14 18:49:35 2013

We actually don't use them much for animals, more for garden trellis etc., so the cattle panels are unwieldy and heck if you move them a lot. But a semi-permanent fence like your building the cattle panel probably makes more sense.

We have used the hog panels for a moveable type pen for two pigs - 4 hog panels fastened in the corners with quick links and we could move the pen along, once they reached about 100 pound though, all bets were off unless we made the pen very secure, which then defeated the purpose.

You can put a low hot wire around the inside perimeter to help keep the hogs away from the panels, but you will still have to check it, because they will root dirt on the wire and short it out when you have the least amount of time to be chasing pigs!

Comment by Nita Fri Mar 15 12:46:48 2013
I recently rendered some lard (first time) and it is a superior fat to bake with. It came out snow white and beautiful. Very easy to do. The public has been duped for years with low-fat products, margarine, cholesterol scares, etc. which, if you do your research, is completely false. This false info benefits the drug companies very well. Butter, lard, beef tallow, and other saturated fats are good for you and don't cause high cholesterol or heart disease. I get so tired of seeing low-fat this and that in the stores. There is some great fat information on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site. It's all about traditional foods and how healthy they are. Hope the hogs go well.
Comment by Heather W Sun Mar 17 15:04:50 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime