Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Pastured Polutry & Tamworth Pigs in the Winter

 
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Tamworth Pigs
Ever wonder how you keep grass-fed pigs and chickens eating grass in the winter? The main way of course is to feed hay. We feed all our stock hay in the winter including the chickens. Old breed chickens will scratch through good hay and eat a bit of green material but I love finding ways to trick them into eating more!

When you're dealing with animals that aren't herbivores this can be tricky. Our older pigs will eat good hay very well. Notice I said good hay. There is a lot of stuff sold these days with the term "good hay" used and if you were to check the protein content you would find it's not that great.

Without digressing into a blog post on how to determine if hay is good enough for your particular livestock, let me just say find a good farmer you can trust if you don't make your own hay and buy from them.

We feed a lot of Alfalfa mainly because it's available here in Ohio and if I'm going to spend much money on hay I want something that is going to be nutrient dense.  So when you're spending hard earned money, it almost sickens you to think it's getting wasted.

Feeding hay on the ground is the best way I know to waste it. Unless you have some good grass hay and use it to bed pigs also. I learned this from Walter over at his blog. Walter and his family are the real deal when it comes to sustainable farming and raising pigs on pasture.

Anyway, one thing that's always bothered me is when feeding good, leafy, Alfalfa hay, is the amount of leaves that drop off every time you handle it. Some hay is worse than other, but no matter what you lose some every time you handle it.

For instance I bust a bale open and head for the goats with a couple flakes and as I'm picking it up I see what looks like TONS of dust size green leaves falling onto the ground when I separate it from the bale.

After a few days of feeding the goats the hay rack has about 3 or 4 inches of this green material laying in the bottom and they will not eat it.

 

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Alfalfa Rack for Pigs
Same way with the hogs. I feed them in hay racks I made based on the old ones used back years ago which have a trough built in the bottom to feed grain. This also helps keep hay off the ground where it is quickly trampled in by the pigs feet. (See picture). I could have tromped out and taken a picture of one of my own, but it seemed easier to keep drinking coffee and use one I already had on the computer!

These hay racks also end up with green hay dust in them about 4 or so inches deep. If you're feeding something besides Alfalfa, it's called hay seed. I suppose you could call this stuff hay seed too but I never had a problem cleaning out hay seed and throwing it on the ground. But I can not bring myself to do that with this nice green rich looking product! It's actually home made alfalfa leaf meal.

So I found another use for it...I now take it out and put it in a five-gallon bucket and feed it back to the chickens and young pigs.

I say young pigs because the younger the pig, the less green material they are willing/able to consume. As pigs get older they are much better at utilizing roughage.

The chickens get hay on the ground in the coop but they really don't eat as much as I wish they would. So...I mix this dust or hay seed or alfalfa leaf meal or whatever you care to call it with the chicken feed.

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Home Made Alfalfa Leaf Meal
Same way with the young pigs. I mix it in the self-feeder and it gets eaten instead of wasted. I have checked the feeders after mixing it in and it is gone, no picking around it, they eat it. So I'm thrilled to take something it used to kill me to waste and feed it, since that's what I bought it for to begin with.

We don't grind our own feed, but if we did, it would be perfect to toss in the grinder when batching feed. Alfalfa meal has been used as both pig and chicken feed in years gone by but not so much now. The old trio mixture for pigs contained alfalfa or other legume hay.

We do the same thing with the hay the goats pull out and drop on the ground around the rack. Gather it up and throw it to the hogs. Just one more reason why farms should practice multi-species grazing.

What one won't eat another will. Especially with a bit of trickery!

Until next time...
 
 
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