The practice of letting pigs eat the corn from the stalks is a good alternative way of finishing pigs. It is a great labor saving practice because instead of having to pick the corn the pigs do the picking! It was a popular method in the early 1900's as corn harvesting was much more labor intensive than it is now.
It works well today if you don't have all the equipment to harvest the corn and store it. (which I don't) You basically turn the hogs into the corn when it's ready to pick. The corn can be higher moisture than it would be if storing so there is also the savings of drying the corn.
Another advantage is the hogs are distributing the manure through out the field so there is no cleaning the barn. This is something we do year around as I hate cleaning barns. All our pigs are on pasture Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.
It is best if the fertilizer is spread by the animals verses having to do it with equipment. With fuel costs on the rise constantly, I figure why go that route when the pigs can do it themselves.
Some disadvantages to this type of feeding is you will have some waste. The best way seems to be allow the pigs access to small sections of the field at a time so they don't wander around knocking corn down and not eating it. This is easily accomplished by using electric fencing.
Chickens help clean up so a few laying hens running around are a good way to keep waste to a minimum. They will also add to the manure and they have a higher nitrogen content to their manure so it helps in that way as well.
Another disadvantage is the pigs should have some size to them when you turn them in as corn alone is good as a finisher. The last eight weeks or so of the pigs life before slaughter is best so timing is an issue.
I plan to plant open pollinated corn this Spring and seed dwarf essex rape or maybe field peas or perhaps both in the corn. Both of these are high in protein whereas the corn isn't so this should help balance the ration. I hope that this will enable me to run the pigs at a slightly younger age for a longer time period. Maybe run some smaller pigs to help clean up after the bigger ones? I found a open pollinated seed corn that does well in Ohio. You can visit their website here.
Plus we will be feeding fresh goats milk so the pigs should do quite well.
One of many reasons why we like pigs here at Spring Hill Farms, they are so versatile.
Until next time!