Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Why Pigs Fall Apart on Pasture

 
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Tamworth Pigs on Pasture

Over the years I've had pigs fall apart on pasture. By "fall apart" I mean everything from not gain weight nearly as fast as others in the same pasture to the whole lot of them were having trouble thriving.

In some cases they have had to be rescued from the pasture and  propped up with crutches in order to thrive.



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What's the cause of this? It would be nice if I could narrow it down to one particular reason but many times it's a combination of things that are contributing. Let's look at a few of them.

Overly Optimistic about Your Pasture Quality.

Pigs need high quality pasture in order for it to be anything other than a supplement to grain. Think clover, or other legumes as a good percentage of the field.

Running Young Pigs on Pasture with too Little Feed.


The general rule is the younger the pig, the less he is able to utilize roughage from the pasture. You can not take pigs that are just weaned and turn them out on grass without plenty of feed supplementation and expect them to thrive. They'll fall apart.

Relying on Alternative Feeds as a Main Feed Source

I've seen small farmers attempt to feed hogs everything you can think of from stale bread to produce items, to distiller grains and everything in between.  Hogs are pretty good at eating what they are given but it will usually show up in health and weight gain.

Some alternative feeds are fine but learn some nutritional facts about swine before attempting to launch out into something that could cost you tons of time and pork in the end.

Not Catching the Clues of Pigs Starting to Fall Apart.

As an old farmer used to tell me "You need to know if an animal isn't doing well before it does."

Spend time observing your pigs on a daily basis. Learn what pigs look like and how they behave when they're healthy and thriving. When something seems different it usually means trouble. Get on top of it before it ship wrecks your pigs health.

Choosing the Wrong Pig for Pasture.

With the term "heritage breed pig" being thrown around all over the internet many folks wrongly assume this is the holy grail of pastured pigs.

It should be a head start in the right direction but it's simply not a guarantee that pigs will do well on grass. Many of the heritage breed pigs are being moved away from what made them great by breeding for different goals then the small farmer would have.

If you see a certain heritage breed showing up at all the fairs and in show pig magazines you can bet the breeder of those pigs has a different set of goals in his breeding program than will fit into your small farm with much success.

That doesn't mean there aren't lines within those breeds that are being developed for pasture and old time hog raising. Just don't assume that heritage breed automatically means good pasture hog.  

I've discussed this issue with the Tamworth breed before but it exists in some other heritage breeds as well.

Another issue is we have is the many small farmers who are breeding pigs with little or no experience in putting together a breeding program that will move them forward in their goals...assuming they have clear goals.

Final Thoughts

Raising pigs on pasture successfully is both an art and science. Study, plan carefully, and observe others. But most importantly get some pigs and learn as you go!

Until next time...

PS - Get my latest FREE Report: A Guide to Buying Pigs for Pasture click here.



 
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Alternative Forage for our Tamworth Pigs

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Tamworth Sows on Forage
When I was a kid growing up on a hog farm I'd never heard of Dwarf Essex Rape let alone knew hogs absolutely love it!

Dwarf Essex Rape is a cool season forage we use a good bit to run hogs on especially in the late fall, early winter and spring .


If not grazed down too much it will grow back for several rotations.  I have used it to reclaim old over-grown pastures by sowing a pasture mix with it.

Our sows have been on it for several weeks and have pretty much grazed it down to nothing. Time to move them soon! Besides the Rape they have been getting ear corn from our open pollinated corn. They have put on weight since being in this particular patch which is evidence that it is good forage.

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We also planted winter peas in with it. Since we broadcast them verses planting in rows they were way too thick and the rape quickly out grew them. I think next time we'll plant the peas much thinner and see how that goes.

I planted at the end of August which was about thirty days later than I wanted. However it was very dry and no rain forecast so I waited until we had rain coming.

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Dwarf Essex Rape
It ended up doing very well and has provided some really good forage for the pigs. I only wish I would have planted more!

The deer and turkeys love it too! They have devastated the end of the field near the woods. I reckon the first Monday after Thanksgiving I better break out the ol' rifle and see if I can get one of those rascals for the freezer seeing as how I'm feeding them!

Until next time...

 


 

 

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Fattening Hogs using Alfalfa Pasture - Historical Document

I have long been a collector of old agriculture books, pamphlets and documents. You can find so many good ideas that were used in days gone by.

Many of the experiments that were done at agricultural test stations across the United States are still around with tons of valuable information for the sustainable farmer.

This particular document was published in 1922 and is a study on fattening hogs for market using Alfalfa as a forage.

Something to realize about these old documents...[more]
 
 
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