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Hey pig people!

Got a question for you folks. We live in WI and have raised pigs two summers now, learning as we go (I'm a goat, cow, chicken and horse person). First summer we did two red wattles. Nice pigs. This year with the pig shortage and high prices, we went with some regular white pigs a local guy sells to 4H/FFA kids (he has a dozen breeding sows). Didnt like these pigs. So poorly built the biggest one ripped his rear hock tendon or dislocated hip, something anyway, so he had to be butchered a bit light at 200 lbs. All three had pneumonia prior to that. Didn't care for those at all.

My husband loves the pigs. I'm thinking a trio of AGH would be nice as they can pasture in my big goat pasture, when necessary, the boar can be locked in my 75x50 pen with my bucks, just a smaller, docile breed that would work well with my set up.

Question tho, is feeding hay in winter, what kind of hay? And then just a couple cups of grain from what i'm reading? Is there a hog mineral?

Thanks!
 

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We keep pigs and farrow year round. Winter is a lot harder, about six times harder, than the warm season. We use hay to replace the summer pastures - that makes up the vast majority of our pigs's diet. Year round we supplement with whey which makes up about 7% of their diet. (See http://SugarMtnFarm.com/pigs for details and follow feed links.)

Expect slower growth during the winter. Wind breaks are very important. We keep our pigs outdoors year round - they have open sheds available but they rarely use them, preferring to sleep outside. We make deep bedding packs out of wood chips with a layer of hay on top on sloped ground. Then keep adding hay all winter. We go through about 400 lbs of hay per hundred weight of pig per winter plus about 800 lbs per farrowing. Most of this is round wrapped hay at about 25% moisture - fairly dry. About 800 lbs to 1,000 per 4x4 bale. Smells sweet and slightly liquory.

Before you try this realize that management and genetics are critical. I would suggest starting out feeding a commercial hog feed as you get a grasp of the complexities. We do it with almost all pasture and hay but I've had 11 years of hard selection on our herd genetics to produce pigs that thrive through our northern central Vermont mountain winters - much like yours probably - and there is a big difference between what we started with and what we have now on the genetics and how well they do.

One thing that I've come to suspect may be important is that we build deep bedding packs. The hay composts in the bedding packs and the pigs eat it all up. That composting action may be acting as a key part of the digestive process that has not previously been recognized with pigs. I had noticed years ago that the pigs liked the older hay with mushrooms growing out of it - not moldy/dusty as that can have mycotoxins.

I also suspect that there is a positive interaction between feeding whey which lowers the gut pH and feeding pasture/hay.

-Walter
 
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