Questions for Highlands

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by Up North, Jun 13, 2006.

  1. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Highlands,

    I'm very interested by your posts on how you raise hogs. My biggest question is how many acres do you run your pigs on?

    How much is wooded and how much is open grass?

    I believe I read that you have 30 sows along with all of thier offspring and your boars. Do they have access to all of the acerage at once or do you rotate areas?

    How many acres per pig do you think is adequate to keep everybody well fed?

    Do you plant anything for them to forage?

    What kind of hay do you feed them in the winter?

    Sorry, lots of questions, but you seem to have a good thing going and I'm curious how you do it. I have a large amount of land (wooded and pasture) as well as a dairy farm (lots of excess milk). I would like to be able to raise my hogs with little or no grain.

    Thanks,
    Heather
     
  2. HolcombHollow

    HolcombHollow Member

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    I am interested in these questions as well. Did you ever hear from highlands?
     

  3. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Sort of. I sent this exact message to him via a PM. He immediately wrote back to me and said that I should post these questions so that everybody can read and learn from them. He must be busy. :shrug:

    Heather
     
  4. Firefly

    Firefly Well-Known Member

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  5. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    I've looked through alot of his blogs. It just makes me come up with more questions!LOL.

    Heather
     
  6. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    Sorry for the delay in responding... Things got crazy! :) I wanted you to post your questions here since then other people benefit from the answers and they may chime in with their own observations. Sharing info is good. On the other hand sometimes I am not on the board for a little while. Poke me if I don't respond. :)

    The pigs are really only on about 10 acres or so and most of their time only on about 8 acres of that. We also have three sheep (cutting back on them) and about 50 chickens and some ducks on that 10 acres. We have more land but that is the area the animals are currently really using. We can rotate them to a similarly sized section each year to rest the land, cut the parasite load, etc.

    The area where the pigs and sheep are is about half nice pasture and half brush. It used to be all brush. They don't really have any woods section right now although we are working on fencing a 10 acre portion of woods that I am going to cut part of and make part into pasture. They will help. They made the nice pasture section they have that way by grazing it in years past - it used to be brush. We do intensive rotational grazing. High tensile 4 wire electric around the perimeter with step in posts and poly wire to divide the paddocks. We also use poultry netting on occasion for containing piglets, etc.

    We rotate. We have about 30 sows, boars, piglets until they leave here and then the few growers that we keep to raise up either for future sows or to sell as market pigs, roasters, etc. Currently there are about 80 pigs out there varying from new born piglets to 700 lb sows and boar. We sell most of the piglets as weaners. I figure it at about 16,000 lbs of pig all told - that may be a better way of thinking about it rather than counting pigs.*

    Too complex a question... What is the pasture like? What other feed to they get if any? How big are the pigs? Are they growers, sows, etc? The easiest way to figure it is start small and keep increasing the pigs, intensively rotationally grazing them, until you find the balance. That balance will change as the pasture quality changes (hopefully improving).

    Okay, all that said, on our half brushy northern mountain pastures we have about 2,000 lbs of pig per acre sustainably over the year. That equals to about 20 grower pigs per acre. Seems a little high. The intensive rotational grazing is critical. Otherwise you'll end up with degraded pastures. Put them on small areas that they will eat down to 2" in a week and then move them to a new section. Never come back to the same section in less than 30 days. This gives the pasture time to regrow and gives the parasites time to die for the most part. Putting chickens in behind them is even better. There are lots of books and articles about intensive grazing.

    We are transforming brushy pasture so I do seed behind the animals. I like adding clover in addition to the grasses. Alfalfa would be good too. Lots of choices. Down side is seed cost money.

    You can also very intensively graze the pigs and sheep, mob grazing, and then seed sugar beets, sunflowers, corn, turnips, etc for them to eat in the fall. I've done that and it works. Not absolutely necessary but good.

    Cheap hay. :) Given the choice between wonderful hay that I would want to eat (I must be a horse) and something nasty the pigs usually go for the nasty. :) Different tastes. Beware that mold may cause abortions. I do not purposefully buy them nasty hay though. I do buy them the cheaper hay. Horse hay is expensive. Cattle hay less. Sheep hay is the cheapest. I look for it being leafy, some clover mixed in, alfalfa if I can get it. It should not dust. It can be a year old but will be lower in vitamins and other values. I just bought 800 lbs of hay for a dollar a small square bale (60 lbs each) because someone had too much left from last year and needed to clear out the barns for the new incoming hay. If nothing else it is good bedding but this was very nice hay for the most part. Big 4x4 800 lb round bales are a lot less expensive than the small square bale. I like them wrapped since I have no barn to store the round bales in. The wrapped bales keep their food value better too. Wrap costs about $3 per 4x4 bale added to the price.

    They'll love that - Milk is wonderful food for pigs, especially mixed with hay. Hay adds fiber and carbon to their diet which means less stinky poops and urine. This helps retain nutrients. Spread lots of hay bedding and hay in the winter in their winter garden-corrals. Then in the spring we let them till up the garden-corrals for a couple of weeks. Don't let the soil get packed. We follow them with chickens for a few weeks, they weed and scratch the soil. Then we plant. Works great.

    Pigs are easy and fun. I like them better than our sheep although I get along well with our ram - he's a swell guy. :) Pigs though I enjoy. And they are more economically viable for a small farm than sheep. Less fragile my wife points out.

    Cheers,

    -Walter


    *Funny story: People ask us how many pigs we have and I tend to say 30 sows. I don't tend to count all the others. The real number of pigs is between 60 and 150 depending farrowing times, weaning, slaughter, etc. This point was driven home recently because a local butter and cheese company wanted to get rid of (organic!) whey. Their rep asked how many pigs we had. I said 30 sows. He then estimated how much whey they would drink and came up with a number I knew to be way too low for our herd. I realized the problem: he had estimated based on 30 grower pigs - sows eat a lot more and there are other pigs in the herd. I hadn't really understood the question or where he was going with it and I had assumed he knew more than he did. I explained, no those were 30 sows of 400 to 700 lbs each and then there were the others - the piglets, weaners, roasters, finishers, boars, gilts... That all made a big difference. It is funny how our little assumptions and ways of thinking can trip us up. :)
     
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  7. Buckles

    Buckles Well-Known Member

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    Do pigs enjoy feeding and rooting on wooded acreage? I have around 12-15 acres of wooded oak trees that I would want to eventually clear. I imagine there is tons of food there, but not much grass so I was not sure if this is land they would use. I figure they would if for nothing other than the literally tons and tons of acorns.
     
  8. Muleman

    Muleman Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Pigs absolutely eat stuff in woodlands. I have been fortunate enough to know some old men who used to run pigs in the woods during the summer when it was still legal to ear mark them and run them at large. In Louisiana when my father was growing up they would turn them out in the swamps. Here in Arkansas they would run them over into what is now the buffalo national park. Remember pigs eat both plants and animals. So everything from grass to acorns to squirrels to snakes to fawns are on the menu, lots of those things in the woods.
    Just a funny related story. I knew an old man who died a few years ago who ran pigs over in the forest about 15 miles from his place. They would move them over in the spring and gather them up in the fall. No big trucks, no trailers, they drove them. He said they would drive them back, of course through other peoples properties on the way home (not a lot of fences then to worry about). He said they always wound up with more animals when they got home than when they left the forest. They would run through other herds and some of the pigs would tag along and just get mixed up in his herd.
     
  9. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    Yes, pigs do enjoy the wooded areas but the pastures are where most of the food is on our farm. Unfortunately we do not have oak trees which would significantly boost the food forage value of woods. We have some beech and other nut trees as well as apple trees. I wish we had oaks. I'm planting them... Patience. :)

    (Note to update the above - things have expanded since that post on this old thread. We now use about 70 acres for pastures which includes some brush and trees in all areas and we now have about 400 pigs, about 60 breeders and about 300 to 500 chickens at any time.)