Silage in Pig Diets

Discussion in 'Pigs' started by highlands, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    Time to time someone has asked if pigs can be fed silage. Here's an article in PigProgress from Germany:

    http://www.pigprogress.net/Finisher..._in_liquid_pig_diets:_No_stress,_lower_costs_

    I did try silage but the pigs were less interested in it than the other types of hay. It might be one of those things where if that is all that is offered it is good or maybe a learned thing. We dry our hay to about 25% moisture content so it isn't really silage but I suspect that some of the same principles they talk about in the article apply.

    We also feed our hay out on a deep bedding pack, typically with whole tree wood chips in the base. This composts which produces a material like the forest floor that wild pigs eat. The composting action produces heat and food. See:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2014/03/23/winter-wood-chips/
    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/01/02/pure-wood-chip-composting/
    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2014/12/28/deep-pack-bedding-temperature/

    -Walter
    Sugar Mtn Farm
    in Vermont
     
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  2. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    I know your trying Grass Fed. Never heard of giving Hogs Silage. I would think they will like Alfalfa better than any but what don't like Alfalfa.

    Back when we was feeding Hogs in the Brush around here they got Ear Corn but they would also eat Acorns and Bark off of Sprouts in the Winter.

    big rockpile
     

  3. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    We've been doing 'grass fed' (actually pasture which is not all grass) for about 15 years. It works well for us. The pigs love fresh alfalfa, something I grow as part of the mix in our pastures but I have not gotten it for winter hay as it's not common around here. I got one dried bale (1,000 pound round) of alfalfa a couple of years ago and they did like it but I don't have a reliable source, yet. The pasture/hay makes up about 80% of our pig's dry matter intake, more at times.

    -Walter
     
  4. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    The tough part for me to get folks to understand when I speak of pig siliage is I have no interest in using the stalk...which is used in most siliage....Just corn, bit of good Bermuda hay, alfalfa chaffay, and molasses
    ... Honestly because I have the corn and the molasses... And the Bermuda and alfalfa chaffay is easy to get....

    My pigs love alfalfa... My sow will quit eating other feeds and clean the chaffay right up when thrown in to her...
     
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  5. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    what you're talking about sounds mostly like a mixed ration, not silage - which is fine. The fermenting probably won't hurt the pigs - heck, they might like it more with a little alchohol in it. But that's not 'silage' as most folks understand it.

    around here when someone refers to silage they're talking about fresh forage that is kept in an airtight or air-restricted
    container until feeding, and is usually aged 30 to 90 days before first feeding. They do that with wrapped round bales or in silage pits, packed with a tractor and covered with a weighted silage tarp. The goal is to get the fresh greens to ferment a little; grass treated this way comes out with a little bit of a vinegar smell, and my cows find it delicious. the pigs are interested, but not into it nearly as much as the cows are.
     
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  6. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    Walter, you don't put up any of your own hay, right? 25% moisture is a bit too high; if your delivered hay is that, you're probably not getting the best value for your dollars. Here's a reference to what I'm talking about: https://extension2.missouri.edu/g4575

    I'm pointing this out because you're all about "dry matter intake" - at 25%, you're losing dry matter.
     
  7. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    Some people get all bent out of shape insisting on diets based on some extreme philosophy like "Grass Only" which is not the same as "Pasture" which is not the same as "Grass Fed". Just because someone does something some way sometimes doesn't mean they must be forced to do it all the time that way. Rather it is better to be adaptable. Evolution favors adaptable.

    I don't worry about such extremism and ignore the extremists. Rather I feed what resources I have readily available unless I'm purposely doing an experimental group of pigs to test things. This means that in general our pig's diets are: (%DMI = Percent of Dry Matter Intake)
    80%DMI pasture,
    7%DMI dairy (mostly whey),
    2%DMI spent barley (I would love 10x of this but don't have it. Research says can be up to 50%DMI but I find over 25%DMI is a waste out the back end - larger pigs eat it better than smaller),
    1%DMI eggs (from our pastured chickens who also don't get a grain diet - they eat pasture (forages, insects, mice) in the warm season and pigs in the winter (butcher scraps))
    1%DMI dated bread (I've tested this is fine up to 25%DMI but I never have enough to do that with all our pigs - would love to have it)
    +Apples, pears, pumpkins, sunflowers and other things we grow.

    Sometimes we get lucky and get a truck load of 'damaged' cottage cheese, peanut butter, molasses, etc. In our cold climate these things store a long time and get fed out slowly making a great addition to our pig's diet. Mostly I use these over the winter where possible when the pigs are on hay. In the summer months we have gone long periods with just pasture and whey and sometimes just pasture either because the cheese maker isn't producing much (e.g., equipment break downs, sourcing issues of the milk, low production periods, etc) or some groups just aren't near feeding areas (e.g., sows nesting in far mountain paddocks).

    Hay is stored pasture, just like we can fruits and veggies for our own table. Hay is not as good as fresh pasture but it gets the livestock through the winter. Feeding the hay out in the winter on a deep bedding pack lets it compost some which produces heat and improves digestibility - sort of a pre-digester like a ruminant's extra stomachs.

    A big part of what the diet extremists miss is that healthy pasture is a mix of many plant species. Planting it up with soft grasses, legumes (alfalfa, clovers, etc), brassicas (rape, broc, turnips, etc), amaranth, chicory or what ever else does well and is digestible makes for even better pasture. Done properly these then reseed well - part of rotational grazing technique.

    I would suggest not stressing too much over diet. Observe and learn but don't be a fanatic. There are many ways to raise a pig. They're omnivores and can thrive on a lot of different diets.

    Three sparks that sum this up:

    *** Seed is cheaper than feed.

    ***Grain is not evil, just expensive.

    *** Variety is the spice of life.

    Getting back to silage, some fermentation should improve the digestibility of the forage that is being ensilaged. One thing I like about wrapped round bales is there is some of this going on before the pigs get it. With the help of the farmer who cuts our hay I did tests years ago with different water contents and found what our pigs liked best. That farmer bales all his hay for us - our farm and his are size matched so that I only occasionally have to buy in some from elsewhere. This is good because I know he makes what I need and it will be what our pigs like. I've had some bad experiences with buying from other farms where they did things differently. I have two other backup farms where I buy a small amount of hay to keep them and us familiar.

    What I haven't tried is ensilaged corn. I think it would be good but around here it all goes to the dairy cattle. If I had a readily available supplier I would test that over a period of years to learn it but haven't yet as our current system works and it's not readily available.

    Enjoy,

    Walter
     
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  8. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    I planted, chopped and ensiled 10 acres of silage corn and fed it to both my cattle and my pigs; the cattle utilized the whole ration and apparently enjoyed it; they would pick the corn silage over hay or ensiled grass; to the extent that I had to mix it up to get them to eat the whole ration and not just their favorite (corn) part.

    The pigs are interested in silage but mostly to root through it and pick out the corn kernels, which they would spend hours doing. After the pigs got done I'd guess that more than 75% of the silage by weight remained, and there was a lot of waste. The next year I skipped the chopping and just harvested grain corn. I dried it in a grain dryer from 25% moisture down to 16%, and then used that corn as part of a ration; I added soybean meal and a mineral package and ran the whole thing through a hammermill.

    It took more work the 2nd year, but it reduced my feed costs by about 50% - by the time that iowa corn (which the farmer is being paid $3/bushel for) gets to me on the west coast it's $11/bushel. It costs me a bit to raise my corn - I couldn't make a profit at $3/bushel, but I can absolutely make a profit at $11/bushel, and that's what I compete against.

    So that's what I do now; plant corn, harvest it as grain, add some protein and minerals, feed that mash to the pigs.
     
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  9. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    The problem that many producers run into is that the customer expects a consistent diet and management structure. If the pigs are fed something different every day, or every season, there's a very real possibility that the consumer will believe that they're being misled. "I thought that this was pastured pork, not whey-peanutbutter-dairy butter-wastegrain-hay pork!"

    In my case my pork is "supermarket produce-wastegrain-7layerdip-feed-hay pork" where "feed" is sometimes store bought, and sometimes stuff I make, but always some sort of grain (corn, barley, wheat) and some sort of protein (soybean, field peas, fishmeal, dairy). I keep the pigs out on good, planted ground for the entire growing season, but there's still that consumer that expects that "pastured" means that pigs get 100% of their nutrition from the field that they're kept on.

    And finally when folks talk about pastured and (Management Intensive Grazing - MIG) rotational grazing, customers who are used to buying grass-fed beef are going to expect that the animals are rotated over the ground and the ground is given time to grow more stuff before more grazing, which is not what most pig farmers do. Most pig farmers I know of, and that includes several here do "free grazing" - which is they put a fence up around the entire field they keep the pigs and let the pigs graze inside that perimeter. Free grazing is a lot less work than rotational grazing, but it does have its own set of problems, primarily that the ground is not given a rest, and that favorite spots will concentrate disease and parasites. If you have a fixed, permament feeder, or waterer, or whey tank and it never moves you've got what I'd consider to be a problem calling it "rotational". Folks that I know of that do rotate usually have tanks or feeders that move with the herd.

    It's called MIG because it is a lot of work. If you're claiming to do rotational grazing ask yourself how often you are moving animals from one place to another leaving none behind. If the answer is "never" or "rarely" you're not doing MIG.
     
  10. gerold

    gerold Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I really don't do what a person would call rotational grazing. In the spring time with new fields planed I have the gates closed so the pigs can't get in. In the warm mos. i have large fields with different things planted, A couple 15 acres of mixed grasses. I do have each field fenced in with gates to open and close as needed. The rest of the fields have different things planted in them. Also many acres of woods pasture for them. They roam from field to field to woods each day. ponds in 4 different locations. Fresh well water daily close to where i feed them small amount of grain each morning.
    In the winter like now the pigs spend most of their time roaming and rooting in the woods pastures.

    I tried silage the first year i planed corn. Just a waste of time for my pigs. Now after processing the corn in the fall i just bushhog the stalks and plow them under.

    Most of my pork goes to Restaurants. Get the best price from them and they want natural raised pork. (Hogs weight 400 lbs. plus. ) I sell live whole hogs and do take the hogs to wherever they want them processed.
    I have never had a request from any Chef to come out and visit my farm to see my pigs.
    I used to conduct tours for some local people to come look at my stock and setup. Found it to be a waste of time and also always a chance of them bring in germs.
    Some friends and relations visit I have thin plastic bootees for them to wear when they go look at the pigs. I do have auto washers just inside my gate by the county road. Autos get a wash down before driving up to my pig area.

    I sell my pigs as pasture/woods natural raised pork. Restaurants I sell to, I took Pork Chop samples to the chefs so they could try them out for free. The product sells itself.

    I do have photos of the different pig herds out in the woods and fields enjoying life. I show these photos to the Chefs and restaurant owners I visit. I have one photo i took a few years ago (Large white sow) when she had 16 piglets when it was 10 degrees f. outside.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018 at 8:35 PM
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  11. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    There are lots of ways that you can do rotational grazing. There is no one right way. Ways that I'm familiar with are:

    - Cell grazing where it looks like checker boards or such and the animals are moved from one to the next in a line. This requires moving waterers, housing, feeders, etc to each new paddock or having them so they all have access to these things. This works well on flat land, less so on mountain country.

    - Wheel grazing where the animals are moved around a central hub which has the housing, feeders, waters. A variation is a double wheel where the hub also rotates. This works well on flat land, not at all well on rough mountain country unless very small in which case it is fitting within less rough areas typically.

    - Lane based or Tree grazing setups where paddocks are reached by lanes that lead back to housing, feeders, waters. Topologically this is much like the wheel system but stretched to fit our geographic features as we're in rough mountain land.

    ManagedRotationalGrazingTreeLanesHubsPaddocks.jpg


    All of these are perfectly valid ways of doing things and there may well be other good ways to do it too. I've used all of the above so I'm familiar with them. We run multiple boar territories each of which has multiple grazing paddocks plus we have some weaner grazing paddock systems. Most of our setup is the tree grazing system. One of the weaner grazing paddock systems is the cell system.

    -Walter
     
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  12. gerold

    gerold Well-Known Member Supporter

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  13. gerold

    gerold Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Very good. My main area where I feed pigs is close to my house . the Fields and woods are sem- surround the main area for pigs. On other side of house is fields and woods where other animals stay.
    Took me two years to get all my fencing up and ready for stock. Took a bid of planning before I dug my first pond.

    Below link is for Jamon Iberico ham. Be nice to make some, however it does take a bit of time.

    https://www.tienda.com/jamon_iberico.html

    When above link comes up go to top of that page and you will see the link , jamon/ham
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018 at 9:47 PM
  14. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    You do what most folks do with their pigs -
     
  15. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    sugar mountain farm map.jpg

    Highlands - This is the map of your farm that you've posted in the past, and it doesn't seem to match the diagram you just made. Could you show where your lanes and paddocks are on this map?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018 at 4:31 AM
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  16. haypoint

    haypoint Unpaid, Volunteer Devil's Advocate Supporter

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    I think as the public seeks healthy food, they get told that grain is bad. I see pet foods that use that anti-grain bias used as a sales tool. High end meat markets, seeing this anti-grain, pro-fresh air pasture raised beef, will promote their costliest steaks as "pasture raised". While truthful, consumers don't asked if after being raised, is it sent to a feed lot to marble up the meat?
    So, those willing to pay a premium for special, "healthier" pork expect significant differences in their diet. They expect you to earn that premium. So, that high bar pushes some hog producers to bend what "grass raised" really is. If you say that the pigs are on intensive rotational paddocks and never fed commercial hog feed, you are truthful. But if you also feed food chain rejects and food chain byproducts, is that fair? If they don't know what to ask, is it your job to teach them? If some poor soul tries to emulate your pastured pork successes, but is unaware that what you call pasture is actually a sort of pig garden and much of their feed is not grass, are we setting them up to fail?
     
  17. highlands

    highlands Walter Jeffries Supporter

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    I've long said, grain isn't evil, it's expensive.
    Pasture is something I have.
    Grain is something I can't grow readily.
    So I concentrate on mainly feeding what I have.

    Certain people get confused and think it is a mandate or holy statement.
    It's not. It's economics.

    There is plenty of evidence that feeding more pasture and less grain biases the Omega-3 to Omega-6 fat ratio towards the healthier Omega-3 side.

    Flavor is another factor - some people like meat raised eating more pasture as it comes through in the flavor. Feed determines flavor, for the most part, and flavor is stored in the fat, why marbling is important for the most part. This has a good scientific basis and I've found it to be true in my double blind taste testing over thousands of animals - a significant sample set.

    Best of all, pigs can be raised many ways on many diets and it's a pretty free country so you can do it your way. Your customers can vote in the market place buying what they like. That is the ultimate test.

    One of the problems is the anti-pasture people like to fixate on the term Grass. Not all pasture is grass. In fact, grass is only one of many species of plants and trees on pasture. As I've explained many times, here's what pasture is here - We plant:
    soft grasses (bluegrass, rye, timothy, wheat, etc);
    legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil, vetch, ect);
    brassicas (kale, broccoli, turnips, etc);
    millets (White Proso Millet, Japanese Millet, Pearl Millet);
    amaranth;
    chicory; and
    other forages and herbs.

    I do it my way as that works for me and has for going on two decades. I butcher weekly and deliver to local stores, restaurants and individuals year round. There is no magic in the water. Selective breeding for pigs that do well in our climate, in our management system, on our high pasture diet certainly helps - something anyone can do given enough animals over a long enough period of time.

    It is odd how some people claim something can't exist even though it does. It's like the people who say bumblebees can't fly. Yet the bees keep flying. It doesn't mean it is impossible, just that the naysayer is ignorant. There are a lot of people out there pasturing pigs in many ways on many diets. Lot succeed. Some fail, but not generally anything to do with the pasturing but rather just that businesses and farms do fail. Keep trying things to find what works for you.

    -Walter
     
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  18. Bruce King

    Bruce King Well-Known Member

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    Highlands: Is the diagram that you made just an example of what a grazing system might look like if someone wanted to do it, or is it a diagram of what you are doing on your farm?

    I don't want to probe your business, just wanting to be clear about what you are posting here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018 at 3:18 PM
  19. Gravytrain

    Gravytrain Well-Known Member

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    For me, pasturing has as much to do with exercise and the absence of wallowing in their own filth as it does to diet obtained from the pasture. I don't find many if any pastured pork producers marketing "grass fed" pork. My strictly pork pastures are notable for their LACK of grass and abundance of forbs, legumes and brassicas.
     
  20. haypoint

    haypoint Unpaid, Volunteer Devil's Advocate Supporter

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    I wish there were a term that was descriptive to what these terms really are. To a person buying pastured pork, that has seen cattle grazing on lush green pasture, might not think of the pasture others envision, full of wheat, turnips, clovers, piles of acorns and regular servings of commercial hog feed. Others might add restaurant waste, byproducts from a distillery, cheese plant, bakery, surplus peanut butter, potato waste, whole grain and cooked eggs.
    To a person starting out raising pigs that has an old cattle pasture, might wrongly assume that pigs would survive on an unimproved parcel of land. Pasture Raised seems self descriptive. You put pigs on pasture and they grow. Likely they'll fail. Hungry pigs will challenge fences, increasing the problems for a person new to pigs.
     
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