Fresh hay, yum!
It's been a few weeks since I've posted last, busy and distracted from my pig posting. During that time I have been experiencing the joy of livestock in the winter. I need to say though, even on the coldest mornings, I enjoy getting outside and checking on the animals.
That said, the pigs are growing well. My husband, who is an old-time conventional farmer, isn't as comfortable with these newfangled lean, forage-based pigs. Most butchering hogs are raised on corn and soy - super fat and super stout.
**Warning, this post is a bit long and technical, written for my readers who are considering doing this themselves. Sorry if it gets boring.**
Dirty little pig!
These pigs are tall and lean, and eating like crazy! On average, they are eating a half of bale of hay a day, some times more. We are feeding high quality alfalfa, and if we didn't have this hay in storage, I would be purchasing round bales for the pigs.
I supplement their hay with cheap vegetable protein sources like rice and beans (bought for super cheap prices at a local scratch and dent and I cook up a pot for each meal), beans, peas and lentils - whatever I can find that is inexpensive and 'clean'. I have so far been able to stay away from conventional or organic pig feed - which is mainly corn and soy. I did get 1000lbs of whole grain oat-based feed, and have it ground with alfalfa for a custom, protein-packed, low-corn/soy, pig feed. I mix that with hot water to make a mush. They gulp that right down.
They have a deep bed (about 4 feet) of mulched hay in the shed, and dig down to the bottom every day, rooting around and snuggling under the mulch. On the warmer days, they head out into the paddock to root around and run around, but mostly they stay in the shed.
Chickens sharing pig paddock
Feeding the whey has been problematic, because I do not have a heated storage shed for the barrels. In addition to the problem of freezing whey, I have been needing to carry the buckets up myself, and my right shoulder can't handle the weight of the buckets. Added to that, the pigs don't like freezing cold whey or water (who WOULD in winter time?!), and the challenge of whey has me scratching my head.
I still do get them whey, but I pour out each barrel into 5 gallon buckets, bring the frozen buckets in the house to thaw out, then heat the whey on the stove to room temperature so they will drink it.
Loving the hay!
The lesson here is this: INFRASTRUCTURE.
If my infrastructure had been well planned and executed, my time would be put to much better use. Cooking for pigs twice a day was not what I had envisioned.
Looking back, I had great ideas, but not the skill or help to execute them. To do this efficiently, I need a pole shed with at least one room that I can keep at 40 degrees. (The whey won't freeze above 38 degrees) A 250 gallon tank, with a spigot to a tank outside would be a great solution. I'd put the tank on a cement pad to keep it out of the mud. My water tank and my whey tank would be on the back side of my pole shed, under a roof, on a cement pad. The actual pig enclosures would be out in the woods, close enough to take out round bales, but far enough from the building to keep them from making a mess near the shed.
As I said, I've been learning a lot. I am excited to get the pigs raised and out of here, but am hoping to create enough infrastructure to raise them each winter. The plus side to raising hogs in the winter is the lack of flies, and no smell. A great plus for a small landholder who has neighbors.
We are about 3 months from butchering, and looking forward to our healthy, lean pork!