Boar Carrying Hay
Time to time someone tells me pigs can’t eat grass, can’t eat pasture, can’t grow on a low calorie diet, must be fed grain, etc. Aside from the fact that not all pasture is grass they are simply wrong. I’ve watched pigs thrive and grow on 100% pasture. More importantly the point is not to just feed pasture but rather that pasture is a part of their diet, in our pigs’s case about 80% of what they eat based on dry matter weight of the feed.†
There may be a reason that our pigs do so well on the high fiber diet of pasture and hay. It is a very small reason. A tiny detail. One of the littlest details you might imagine. But vastly important according to some recent scientific research out of Brazil.
In the current issue of PigProgress there is an article article “Improving digestibility of swine feed using probiotics” they say:
A new Brazilian study shows that a swine feed supplement containing Bacillus subtilis and B. licheniformis markedly improves digestibility, allowing pigs to get more nutrition from lower-energy diets.
This is something we’ve been doing for years with our yogurtizing of milk and whey. It promotes good gut health, just like in humans. Based on years of observing their manure and growth rates I saw that the pigs did better and digested more of their feed when they had some yogurt in their diet. For this reason we culture our big dairy tanks to create an ongoing flow of probiotics into our pigs’s diet.
My suspicion is that the better diverse gut bacteria help the pigs to digest high fiber diets like hay, grass, clovers and other forages in much the same way that bacteria in the guts of cattle and termites help them to digest fiber.
The study went on to say:
“When animals can obtain more nutrients and energy from their feed, producers can save money by using a reduced-energy diet, while maintaining the performance of their pigs.”
This fits very well with pasturing, which is a reduced energy diet. There have been a number of other studies out of the USA and Briton which have also emphasized the benefit of lower calorie, higher fiber diets for pigs and especially for sows. Turns out the scientific community is discovering what many pastured farmers figured out several thousand years ago. Great news!
Little details like gut flora may make the difference between success and failure in any system. The reason some nay-sayers fail at raising pigs on pasture could be as simple as they’re not paying attention to the small things in life, like bacteria.
Good gut bacteria lead to better lives.
Success is in the details.
Related article that just came across my desktop:
Combating Weaner Stress in Piglets
Outdoors: 45°F/4°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/62°F
Daily Spark: Does a bear shit in the woods? Not if the Agency of Natural Resources can help it!
†Dry matter is the standard for how diets are measured for simplicity and because knowing the dry matter weight of each type of food in diet you can then calculate everything else about the diet such as energy, calories, proteins, etc.