Planting Fruit & Forages

Pear Tree by North Garden

This is a budding pear tree by the north garden. It’s not a recent photo – things are cold and dead right now in the heart of winter. We have no green. Yet, now is the time to think about pruning the trees I have planted and also to think about planting more.

Fruit, nuts, legumes, beets, turnips, kale, rape and other things are great additions to our livestock’s diet. People think of pasture as being grass but really it is much more than that and what it offers varies with the seasons. Clover and alfalfa, both legumes, suck nitrogen out of the air and boost the protein value of the pasture and building the soil without us having to buy fertilizers. Tubers send deep roots down right into the ledge bringing up minerals, water and other nutrients. Nuts are filled with protein and fats. Fruits provide vitamins and sugars. Variety is the spice of life and makes for better tasting meat.

So now when the cold winters months bury the land under a protective coat of white snow I plot and plan where I’ll next plant fruit and nut trees.

Outdoors: 11°F/-16 Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/67°F

Daily Spark: Fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong. -Old Saying

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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13 Responses to Planting Fruit & Forages

  1. Pablo says:

    I’m doing the same plotting and planting for my pines that will come in April. In fact, I hope to go to my woods this weekend and clear more land for them. If you’re free and in the area, come along!

  2. Jeff says:

    We have a few pear trees on our farm. The day the pears are at their perfect ripeness always follows the night the deer eat them all. :(

  3. Jon says:

    We recently got two tamworths to raise on pasture. We are trying to ween them off of store bought food and onto our grass and clover pastures but they don’t seem to want to eat much of it. Any suggestions on ways to train pigs to eat pasture when they have not been previously exposed to it? Thanks

    • Changing their feed is a process. It takes several weeks. Start by feeding them the commercial grain based hog feed later and later each day. Then gradually decrease the amount that you feed to wean them to forages. However, keep in mind that pasture alone is low in lysine, a necessary limiting amino-acid, and calories. Also smaller pig do not do as well as larger pigs. Big sows and boars are better grazers than piglets. They have bigger jaws and longer intestines.

      Our original pigs were taught to eat pasture by our sheep. They saw the sheep eating the clovers and grasses so they tried them and found them good. Now our older pigs teach the younger ones to eat pasture.

      Not all pigs do well on pasture. Those that have been bred for generations to be on grain for factory farms do not tend to do well on pasture perhaps because they have shorter gut lengths. Another theory is that they’ve lost the appendix’s ability to digest roughage. They may also not have the right flora in their digestive tracts. Or perhaps they just haven’t learned to eat pasture. Pigs are naturally hesitant about new foods because they could get poisoned by strange foods.

      Additionally some pigs do a lot better on pasture than others. Likewise some winter better. Over the years we’ve selected for those who fair better on pasture. It’s a process of selection back to a more natural pig.

      These are all reasons to get piglets from someone who is raising them on pasture.

  4. Johan van der Merwe says:

    Hi Walter, is it possible to let the pigs have access to only pasture. What can one do with the lysine problem.

    • Yes, we’ve done that four times. It works. They grow more slowly by several months and are leaner than if we have the dairy to supplement the pasture. What the pasture is like will make a big difference. When we did that, just on pasture, it was years ago prior to our improving our pastures with legumes, brassicas and such. Now I think we could do just on pasture with no supplements from off-farm even easier. Climate will also make a difference with cold climates like ares being more difficult than warmer climates. Winter is hard, summer is short.

      One thing that is easy to produce as a food for pigs is eggs. Laying hens can produce a bounty of eggs which are highly digestible and high in protein just from foraging on pasture in the warm months. We don’t feed our laying hens commercial poultry food – they work for a living and produce many thousands of eggs for our weaner, shoat and grower pigs.

      Another thing to look at is what can you grow. For us pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes, beets, turnips are all easy crops. Each climate and soil will have things it can produce well.

  5. Johan van der Merwe says:

    Thanks Walter! Will all of this solve the lysine problem or do the eggs take care of that?

    • Lysine is not missing from typical pasture. Rather it is the limiting factor. This means slower growth, but there is still growth. There are things one can do to boost the lysine, calories and digestibility including planting pumpkins, legumes, keeping hens for eggs, supplementing with dairy, etc. It is a matter of managing the limited resources or figuring out what available supplements can be added.

  6. Johan van der Merwe says:

    Hi Walter, can pigs get bloated if they eat lusern? I gave the pigs freshly cut lusern, at the end of the day when they have eaten already. I dont think they will have a problem?

    • I think that by Lusern you mean what we call alfalfa. My understanding is that bloat is a problem for ruminants. I have never heard of bloat caused by wet clover or alfalfa being a problem for pigs. However, pigs, like most species (all?) can get twisted intestines which can kill them but that is a different problem although somewhat related and often confused with bloat. If anyone knows differently I would be curious to hear.

  7. Johan van der Merwe says:

    Yes, also called alfalfa. It is considered one of the best plants to give to your animals. This morning the pigs looked fine so far. I am definitely going to plant alfalfa like you advised Walter. I want to use it to get through the winter. We here in South Africa always complain about the winter, but it is nothing compared to the snow and ice you guys have to face.

    Take care

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