This is a picture of what we feed the pigs, or at least what we start with. It is a mix of four all-natural, non-GMO, locally-sourced, soy-free whole grains. We use whole corn, whole oats, whole field peas, and whole soft white wheat.
Of course, the pigs are also pastured, so they are free to eat whatever they find in the fields, which includes various grasses, plants, shrubs, roots, grubs, cow manure, etc., etc., etc. Pigs are omnivores, and, given the chance, they will have a very, very varied diet. (For example, you will notice that the list includes cow manure. Sounds gross, right? First, I don’t make them eat it. I couldn’t stop them from it if I wanted to do so. Second, a good friend of mine who raises pigs all naturally and has put a great deal of study into the matter recently told me that they actually get just about all the nutrients they need from it. So, whatever you feed them above and beyond that is just bonus! Third, it is part of how they earn their keep. They are spreading the cow manure so I don’t have to.)
Now, if you know a bit about the digestion of whole grains, you are probably thinking that my pigs can’t prosper on this stuff because they won’t be able to digest it. And, you would be right. If I were to feed it to the pigs just as you see it above, they won’t be able to digest it. It would pass right through because pigs and hogs have only one stomach and can’t break down the grains in their whole form as shown above, at least not very efficiently. (Actually, animals with multiple stomachs only do a little better at this. If you just feed whole corn to your cows, you will find a lot of it in their manure in a virtually unaltered state.)
So, I put about 13 pounds of the above mixture in a five-gallon bucket and fill it to about two inches from the top with water. Here is what it looks like at stage two:
Some of the oats and the wheat berries will float to the top, as you can see. The corn and field peas tend to remain completely submerged at this point. I then cover the buckets of my grain and water mixture and let them set anywhere from 24-48 hours.
The above is about one day’s feeding for my current herd of hogs. (We have fifteen right now.) I feed them two buckets in the morning and four buckets in the evening. I feed them more in the evening and less in the morning because I want them to be active in the pasture during the day foraging about for food.
Once the 24-48 hour period has passed, I take the lid off and feed the concoction to the pigs. Here is what it looks like after “curing.”
You can’t tell it from the picture, but it is bubbling on its own. Some of the grains start to sprout and/or ferment. All of them are broken down so that they are more digestible and their nutrients are more available to the pigs. It actually smells sweet, and the pigs love it. They drink the liquid off of it just as fast as they can, and then they wolf down the soaked, fermented, and sprouted grains just as fast as they possibly can. The only thing they like better than this mix are the table scraps we sometimes give them. Here are some of them enjoying it in a little trough I made:
It is a little extra trouble, but this method lets me feed them an all-natural, non-GMO, non-Soy feed that they love. (As you can see in the picture above!) Further, it allows me to do it cheaper than buying it already mixed. At current prices, the pre-mixed soy-free, non-GMO, all-natural pig feed is $0.29 per pound. My mix is $0.235 per pound. I don’t know for sure, but I think it takes about 900-1,000 pounds of feed to get a pig to slaughter weight in our system. If so, that saves me about $49.50 to $55 per pig. And, we just got our first pork back from the butcher yesterday, and this feed produces a pork that tastes absolutely delicious. It was the best sausage-biscuit that I had had since I was a kid eating the pork my grandparents raised, slaughtered, and processed themselves all right there on their own farm! (And, in about two weeks, we will have some for sale!)