Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.
Reduce your risk, pasture your pigs
Feb 17, 2013
Reduce your risks, pasture your pigs
If your raise any type of livestock utilizing some form of grain, whether it’s cattle, chickens, lambs or pigs, you know what it’s like when you get the statement from your feed mill each month. OUCH!
So why not use less or NO GRAIN? O.K., I understand that when raising chickens you can’t completely cut out grain type feeds. The same holds true for most pigs. But you can drastically cut back on their feed by giving them the pasture space they need to naturally forage for the minerals and nutrients they need. We choose to raise our BEEFALO cattle strictly on grass & hay. That’s 100% Grass-fed from birth to butchering. We have over the last 5 years been cross breeding pigs to naturally design an almost completely Grass-fed pig. The genetics that we used, have gotten us to the point that our pigs will choose a good "quality" hay over their grain!
In addition to being able to cut waaay back on feed, we have a better handle on what they are consuming because we produce all the hay we need for our cattle and pigs. The feed we "supplement" our pigs with is produced at a local farm that grows, harvests, dries, grinds and bag’s the feed mix recipe that we designed without any antibiotics. Why no antibiotics? Because they don’t need them when they are outside on pasture. And because antibiotics do more harm than help to the animals and in the end, you the consumer.
There was a study done way back in1988 where a herd of pigs that had not been exposed to antibiotics for 126 months was divided into two groups and either housed on pasture or in standard indoor units. Over a 20-month period, fecal coliforms from both groups of pigs were tested for resistance to standard antibiotics. Samples taken from the pastured pigs were far less likely to be antibiotic resistant. The data from this study suggest that exposure to antibiotics is not the only factor that influences the prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to single and multiple antibiotics in the feces of domestic animals and that considerable research is needed to define the factors influencing antibiotic resistance in fecal bacteria.
Why are producers giving their livestock antibiotics when they aren’t sick? Just because "everyone else is doing it" isn’t a good reason. Do you take or give to your children antibiotics every morning for breakfast? Of course not! You might take a vitamin or multivitamin, but even that isn’t necessary when you pasture pigs.
We just had a litter of 14 piglets. We didn’t give the Gilt any pre-natal injections or supplements, and we never give our piglets iron shots, another "industry standard". Why? Because as I stated earlier, they aren’t needed because our animas get all the minerals they need from being on pasture. You wouldn’t believe how much good stuff there is in dirt!
There are environmental and social issues that will continue to have an impact on confinement operations. Compared with pigs raised indoors, pasture systems significantly reduce problems associated with animal-rights groups, health of operators, and environmental concerns associated with dust, odor, and waste disposal. Pasture-based systems have a "built-in" waste management system because hogs disperse their waste over the land as they graze.
The main two ingredients in conventional swine diets are corn and soybean meal. Often, these crops are managed as continuous row-crop production using potentially ground-water contaminating pesticides and fertilizers. Pasturing hogs reduces the reliance on corn and soybean production because forage crops will meet a portion of their daily nutrient needs. Therefore, a pasture-based system should have a positive social impact on the community, especially with people that are environmentally-sensitive and/or troubled with methods used with producing pork in confinement.
Finally, hogs raised outdoors often have fewer problems with respiratory diseases and foot and leg problems than hogs reared in confinement. Healthier hogs means less antibiotic use, period.