June 7, 2011 at 10:37 pm #16453
I am a missionary working on an economic project for the indigenous Maya people in southern Belize. We are trying to work on a viable means of raising pork inexpensively. They primarily buy a prepared pig supplement that they then mix with corn, or other home grown crops and keep the pigs enclosed.
I am wanting to move towards pasturing the pigs. We live in a subtropical climate here, so vegetation grows quickly. I am thinking I may need to import Large Black pigs, because of their ability to feed off of grass. Do any of you raise your large blacks strictly on pasture? Do you supplement?
This is my rough idea so far:
Fence off a 2 acre square, and place a thatch roofed shelter in the center, along with a solar powered well. Then divide off pie shaped paddocks radiating out from this center. The pigs (5-6 sows, one boar, and their offspring) would be rotated through the paddocks, but enclosed in the shelter at night. The reason for the enclosure is that we have a serious problem with vampire bats here that destroy the sows tits, rendering them unable to nurse their young. Does that number of pigs for two acres seem reasonable? Do you have any suggestions, or other ideas?
Some have suggested that a 2 acre square is too small for the pigs + their offspring. Any thoughts on that?
I really appreciate any input you can offer.
RebeccaJune 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm #17475Member: WI Harvey WorkParticipant
What a super idea!! All very interesting Rebecca, because that is the very model I have designed for my pasture in my finished grazing plan, figuring the same amount of animals. A center hub, so they are always right by the new pasture. I use electric fence quite efectively, but sometimes the sows are hesitant to move into new pasture where there has been an electric fence. If the hub is designed correctly though, the access fence to the individual paddocks could be made differently.
As I am just now putting in the fence structure I do not know how often you will need to move the sows. If you move them when the pasture is eaten down to 3-4 inches they should not root up the pasture too bad, unless they have a need in their diet that would cause them to want the roots. This also allows for faster rebound of the pasture.
I have found my Large Blacks to not tear up pasture too bad if there is ample young forage for them. If the pasture gets too mature they can be selective graziers also. Also the rotational grazing forces them to eat what is there, AND distributes the manure evenly which helps add to the well being of the pasture, as it is all a “system” to be maintained in a well working grazing situation. If you want to get really crazy with the pasture system, for total utilization and pasture management we intend to follow the sows with a small ruminat such as sheep or goats to help with weeds and any selective grazing – almost “free pasture” for the sheep or goats.
One other suggestion. I have found that the Large Blacks, more so than my other breeds, will almost live off of pasture. But, one will need to make sure some of the forage is high in protein. In my climate in Wisconsin I find alfalfa is their favorite. Not sure if that works in your case? Also, you may need a suplement for vitamins and minerals. If you would like further information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Good luck with a great idea!June 8, 2011 at 9:33 pm #17476Member: TX Shiner PorkParticipant
I was hoping that some others would post, but I’ll give it my best shot. We’ve been raising LB hogs for about three years now, so this is just my opinion from my experience. We live in Shiner, Texas, receive about 36″ of rainfall a year. The temperature’s during the summer are between 72-106 degrees Fahrenheit, in the winter, it’s unusual, but we do get into the low teens on occasion. So let’s get to your questions:
I think a lot of us try and go 100% pasture/grass fed. Supplements are important, as their are minerals and vitamins that pigs need/require that aren’t always available by grass. If they are already buying a prepared supplement and mixing it with corn, etc… then they are probably doing O.K. . Supplements are more important while the sows are lactating, as their bodies are producing as much milk as possible, sometimes even at the expense of their own health. Winter, if you have one, will see an increase in supplemental feed requirements. Prepare to plant winter grasses, if required.
I like the paddock idea and have seen similar set-ups, especially with cattle. You may want to increase your acreage if you’re going to be running 7 animals (3/4 an acre per animal is a good start until you see what their requirements/feeding habits are). Rotational grazing will be important, and though opinions will differ, having a dedicated pen/area for birthing litters is important to me in my operation. Diversity of grasses/plants is desirable, though not required, but different plants pull different minerals from the soil.
I hope some of this helps and I’ll be happy to answer any other questions that I feel like I am able/qualified to answer. I’ll recommend other people, with vastly more experience, when the need arises.
Take care, good luck and if you need piglets…
Shiner Prairie FarmWorks
Shiner, TexasJune 28, 2011 at 4:33 am #17484Member: WA dalanfarmParticipant
I’ll give my 2 cents. First how many head you can run per acre is going to depend on how fast the forage can recover post graze, how many head you run, etc. I live where we get 15-20″ of rain and have to irrigate. If I put 4 adult sows with piglets on 2 acres of Orchard grass an alfalfa, I would expect about 2 weeks of grazing before there would be little left. I’d probably supplement with hay and evening feedings of chow to extend my rotation.
One of the problems I ran into with a grass only pasture is that most of the pasture grasses I can plant that will survive the winter are “cool season” grasses and they more or less stop growing when its over 80-85. I’ve been overseeding alfalfa to get some forage that will grow when it’s hot. So far so good.
Whatever you select I do strongly suggest mixing forbs, legumes and grass if possible.June 29, 2011 at 6:18 am #17485
This might make some folks unhappy but I think a little reality is needed here.
“I am thinking I may need to import Large Black pigs, because of their ability to feed off of grass.”
Large Black hogs cannot live off of grass alone. I don’t know of any hog that can. Unlike cattle, goats and sheep, hogs have single stomachs and cannot effectively process grass into required nutrients. Pregnant and lactating sows, and their piglets, require at least 16% protein; most grasses don’t have half that. If the purpose of this project is to provide a lower cost food source then pasturing will certainly lower the overall cost but the hogs will still need supplementation.
There must be at least 30% legumes or other high protein vegetation in a forage mix for a hog to maintain weight; 50% or more to gain weight.
My pastures are 40% white clover and the remainder mixed grass and my hogs have full access to our forests. But I still have to feed about ten pounds of complete feed per hundred weight of hogs every four days just to maintain their condition. Pregnant and lactating Large Blacks on good pasture need about four lbs of feed per hundred weight daily.
Frankly, if the Maya will be growing these for food I think they are better off pasturing whatever cross hogs are locally available. Large Blacks grow much slower and take longer to get to a butcher weight, especially on a pasture diet. Not to mention the cost of purchase and importation. Although Large Blacks are good on pasture; better than most modern breeds; there are other heritage breeds that require less supplementation.
I do not know what type of vegetation will be available to your hogs but I highly suggest having a livestock nutritionist take a look before you go too far into your plan. Unless there will be at least 16% protein as part of their total food intake from forage you will need to include feed supplementation in your plan.
BrianJune 29, 2011 at 8:27 am #17486
Raising ‘whatever cross hog is available’ is something that has been tried by people before and they wish they never had. A cross hog is likely to be based on a commercial breed that does not have the genetics that will allow it to do well or will require it to have much more supplemental feed. While cross hogs may have the advantage of hybrid vigor, that trait is not guaranteed and a pure bred hog can outperform a cross.
There are many more factors than just growth rate that should be taken into account when dealing with a hog. Size, piglet mortality rate, nutritional content and ease of handling, etc should also be considered. While, as has been mentioned in this thread, no hog is naturally going to be ideal for grass only raising, any reduction in expensive supplemental feed is going to have a long term positive impact. Large Blacks go a long way down that path.June 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm #17487
I guess it comes down to the purpose of the project. I’m reading into this that the OP is looking to help a rural group provide more meat at a lower cost and the OP is under the false assumption that LBs can live on grass or that grass is a good diet for hogs. If the purpose is to provide the most pork at the lowest cost it is probably best done using the lowest cost pigs available. The fact that cross hogs will probably grow faster than purebreds would help reduce the cost of time to slaughter versus using Large Blacks. The Large Black’s advantage on pasture would not cover the additional cost (purchase, importation) within the near term.
Now if cost and time to slaughter are not factors then, over time, LBs might be a good solution. But I often see new folks ask about LBs based on false assumptions and when the reality doesn’t meet their needs, LBs suffer damage to their reputation. Remember “Large Blacks don’t root?” I’ve met lots of people that found out differently and became folks that told others that Large Blacks were not good hogs. “Large Blacks can live on grass” is another false statement that has harmed the breed when the truth became evident.
Large Blacks are a wonderful breed with clear advantages in certain situations. But as an ethical breeder I have a responsibility to ensure the breed can meet the customer’s expectations. I have turned down lots of potential customers when I learned they expected something this breed could not provide. I would rather not have any folks have bad experiences with Large Blacks.
If I’m wrong about my assumptions then I hope the OP will clarify the need and expectations. The pasture plan is sound. My concern is the choice of hog is not if I am right in my assumptions.
Here is my article that may be helpful in the importance of clarifying needs and assumptions. https://largeblackhogassociation.org/different-strokes/June 30, 2011 at 5:15 am #17488
Again, cost benefits have to take into account the amount of supplemental feed and a variety of other factors before a relevant decision can be made. I am just really concerned that you would recommend any old cross breed over the LB when you have no clue about the types of those cross breeds. You could easily be dooming the project to total failure. People need to get over this ridiculous and non scientifically based notion that any cross breed will grow and reproduce better than a pure bred. There is no empirical evidence that proves that statement. Every pig can be subject to genetic flaws, pure bred, low CI or otherwise. A high CI proven breeder or grower is better than a low CI or cross bred that doesn’t perform. A lower birth rate can be tolerated if there is less nesting fatalities and less hassle raising, etc.
I agree that the expense of bringing in LBs to a country may not be worth it, but again you have no idea how much that would cost nor how much each pig would cost. I have seen LBs sold as low as $150 and as high as $1500 (I’m sure there are other prices out there).
Base decisions about a pig, whatever the breeding, on parents and it’s own performance. If you get trapped in the ‘low CI’ or ‘cross breed’ only trap, you are asking for trouble. I and I’m sure most of the others that read these posts are ethical in their breeding practices and there are probably many of them that would join me in saying that the LBs are a viable option for this project and they should not be discounted without further research.
RichardJune 30, 2011 at 8:10 am #17489
“You could easily be dooming the project to total failure.” Just a bit of hyperbole, right? Surely you don’t believe that. I’m sure that Rebecca is completely capable of reviewing the information she gathers and making good decisions.
I could address your other statements but they have nothing to do with what Rebecca asked and this is not about you and me. It is about a person reaching out for help. Hopefully my input is useful as she continues her research.June 30, 2011 at 10:23 am #17490
Hyperbole? No, I think not. The wrong pig would cause a major problem. Of course Rebecca is capable of reviewing the information, but she has to have both sides of the story hence my comments.
My other comments addressed other things I have read in this thread and are therefore relevant. Your comments are just as useful as any others in this thread and you are right it’s not about you and me, I was just having my say like everyone else.
Hopefully everyone’s input on this thread is useful to Rebecca. I’m sure it is.
RichardJuly 2, 2011 at 1:21 am #17491Member: WA dalanfarmParticipant
Brian brings up a good point, and I wan to clarify. My phrase about supplimenting with hay and evening chow is not clear. I feed a 16% ration (in similar quantities to what brian notes), regardless of where the hog is living (farrowing/overwintering in a pen, or out on pasture).
And while LBH definitely root, they are typically less destructive than other breeds.
Any pig can live and forage without supplimentation. But that’s when they’re feral/wild and free to move great distances while feeding. But wilf feral pigs often have litters as small as 4-6, and rarely get beyon 200# unless they have access to exposed food (i.e. they’re eating row crps or stealing sack feed meant for other animals).
If in any form of confinement (pastures, pens) supplimentation is likely, especially if your marketing the end product (breed stock or feeders).
I do think the LBH would be a good candidate for this project (they appear to have done well in similar conditions), but unless there is a plan to let them establish feral populations, they will need some “chow” in addition to pasture nibbles.July 2, 2011 at 7:19 am #17493Member: TX Shiner PorkParticipant
Isn’t it funny that hogs have lived ten’s of thousands of years before humans domesticated them, and we think that they can’t live without us?
Long live the Pig!
RossJuly 2, 2011 at 8:34 am #17494Member: MO chhogsParticipant
If memory serves me correctly, I can remember Ken & Kay Wolfe taking a load of pigs to Haiti abotu 3 years ago. Well they didn’t actually take them over but did take them to Miami or somewhere for them to be transported to Haiti. The reasons being that when the dictator or whatever happened over there (my history is not that great) got into power they killed all the Large Black pigs (or similar breed) that were on the island. Once the war was over some bright spark decided to bring in any old “pink” pig to replace them. It was a disaster because these pigs had no clue how to thrive on grass & were having to be fed way too much grain which of course is even more expensive in a poor country. I have never heard an update as to how the Large Blacks have done on the island so if anyone has an update that would be good. BUT it is vital to introduce a good pasture pig. AND not only that it is important to make sure that wherever the pigs are purchased from that they have been raised on pasture.
Liz – MissouriJuly 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm #17496
The indigenous pigs were Creole pigs, not Large Blacks, and all the pigs on the island were eradicated due to the presence of disease. There is considerable controversy over why this happened and if it was necessary. There is ample evidence that the Haitian elites and U.S. hog business interests gained a lot from this newly created market.
A number of breeds were imported to replace the hog population. Yorks, Durocs, Hamps, Large Blacks, crosses and others, including Creole-type hogs from other islands. If you use Google you will find dozens of reports on the success and failure of these breeds on the island; everyone has an opinion and every opinion is based on bias. I did find interesting the following statement on the website of the association that is trying to increase the Large Black hog population:
“Research has showed that the piglets of the Large Black have the highest weaning weight compared to all other breeds.” Clearly this organization is not immune to stretching the truth in order to gain funding for its project. They are also not raising them on pasture. “At the farm, we feed them moringa leaves, sugar cane, mangoes, breadfruit, leaves etc. We occasionally supplement their diet with commercial feeds.”
What seems to be evident is that the indigenous Creole Pig was a very successful pig breed and removal of the breed was devastating to the Haitian peasant population. 20 years later the repopulation program still has not reversed the damage despite the different breeds that have been imported.
This doesn’t mean that Large Black hogs would not be successful in the OP’s project. But I would use the Haiti project as a “lessons learned” when introducing new breeds.July 4, 2011 at 7:24 am #17498
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