Spring hog forage:
No native or naturalized trees can provide crops for the pigs. However despite being single stomached and non ruminants, pigs can surprisingly digest just about anything with no ill effects. That includes pasture grasses, weeds and cultivated crops. As a result, early plantings of brassicas like turnips, rape, kale, fodder beets, and mangels as well as legumes can be integrated into the system providing spring fodder. This site is a great resource.
A plant that has been on the radar of the farm for human and wildlife food could also be used for hogs (if the wildlife can be kept away from the plots). Austrian winter peas are a legume with many nutritional and growth characteristic merits. Intercropping legumes with mulberry orchards is a promising practice that would add three benefits to the system:
- Fix nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere to help feed the trees
- Provide multi-seasonal use to the mulberry orchards: pigs can forage legumes in spring then forage the tree crop when it is ripe later in summer. The lifecycle of swine pathogens need to be determined to decide if this is a safe practice
- The cover crop of legumes can be tilled into the soil adding organic matter
Really, any of the benefits would singlehandedly merit their use.
While permanent plantings or perennials are desired for their alignment with the goals of sustainable and permanent agriculture, spring may have to be the exception. Especially when the rooting nature of hogs is considered which also makes tubers a great choice for cultivated crops meant for self harvesting swine.
For supplemental feed that addresses protein needs, the most commonly used feedstock is soybean meal. However many alternatives exists that can partially or fully replace soybeans as long as the micronutrient changes are accounted for and addressed. Canola meal, sunflower meal, cottonseed meal, linseed meal, peanut meal, whole or roasted soybeans can all be used if local agriculture produces them.
Lastly, the purpose of pigs on the farm needs to be considered. As an integral biological tool in tilling garden beds, locations for cultivated plantings and compost aeration/turning will occupy the hogs much of spring. Once their biomechanical role is filled, the focus shifts to the purpose of raising them for the meat market. This latter role is where much of the planning of this self-harvesting system is required.
As for the remaining animals in the farm system, the grazers and browsers, cattle and goats respectively, will receive 100% of their nutrition from pasture growth. Poultry will self-harvest as much as they can from the pasture growth and bugs which is about 20%. The remaining feed ration is formulated to address their nutritional requirements and is ever evolving. Poultry rations will be discussed in their own posts.