There are lots of hungry critters right now on the homestead. Each morning, after milking, a beautiful cow named Sally is fed (she's not impressed by having to wait for her hay). Then seventeen baby chicks are fed and watered. And a turkey. Then fifteen hens. Then two young rascals, G-love and The Hobbit. Then a hungry husband. Then a hungry me (Oh hi! don't worry about me, just the pregnant Mama over here). Then the dog. Then the plants that are still residing in my bathtub. Then the goldfish (yes, a goldfish). And lastly, I'm feeding the pigs.
Phew! Aren't you exhausted already? And that doesn't even include the bull, ram, ewe, lamb, geese, and meat chickens that will be arriving this month.
Yes, farm life at this time of year (or rather, all year round!) revolves around feeding and watering the animals.
But what do we feed them, you ask?
You always have the best questions. Thanks for asking!
We've talked about the homemade chicken feed that the layers get, as well as the Scratch ‘n Peck feed that we start our chicks on. The turkey gets the same. The rascals, husband, and pregnant Mama are fed a variety of breakfast goodness each morning, the dog is fed scraps, the plants are fed water, the goldfish is fed… well, whatever goldfish flakes are made out of, and now FINALLY we're to the star of the show: the pigs.
That is, after all, the point of this post. Feeding the pigs.
It's a question I've already received a thousand times since we brought the pigs home last weekend. What ARE you feeding the pigs, anyway?
The short answer is: a lot.
The longer answer, well, let's talk about that – shall we?
1. Organic Pig Grower: While many are comfortable in formulating their own pig rations, because this is my first time growing pigs, I wanted to make sure they were fed appropriately. Naturally, being me, I don't love the idea of feeding from a pre-mixed bag but thankfully, this is the very best feed I could hope to use. It's:
– Milled locally from local grains
2. Scraps: Lots and lots of scraps! I can hardly wait until the vegetable garden is in full swing and we can supplement them with significant amounts of rotten tomatoes, cabbage leaves, bolted lettuce, and old green beans. For now, I've been keeping a gallon bucket on the counter for all of our food scraps. Potato peels, apple slices, stale ends of bread, egg shells, cheese rinds, crumbs, etc. Everything besides coffee grounds and old leftovers I've reserved for the dog (Toby) get put into the scrap bucket. Each morning and night, the bucket is carried up to The Pig Palace and is oh-so-gently thrown into their food trough.
3. Hay: Even though they don't eat too much of it, we provide the pigs with alfalfa/grass hay at all times.
4. Pasture: Lots of weeds, flowers, roots, and bugs are growing and awaiting their final pig culinary destination. We haven't released the pigs onto the pasture yet (we're waiting until they're big enough to not squeeze out under the electric fence) but in a few weeks, they'll have an acre of pasture to roam and tear up for snack time.
5. MILK: I capitalize MILK because this is their favorite food. Times a million. I'm thankful because it's given us a resourceful use for all the extra, old, skimmed, or clabbered milk that we have on hand. If I'm feeling extra generous (which is rare) I'll given them fresh, warm milk from Sally. But usually I save that for my babies. Instead, the pigs get what's left or what needs to be cleaned out of the fridge. They sure don't seem to mind.
They slurp up that milky goodness like a frat boy slammin' down a cold brew. And with about the same enthusiasm. Speaking of which, I've since learned that watching pigs drink milk is one of my most favorite ways to pass the time. It must be witnessed by all.
6. Gleanings & fodder: As a supplement to their diet, we've added in sprouted organic grains (wheat, barley, or oats) for them to eat at will. They love it! And even though harvest time hasn't set in yet, once it does, plenty of rotten and old fruit will be gleaned from the surrounding orchards for supplemental eating. We've also packed up over fifty pounds of walnuts for them to munch on. Lastly, we'll be picking up some spent brewer's grains from a local brewery for a small supplement to the diet. None of it is a perfect system, but it's about balancing resourcefulness with quality.
Right now their pasture is growing.
As is their waistline.
And that's exactly what we want!
Because we want bacon. Which is why we're feeding the pigs.
Just so we're clear on the purpose of this project.