Friday, November 14, 2008

Who Knows About Pig Feed?

I am just about done reading through, "Harris on the Pig" and I have to say that it has been quite the read. The depth and detail of the study of different breeds, raising techniques, on farm research, and even more has been very enjoyable. Plus, you have to add in the fact that this is good historical knowledge that that has been tested over time (not saying we need to go back to all of it). What I'm trying to say is that it is a good book for the small-scale pig farmer. It may not have all the practical applications of other books, but the tidbits that you can glean are pretty cool.

But, there has been one thing that has been running though my mind as I read through this book. Often the book talks about boiling or cooking the feed. In fact in the chapter about piggeries and pig pens almost all of the buildings included a boiler. I know that boiling the swill/house waste is was a practice used to kill germs and what not, but that is not the only application Joseph Harris talks about.

The book also mentions many different times about boiling the feed, whether it been peas or oats or corn or what ever. I understand how they would do it, but I am wondering why the would do it? Can anyone enlighten me on the story behind this and if there are many people doing it today? I would love to hear about it!


Ethan said...

Saw this guy's photo a few minutes ago on and from the looks of his website I bet he knows!

- Ethan

Rich said...

I just finished reading "Harris on the Pig", and I thought it said that boiling or soaking grain would make it easier for the pig to digest, ultimately making it more efficient at converting the grain into pork.

Additionally, the soaking or boiling would make the grain more appetizing to the pig, so that it would consume more and gain at a faster rate. Grinding or cracking the grain (with or without the soaking process) was supposed to work in a similar way.

Katie B Rose said...

I have not read the book, but if it refers to the benefits of soaking grain, I heartily agree. Sally Fallon, the author of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, writes extensively about the benefits of soaking grains to aid digestion. All grains/seeds are "locked" with phytic acid to preserve the nutrients and protein until the seed sprouts; this phytic acid can be harmful to the stomach and also impoverishes the protein that our bodies are able to extract from the grain.

Ruminant animals have no problem with grains (besides the fact that they're supposed to mainly eat grass) because their multiple stomachs neutralize the phytic acid. But, I would imagine that pigs have only one stomach and so need help with preparing their grains.

Rich said...

I found a book online at:;cc=chla;sid=b24cbc1f8e90331cab0eccb640eb4599;q1=pig;rgn=full%20text;view=image;seq=0001;idno=2712117

It contains a number of feeding experiments and trials for pigs that includes comparisons between whole corn and ground corn, soaked grain and unsoaked grain, different forages, etc.

I found a reference to soaking grains that stated that soaking grain before feeding allows you to regulate the amount of water being consumed. Apparently pigs will consume more water than needed in the summer and less than needed during the winter. If pigs consume the correct amount of water, then they are more likely to eat the right amount of feed to grow at the optimum rate.

You balance the amount of soaking water to the amount of grain and the size of the pig, and can make sure that the pig is getting the right amount of water to make efficient use of the grain.

Ruddy's Gal said...

Dear Beginner: (I just sent you an email too). I was in a farmer's study group and the last week we learned a good deal about animal husbandry. All that is stated here about grain seems accurate. We also learned that by cooking the food (speaking about vegetables now too) before it is fed to the animals concentrates the nutrients. Just think how you feel after eating a raw carrot and now think about how you feel after eating a cooked carrot. It's the same with animals. There's a density and concentration to the food that you simply can't get when eaten in the raw state. Also, the vegetable matter is "taken to a further step" in it's development. If you observe the life span of food that grows from the earth, you will observe that it has one seed. Everything about the food plant wants to "go" to seed and we can "hold it back" by stabilizing it's environment if we are attentive. Well, boiling food further stabilizes it and this stabilization process is carried through to the animal. Cooked roots are said to be one of the most teriffic foodstuffs you can feed a pig and when I really sit down and think about and contemplate the essence of that actually makes sense to me and appeals to my sensibilities.

PS I've been HUNTING for a good book on pigs and you've provided just the right one. I would like to suggest "The One Dollar Hen" by Milo Hastings as the top book on raising chickens (it's an old one too).


Mark Gurney said...

I am new to pig farming, having a small rare breed operation.
I would like to know if I am doing the right things regarding feed.
I feed pelletized pig feed at a rate of 60% and the remaining 40% is triticale, but found adjusting the grind in my mill still had undigested grain in the manure.
I have tried soaking the grain and had similar results.
Recently I been cooking the ground triticale on our woodfire and found the pigs love it, and there is no undigested feed in the manure.
I have not been able to find anything conclusive about what this does to the protein in the grain,but certaintly makes the carbohydrate available to my animals. Your comments welcome.

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