For many, chickens are the gateway animal. Once you’ve successfully dipped your toes in that pond, you may be ready to handle a bigger, more complex animal on your homestead. Pigs are an ideal animal to add to your list of accomplishments, but there’s a great deal to know before you start to feed your own GMO-free pigs. These highly intelligent creatures require a real healthy diet, and if you want healthy humans, you must raise healthy meat.
What Backyard Farmers Should Know About Pigs
Pigs are wonderful farm animals whether you’d like to raise them for meat or just to keep as a pet for the kids. (They’re smarter than dogs!) Most farms buy shoats—a newly weaned pig—in the spring, care for them over the summer, and slaughter them for meat in the fall once they reach maturity which occurs at about six months of age.
Because pigs are so intelligent, they need extraordinary care to thrive. This means keeping them on a consistent schedule, maintaining a clean living space, paying careful attention to the effects of seasonal climate change, and separating older or pregnant pigs to avoid competition and subsequent injuries.
Just like humans, pigs have very particular nutritional needs, and as the nutrients in everything we grow are continuing to become sparse, feed that covers all of the nutritional bases is more important than ever. Pigs will need more of particular nutrients at certain parts of their development, and farmers will need to plan accordingly. Furthermore, a pig that has just the right feed for her needs will become sickly if she isn’t getting enough of that feed or isn’t fed that perfect diet regularly.
While a sustainable farm will certainly utilize pigs to rid themselves of human scraps, a proper diet is essential to raising healthy swine. Without proper nutrition or when underfed, a litter of pigs is unlikely to survive. The Merck Manuals lay out very detailed tables and descriptions of how this should be accomplished. Basically, pigs require vitamins, minerals, protein (amino acids), carbohydrates, fats, and water to thrive. Unfortunately, we can no longer rely on nature to provide our pigs with everything they need. Jeff Mattocks of Fertrell tells us:
We’ve got to increase the nutrient density to meet the demands of the production animals that we’re raising these days…. There’s only so many nutrients that the soil and the sun and the water can give to a plant, so in a given year—on an average year—there are only so many units of phosphorus that will be available, so many units of calcium coming out of the soil…. Before you would have that same number of nutrients going into that 80 or 100 bushels of corn; now you have that same number of nutrients going into that 150 to 200 bushels of corn, so the nutrients levels are going down.
So it’s up to farmers to insure that their livestock, and pigs in particular, are getting all the nutrients they really need. This can certainly be a challenge, but one that will definitely pay off in the end. Better fed pigs means a higher quality of meat and higher meat yields.
Non-GMO Feed For Healthy Pigs And Healthy People
You simply can’t have organic meat without GMO-free pig feed. The jury is out on whether or not GMOs are adversely affecting livestock, and in turn, the humans who consume their meat, but for many, the issue is pretty black and white. According to author of “Folks, This Ain’t Normal” Joel Salatin:
We spend much of our time—and if you look at much of what we’re researching today in many spheres of life—it’s how to solve problems that we’ve created for ourselves. Problems that our own innovations have made possible. If we had stayed within a boundary, a natural template if you will, then we wouldn’t have had the problem to begin with.
Many others agree. There hasn’t been enough testing and time to give us a definitive answer as to whether GMOs are safe for anyone—livestock included. Terrell Spencer of Across The Creek Farm in Arkansas sums it up perfectly when he says, “When you look at a lot of the GMO stuff, the approach has been you prove it’s not safe. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I think they need to prove that it is safe.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Spence. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Top-notch, GMO-free pig feed that provides all of the required nutrients for healthy swine is a must have for the backyard farmer. Pigs present a very unique challenge, one that will be both satisfying and ultimately, delicious.