Seeing as I spend as much time thinking about pig food, trying to grow pig food, and bitching about feeding pigs as I do, it's probably about time to let some of it out. So here then, a progress report on the completely pointless Sisyphus-had-it-good task of trying to satisfy the stomachs of three piggies twice a day.
About two years ago, I did a fundraiser to help get them through the winter. This is what the facts were then - when I still thought that they would eat hay... more about that later ...
These are the facts today
There are still three (3) pigs.
Brunni is still a bit bigger than Marilyn (it seems the spelling of her name has changed over time) and Fat Tony is now quite fat.
I don't know what they weigh now, but it's definitely not under 150 kilos each.
They don't like hay.
I was planning on buying them food for 180 days a year, and growing for the other half. Thing is, that other half was going to be about half hay. They like very freshly cut green grass, of the sort that has not been available this year (on account of it having rained exactly three times since the start of the year). But they do not like hay. They are proud and noble pigs and it is beneath them. Or something. Maybe it's just not that nice.
This is unfortunate. Hay is easy to come by, and very very cheap. Also nutritious, and good for piggies. But, sadly, no.
They do, however, like apples.
Two years ago, I had one source of apples. I found an unpicked apple tree in an old chap's garden, rang the bell and asked if I could collect the windfalls.
Now I have three. Three old guys with apple trees who don't like apples. Of course, apples are not an all-year thing, but for something like four to six weeks, and I do have to cycle quite a way there, and even further back (on account of being laden down with apples), but this is fine. I'm still young :)
I also said that I had access to a baker and their stale bread. This access has increased a little, but it still can't be called reliable. But, I'm getting maybe 20 - 30 sacks of bread a year. They (the pigs) really do like bread.
They really like shop-bought pig food.
But shop-bought pig food is bad for them. It's designed to take a little baby pig and turn it into a big fat pig as quickly and cost effectively as possible. I think it makes them aggressive. And fat. Now, there's nothing wrong with a fat pig, but there's quite a lot wrong with a fattened pig. They have all sorts of health issues which for most isn't a problem, because they are going to get their throats slit before they die of heart attacks, but I don't think anyone here thinks that there is much "good" about that line of thought. So I don't give them much pig food.
The majority of what they eat is shop-bought horse food.
They way I figure it is that if it's good enough for horses, it's good enough for pigs. People who have horses want them to be healthy, and to live to an old age. Horse food is good quality stuff. And horses mostly eat in massive quantities, all day, so I think it is (compared to pig food) quite low in calories. Or at least, it's designed to be eaten (by horses) in quantity for health and vitality. Not to get fat and have their throats slit. They like lucerne cobs and oaty museli and things with seeds and grains in them, and I try to get them a pretty good range of stuff, changing it weekly and keeping it interesting.
And finally, growing your own.
Last year, I managed to prepare enough ground to grow some oats, lots of fodder beets, and some extra potatoes. My calculations were based on 60 kilo pigs. By the time they came to eat it, they were over 120. It didn't last long.
This year, we have the vineyard. Frankly, I'm amazed that it is productive at all. I choppy chopped it with Mr Rotovator, and spent weeks pulling out couch grass roots. But, I also managed to sow it. The yields are going to be about 10 - 25% of what is actually possible because the soil is dead, everything went it really late, and it's hardly rained at all.
Rye straw donated
Pig field - 25% capacity
Wheat straw bought, rapeseed donated, Some oats
Vineyard - 25% capacity
Pig field (probs)
Many many apples
Not too much. It's a lot of work to go and fetch it all on a pushbike, uphill
Rye grown here
But, I have "found" a load of hosepipes for watering (mostly rescued from bins. Don't ask. I am a lucky bugger when it comes to finding things in the wild that I need), a farmer dude brought me a load of stable manure, the couch grass is mostly not coming back, and somehow, things are growing.
Next year, the vineyard will be full. And it will be productive. The target is to grow 5,000 sweetcorns and 5,000 sunflowers. Next year. This year, it looks like this:
This is good. I am slightly impressed with myself for getting this far. Just 6 months ago, this was completely wild. Bringing as much of it into productive use in such a short time is a pretty big thing.
I don't want to say that a year from now, I will be self sufficient in pig food. But, will be planting more apple trees, and they will slowly start to produce actual harvests, the vineyard will be productive, and fertility will be increasing.
I can absolutely say, not this year though. Not even close.
So far, I've spent over 4,000 Euros just on food. I can't carry on with that!
With any amount of luck, they might even stop growing. If they are 200 kilos this time next year, then it's back to the drawing board.