Soiling Versus Pasture For Swine

This is a point I would like to see the experimental farms take up. The fact that they would seem to strengthen the impressions now general among farmers that these farms are of doubtful utility. The soiling of dairy cows has been experimented with to some extent, but the system has not become popular. Those however, who reported the result, speak highly of the system. Soiling cows and sheep requires, of course, great attention, and the majority of dairymen prefer to pursue the less irksome system of pasturing or partial soiling at most. All admit that fully three times the number of cows can be kept by the soiling system as by ordinary pasturing.

But the soiling of swine would not seem so irksome, for pigs are soiled, as it were, in the majority of cases. When pigs ate feed in the pen, and not pastured, they are said in a measure  to be soiled. What I mean, however, by soiling is not feeding pigs in a pen with meal, milk, or boiled feed. Pigs on pasture to attain early maturity must not be allowed to depend on the grass alone, but require an addition of meal and grain. By soiling them, I mean cutting the grass and feeding it directly to the hogs in a large paddock contra-distinction to permitting the hogs to cut and feed on the grass at their own sweet will.

Pigs do very well, and probably attain greater weights by simple pen-feeding with milk, whey and meals than by either soiling or pasturage. But pen-feeding is expensive at the prevailing prices of hogs. We want to lower the cost of production to a paying point, and to this end endeavor to supplement the feeding with green feeding crops, to be fed either in the pen, or allow the pigs to harvest the crops for themselves The meal fed pig, in a close pen, does not make a good bacon pig, because exercise is precluded; the digestive organs become inactive, and there is a surplus of fat. Green feed then is apparently indispensable, either fed in the pen or allowed to be eaten on the field as it grows. Which is the more effective method? If heavy weights are to be attained in the shortest interval, I believe soiling the pigs in the pen will be found the most satisfactory. Pigs having the run of a pasture field waste a good deal of energy, and make too much muscle growth. It takes a hog, even in the best pasture, quite a while to graze the bulk of a bundle of grass that may be cut and thrown in the pen. 

 The object sought is another thing. If the pigs are intended as breeding stock, the exercise and fresh air obtained in a pasture field is quiet essential. If breeding stock are soiled, i.e., the green feed cut and carried to them, they will make greater weights in  a given time, but they will require very large yard and paddock I would not care for a breeding sow or boar that was fed all its life in a small pen and had gotten no soiling food during its growth. Good breeding stock can be produced without pasturing if the precaution is taken to have a large paddock connected with the pen, and green crops such as rye, clover, peas, corn, rape and turnips cut and thrown into these large yards, upon which there should be a generous feeding floor. Stock grown in this way should be very nearly as good as those kept i the Pasteur, and may be grown as cheaply. Grown in this manner, the pigs should make good breeding stock and excellent for the packer. This method of growing either breeding stock or bacon pigs will cost a little more, but maturity will be attained in a shorter time.

Better breeding stock, however, will result from pasturage, and it is quite essential that the brood sows have unlimited pasture from spring to fall. I do not think it well to have the pasture lot too large; an acre lot is large enough and is quite sufficient for 30 pigs. Pigs will not make much of pasture before they are three months of age. A good rule is to have an acre of pasture crops coming in in regular rotation to each three brood sows. If litters come in February, a field of rye will be right in month of May; when this is eaten down, a field of clover should be ready; after the clover peas, and alter the peas rape and the second growth of clover. The rape would be grown in the rye ground. Allowing an acre for the pigs of three brood sows, or 30 pigs, would mean three acres to carry them through the season, or, in other words, one acre of land to each brood sow on the farm. These three acres of land devoted to pasture crops, coming in regular rotation, as from the feeding of four tons of the best ground feed of a mixture of shorts and corn or barley, peas and bran.

At prices of ground feed in the older parts of our country, the growing of pasture crops makes quite a saving in cash laid out for purchased feed. Pigs grown on continuous pasture will not come to maturity, or be ripe for the  block, so quickly as if penned up all the time, or even as if soiled. Even fairly good herding stock may be produced by soiling, and maturity will be attained sooner. But this system does not give as good results and the cost of production is greater. It is a very good system, though, to produce bacon pigs. Pen-fed pigs I would not tolerate for breeders; but If I wanted to finish a batch of spring pigs for market in the shortest time, I should confine them in the pen all the time and feed as heavily as they would stand; and if these pigs were of the right breed, and from healthy, robust parents, and intelligently fed and managed up to weaning time, I would have no fears; but at five or six months of age they would be ripe for the block, and make good bacon pigs too. 

The points are: 1 To have the correct form and breed of brood sow. Never confine her. Let her roam the fields at will and the yards in winter; feed her intelligently while suckling, and wean at six weeks; then force the youngsters for all they are worth till five or six months of age ,and sell. 2. Breeding stock must not be confined in a pen. They must have unlimited pasture crops right through the season, or they may be confined in large paddock, and soiled. ― J. A. MacDonald, P. E. I., in Country Gentleman

– Pigs and Other Livestock, The Charlottetown Guardian. August 30, 1898