Progressive Pork

img_1368.jpgIn the Madison area, pasture raised pork seems relatively easy to find. I wonder though if most people understand the difference between pasture raised pork and grass fed beef. Although cows, as ruminants, can (some say should) thrive on grass alone, pigs are omnivores just like humans. A pig can’t live on grass alone much better than a human could.

With the rising price of organic grain, our goal is a pasturing system for pigs that offsets the feed bill more than grass and roots alone. This year our hog pasture will look a lot less like rolling grassland and a lot more like a vegetable garden. Our plan is to plant high energy and high protein crops in succesion for the pigs to ‘hog down.’ The first planting will include turnips and a mix of spring grains like oats, barley, wheat, and triticale. We’ll add clover to that mix for later in the summer. The early fall planting will be field corn with clover in between the rows. Late fall will look a lot like the first planting, but with winter grains like winter rye and wheat replacing the spring grains with the turnips.

Essentially we’ll be growing cover crops that the pigs will eat and uproot, adding to the fertility of the soil and preparing a seed bed for future crops all at the same time, with a fabulous bi-product: pork! Of course, this is still a hope and dream, so stay tuned.

Wish us luck in our experiment. If all goes well, we’ll cut our feed bill considerably and have superior meat that is something more than free range or grass fed–and I think we’ll be able to taste the difference.

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