I plan on pasturing pigs and then following up with rye and no-till corn next year. Which cover crops would work best for pig pasture?
Answer: Many of the benefits of pasturing hogs depend on the breed of hog, the quality of the pasture and pasture management. Some farmers are happy to rejuvenate pastures by adjusting pH and nutrients. It sounds like you have the opportunity to seed a pasture down and grow what would be optimal for hogs. Using a variety of grasses, legumes and forbs is a good idea. Not only is this better for the soil, but it also offers a better chance at success. If one or two things don’t do well, there are others in the mix that will take their place. A pasture rich in legumes, and thus protein, is considered good for hogs. Up to 30% of a hog’s diet can be achieved through grazing on good pasture with mineral supplement. It’s a good idea to include several legumes in your mix, as well as several grasses and small grains, and several non-legume forages (like turnips, rape, and fodder beets). You will need to experiment to find the exact combination that works well on your farm. A good starting mix that could be expanded upon would be a mix of 3.5 bushels of oats, 10 pounds of alfalfa, and 3 pounds of orchard grass per acre. To this basic mix you could reduce the alfalfa and add another legume, reduce the oats and add another grain, and add a non-legume forage such as turnips.For more information on pastured hog production, consult the ATTRA publication Hog Production Alternatives, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=205. This publication includes a good discussion on pasture mixes and the nutritional needs of hogs on pasture.You will also find useful information on raising hogs in the ATTRA publication Small-Scale Livestock Production, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=371. It discusses the benefits and challenges of raising livestock on a small farm, including a section specifically on hogs.