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Are you raising pigs or considering adding pigs to your farm? FarmStart will be offering our popular Pastured Pigs workshop in July 2012. Additional resources to consider are reports such as “Importance of Providing Roughage to Organic Growing / Finishing Pigs” published in this months edition of ON Organic.
Pigs are naturally curious and keen to explore their environment. Exploring, foraging and rooting behaviours are a large part of pigs’ general activities and are performed to search for possible locations of food and to gather general information on their surroundings. The requirements for increased space allowances and outdoor runs for organically raised pigs allow them more possibilities to be active and express their natural behaviours. Roughage is an important element in organic production systems as it can influence the pigs’ activity pattern and social interactions by increasing their motivation to explore and forage (Roberts et al., 1993). By increasing the time spent foraging or rooting; roughage can keep pigs occupied and potentially reduce stress and aggression between individuals.
Roughages can also make a significant contribution to the pigs’ diet. Although they are monogastrics, pigs have a capacity to digest forage fibres in the hindgut. Research has shown that roughage can be included in the total diet up to 18-19% of dry matter and that pigs over 60 kg, are able to consume 10% of their daily energy requirement from roughage (Carlsson et al., 1999). Roughages may also be a way to improve the well-being of pigs because they positively affect the development of the micro flora and epithelium in the gut.
In a recent study, Høøk-Presto et. al. (2009) examined the effects of roughage on organic growing/finishing pigs’ activity behaviour and social interactions. Their proposal was that access to additional roughage in the outdoor area would make the pigs use this area more frequently, change their activity pattern and reduce aggressive behaviour and stress among the pigs. In the first part of their experiment a total of 377 organic pigs of mixed gender from 3 different herds were used. All pigs were of (Landrace x Yorkshire) x Hampshire breed and were purchased from two organic piglet-producing herds. The pigs were randomly allocated according to sex and live weight to either a control treatment (C) or one of three treatments with access to additional roughages; hay (H), grass silage (GS) or whole crop barley silage (BS).