Nutritional Contribution of Forage on Pasture-Raised Pigs

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $3,163.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Agricola Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Alessandra Rellini
Agricola Farm


  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, feed additives, feed management, feed rations, free-range, grazing management, grazing - rotational, manure management, meat product quality/safety, pasture renovation
  • Education and Training: demonstration

    Proposal summary:

    There is an ever increasing demand for local pastured pork raised sustainably. Unfortunately, very little research has been done on the nutritional contribution offered by pasture on pork production, leaving untouched the potential for a sustainable source of supplemental feed and therefore a reduction in production cost. To provide more information to the farmers raising pasture pork, this study will quantify the growth rate that can be attributable to pasture intake and the additive effect of an improved pasture. The study consists of the random assignment of 18 growers to 3 groups exposed to different nutritional regimes:

    1) grain concentrate feed only for pigs confined in the barn

    2) grain concentrate feed with integration of pasture and

    3) grain concentrate feed with integration of improved pasture (seeded with turnips, pearl millet, alfalfa, and Italian rye grass). The experimental research will last for the 40 days prior to the estimated day for slaughtering. The main outcomes will be daily growth rate and feed conversion rate. Secondary analyses to determine the actual differences in the pastures will include laboratory assessments of nutritional intake available in terms of energy, protein, fiber, fatty acids, and lysine. These results will allow for a more methodical approach to pasture management and rotation for swine production.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective is to determine how the nutritional value in a pasture is converted into meat for pastured pork. This information will translate into improved farm efficiency through a better use of feed, the primary cost in livestock operations. A more detailed understanding of pasture nutritional value, allows the farmer to be more planned in the amount of concentrated feed, with a consequent benefit in animal performance, economic costs and environmental cost related to grain production. We expect that pigs raised in the barn on a concentrated mix alone will be outperformed in growth rate from the pigs raised on pasture and concentrated mix.

    A second objective is to maximize pig performance by increasing the amount of food the pigs harvest from our land. To this end, we will improve a pasture, adding crops. We will determine if such improvement can further cut costs and energy related to harvest. Pigs rotated on the improved pasture will be fed 80% of the concentrated feed provided to the pigs raised in the barn and pigs raised on pasture. We expect that pigs on the improved pasture will outperform the pigs on a regular pasture and pigs raised in the barn.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.