Green Oats – the anchor crop for the Winter Forage Trilogy

When we plant oats in the fall, they quickly germinate and cover the soil with a beautiful green carpet.  The 1920 book by Charles Dawson, Success with Hogs, states that “while these plants are not over 6 or 8 inches high, they contain a higher per cent of protein than do alfalfa or clover.”    Alfalfa in the ground has between 13 and 22% crude protein, so that is some healthy protein in the green oats.  This spreadsheet shows 16% for an Oat and Pea mixture.  A great book written in 1940 by 3 University of Georgia professors, Swine Production in the South, states “On good land Oats can be grazed from November to May.  Experiments show that pigs grazing on green oats gain much more rapidly than those fed the same ration without grazing.”  Concentrates can be reduced 30 percent when pigs are afforded good oat pasture.  “An acre of oats will furnish green grazing for from 8 to 16 pigs.”  A word of caution, “In the piedmont and mountain areas of the South…oats often freeze during the winter”.  Rye and Wheat can be used instead.  Adding AWPs or Vetch to the Oat pasture will “give much better grazing and legumes are very valuable in soil building.” 

A study done by the 3 UGA professors showed that 3.9 acres of Oats and Winter Legumes in combination with self fed concentrates led to a daily gain of 1.8 pounds/day and 4787 pounds of pork from a herd of 39 fall litter pigs.  In contrast, the pigs only given the concentrates gained 1.5 pounds per day and about a 1000 pounds less pork.  Clearly the forage is not only significantly adding to the health of the pigs (and most importantly, the health of the meat), but also makes great economic sense.  The question I have is how much weight will the pigs gain per day on just the pasture with a mineral supplement?  Or will they gain?  Something for us to experiment with…and blog about in the future.

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  1. What sort of concentrates are you using on your hogs? Also have you decided on a variety of oats that suits your area?

  2. At this point, for concentrates we use what we can find locally…sometimes peanuts, sometimes corn, sometimes pelletized feed. I’m trying to find a local source for Fertrell’s swine minerals. This we add to the concentrates to ensure the pigs get all they need. Right now, I buy it when my work takes me to KY every other month or so. As for the oats, there is a local farmer who sells us the seed…haven’t asked him the variety…will do that next time I see him and get back to you. Rye (the cereal type…not the grass) works about the same also…depends on what you can find locally and cheap. We buy our oat seed for $10/50lb bag which will plant an acre.

  3. Where are you located? I found it on your blog before, but can’t find it now…was it Texas?

  4. Waller, TX is where we call home. I sent you an email last week.

  5. I live in Atlanta and want to be farming like you. I read a lot and search constantly. I don’t know how to post the link but search google books “sorghum georgia winter” and it will take you to “southern planter volume 64 page 630/631 and they talk about planting artichokes for winter grazing which I thought was interesting. Also other good stuff. I also know that wild hogs love sorghum so maybe it is better than corn (I think corn is an invasive weed :) ) Maybe you can try some corn and sorghum. less inputs on the sorghum.

  6. Jay – great link! Thanks. I wonder if they are talking about the same artichokes that we eat, or some other type of artichokes? Very interesting. Will have to do some research on this.

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