Pasture pigs cost less to raise because they can forage for feed. Expensive grains and feed do not have to be purchased year around in the traditional quantities. Pasture does not typically give pigs all the nutrients that they need, but it helps to reduce the cost dramatically. The pigs get plenty of exercise, which makes for firmer pork products. Pasture pork has higher levels of vitamin E and healthier omega-3 fatty acids than traditionally raised pork. Omega-3s are considered the good fats and play an important role in every cell and system in the body. It also tastes better.
Pasture based pigs are less work intensive than other pigs to raise. Pigs fertilize the pasture as they wonder around. The manure is not offensive to smell and more the consistency of horse manure. Pigs on pasture are less likely to get diseases and are raised in a natural environment. If the pastures are rotated there are fewer parasites than there would be with confinement type pigs. Before confinement type hog farms, most pigs were pasture based.
Pastures planted with quality plants like alfalfa, clover and grasses can lower grain consumption of pigs, which results in fewer costs. Good quality pasture creates a high level of reproductive capacity of boars and can increase litter sizes.
Before the 1950's and the start of confinement type farms, the majority of pigs raised were raised on pastures and allowed to forage for feed. Pasture based systems was absolutely essential in raising pigs. They needed the vitamins and proteins from the plants and the vitamin D from the sun. Then the development of providing vitamins like A and D into the feed came into play. Farmers no longer had to have pigs outside to get the vitamins from the sun and forage. Confinement type farms sprang up. Pigs were housed by the thousands in these farms and still are today. Before this happened, several studies were conducted on the best forages for swine. In all of their studies, Alfalfa is considered the best. It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals like selenium and vitamin E. Alfalfa is rich in protein. Studies have shown that increasing fiber in sows diets, like that found in Alfalfa, have contributed to increased sow reproductive performances.
For best results other grasses like orchard, brome, fescue, and timothy should be in the mix with the legumes.
Clover is a cool season legume. It is high in protein and comes in white and red varieties. We have found that many of our pigs prefer clover to anything else. You have probably heard the saying "Happy as a pig in clover."
Pigs are happy in clover. It has about the same nutrients as alfalfa.