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Stackyard News Jun 2012

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Happy as a Pig In… Grass?

New from specialist forage grass seed breeder Barenbrug is ProPig – a professional outdoor pig pasture mixture tough enough to withstand the rigours of outdoor pig production.

Even after a year there is still a good stand of ProPig grass in many of the paddocks.


ProPig’s unique blend of extremely hard-wearing grasses provides lasting coverage that has proved difficult to achieve with other forage grasses.

This is thanks to the inclusion of varieties bred for very heavy-wear sports like rugby, together with deep-rooting grasses chosen for their tolerance to both drought and waterlogging. The result is a pasture that can cope with even the roughest and toughest of sows, as well as maintain cover and so reduce the threat of run-off.

But don’t just take Barenbrug’s word for it. ProPig has been tested in on-farm trials at outdoor pig producer Wrights of Brettenham near Thetford in Norfolk. Fifty hectares were planted with ProPig in December 2010 to evaluate the different type of grass for the outdoor pigs. The pigs were turned out into the pens in June 2011 and even after a year there is still a good stand of grass in many of the paddocks. Perennial ryegrass has never lasted so long.

Peter Wright, one of the partners at Wrights of Brettenham, takes up the story: “Well, the pigs haven’t ripped it to shreds! That’s certainly what I expected to happen when I first started the trial as that’s what they do to perennial ryegrass – that just wouldn’t survive. From turning the maiden gilts out into training pens to seeing the gilts grazing on it through summer, I was impressed with the coverage and recovery. But the real test for me was this winter and the sows doing the real damage. It’s worked well. The pigs nibble the grass but don’t dig it up so much and it keeps them busy. It’s better than them eating stones! They’re certainly not as bored.”

Importantly, Peter has observed that effluent run-off – a key concern for any outdoor pig producer – has been dramatically reduced. “Even with all the rain we’ve been having, there’s a lot less run-off. Also the grass roots soak up the nutrients from the pig manure, rather then it getting washed away through the soil profile. It’s just great to see there’s still a grass bottom there over a year on.”

And as Barenbrug prepares for ProPig’s commercial launch, the Wrights say they are pleased to have played such an important part in the development of this product. “It’s been really interesting working with Barenbrug on this. We were certainly surprised the mixture not only survived, but thrived – we’re sure fellow producers will share our sentiments if they decide to give it a go.”

Commenting on the launch of ProPig, Barenbrug agriculture research and development manager David Long adds: “This is a terrific example of the benefits of our global breeding, research and development programme. Here are grasses bred for sports turf revolutionising the needs of outdoor pig production. Even we were blown away by the results, where ProPig was holding its own against the sows.

“More and more livestock producers are struggling with the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standard for soil management and protection, and other cross-compliance regulations. So a grass seed mixture that helps restrict the possibility of water contamination and run-off promises to be of great benefit.”

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