Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pet Pigs and Acorns

Is it safe for my mini pig to eat acorns? This seems to be one of those questions that it depends on who you ask. I say yes, BUT the key is moderation and/or limitation...and the age of the pig might also come into play.

In cows those less than 2 years of age seem to succumb to oak toxicosis more than do older animals, however older animals are still at risk. The same seems to hold true for our pigs.

Here at my place I have about 24 oak trees within the yard and pig pens. Most of the old acorns that had not been cleaned up for years were raked the pigs have to scavenge for them as they fall. The two species of oak here are the Live Oak and Laurel Oak. The senior pigs seem to enjoy them in the spring as their trees don't seem to drop too many acorns in the fall. There is one Live Oak that covers 3 pens and part of the seems to be the most popular with the pigs in the fall. Last year after Hurricane Matthew went through in early Oct. they went nuts...pun intended, with cleaning up the acorns. This year there were acorns from that tree during late August to Sept and now hardly any since Hurricane Irma. There are other trees dropping them now as I can see the pigs scavenge for them early in the morning and late in the evening. So here it is a good thing as it gets them up and walking around.

I have a friend in Texas that has a lot of ground with hundreds of oaks with millions of acorns and her pigs don't have a problem with it, but for a first timer you might want to rake them up like some people do so there aren't as many for your pig to eat. You can't possibly get them all, but it just cut's the number down. They can be fattening so that's a concern too. Or you could find a part of the yard without the oak for your pig to go in if that's possible during the time the acorns are falling.

Another friend in MS uses a shop vac to pick up the acorns on her property as one of her pigs will gorge on them and put on a lot of weight a couple of years ago...remember acorns are fattening.

On the other hand a friend in MO that ran a sanctuary would have neighbors bring in acorns for her pigs.

If you have just one or two pigs and lots of acorns you are going to want to limit their time in the yard especially if they just stand there and well pig out. Normal acorns don't seem to cause a problem other than the stomach ache that goes with eating too many of them, but the green ones tend to make them sick. A few acorns here and there shouldn't be a problem. Problems seem to arise when they eat massive amounts for long periods of time.

From The Pig Site: Whilst ruminants are more susceptible to acorn poisoning, outdoor pigs may be affected occasionally. Young oak leaves or green acorns are the major sources and signs are seen two to three days after ingestion. These include abdominal pain and constipation followed by hemorrhagic diarrhea. The kidneys may also be affected.

We also know that a hog (a non-ruminant or simple stomached animal) can tolerate a higher level of some toxins than can ruminants.

The poison in acorns (tannins) concentrates in the milk; knowing that feral (wild) hogs roam the woods, I am sure that they consume many acorns. Whether or not the tannins from the acorns concentrate in the milk of pregnant feral sows resulting in toxicity to nursing piglets, I do not know.

Why do we seem to have tons of acorns one year and not so many the next? 

Oak acorn production varies markedly year to year and by species. But every several years, like clockwork, masting oaks somehow synchronize the timing and quantity of seed production. Biologists suspect it may be some evolutionary adaptation to produce more nuts than foraging animals can eat. They aren't exactly sure how and why oaks suddenly shift into acorn overdrive, then go nearly dormant for years. It seems to happen about once every four to seven years, when oaks — even those located thousands of miles apart — produce and drop acorns en masse, in unison.

Weather alone can't explain it, scientists say.

One theory suggests oak tree masting is triggered by ideal winds. Others point to rain, drought and hurricanes. Scientists also suggest the mass acorn dumps may be something simply ingrained in the tree's genetic makeup, a hedge to guarantee germination of the next generation by flooding the ground with acorns.

Trees in canopy settings produced fewer acorns than those in more open settings, suggesting light also is a factor, the researchers found.

Some biologists speculate that hurricanes, infestations and drought also can stress oaks, possibly triggering large-scale masting, a sort of a last-ditch response to environmental stress.

Bottom line: know your pig(s) and know what they can safely handle if you have oak trees in your yard.

The Pig Site
Florida Today

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