Thursday, December 6, 2018

Feeding Pigs - Fermented Banana Stalks

Homestead pigs ---- What to feed a full time pair of pigs? That's the question I'm working on. What can the homestead farm produce? While I do get some feed given to me, I don't want to rely upon commercial feed as a permanent crutch. And while I'm not yet totally committed to keeping Lava and Shelly as full time breeding pigs, I am heavily leaning in that direction. If those two stick around, I'm going to be hard pressed to feed them (and any future babies) in a self sustainable fashion. I don't wish to get back into the rut of depending upon commercial feed. So I've been researching my options. 

1- Use a larger pasture. . I definitely plan on this. The two pigs will be moved to a larger pasture where they can graze more grasses without depleting the pasture. I'm in the process of pig-proofing (is there such a thing?) a one acre pasture that previously was used for the sheep. 

2- Grow more feed. I've already got this in the works. I'm adding more banana trees as I have extra keikis. I'm planting more sweet potatoes and taro. Propagating more sugar cane, pipinola, and chaya.  

3- Expand into new feeding options, specifically, fermented banana stalks. 

"T" mentioned to me that he had heard of someone in Hilo doing an experiment in feeding pigs fermented bananas. Doing a bit of Internet research, I came upon several mentionings of chopping up banana trunks and fermenting them.  I haven't stumbled upon specific details yet, so I'm doing my own experimenting. 

Initially I cut up a small banana tree (just the truck, not the leaves and leaf stems yet) and sent it through the garbage disposal that I use to process chicken feed. It worked but was time consuming. I put this ground up banana stuff into a 5 gallon bucket and sealed it. After 7 days, I gave it the smell test. It looked fine and smelled sweetish, banana-y. Next, the taste test....not me!!  I mixed it 50-50 with the pigs' usual slop-n-glop and the they eagerly chowed it down. Bingo. I was onto something. 

Since grinding via the garbage disposal was too time consuming, I wondered if the pigs would eat it simply chopped up into sections not more than an inch wide. I had seen examples of this on the Internet. So I hacked down my next banana tree, chopped it up, stuffed it unto 5 gallon buckets, added water (I use rainwater) to completely fill the bucket, and sealed it with a lid, excluding all air. Left for 7 days in the shade, I opened one of the buckets. Looked and smelled fine, though not as sweetish. I guess the extra water diluted it. I could add sugar cane juice if needed, but that will be a future experiment. 

Above, hand slicing a piece of banana stalk. 

Above, what a sliced banana stalk looks like. 

Above, I'm making the slices 1" to 1/2" in thickness. 

Edibility test. Again I mixed these banana slivers half n half with the normal slop-n-glop. The pigs snarfed out the slop-n-glop and left the banana slices behind. During the day they returned off and on the eat some of the banana slices, but wasted about half of them. Not the reaction I was hoping for. But I persisted, hoping they would get use to the texture. No luck. Even after a week they were wasting about half the fermented banana slices. Not good. Back to the drawing board. 

Above, a full 5 gallon bucket ready for water and sealing. 

I know that they will eat fermented banana stalks, but the texture appears to be the issue. To prove that to myself, I put the rest of the slices through the garbage disposal. The pigs ate the ground stuff with no issues. Ah-ha, so it was the texture. They preferred ground to slices. 

One thing that I discovered by doing this was that the fermented slices went through the garbage disposal far quicker than fresh slices, plus they didn't clog the disposal at all. The fresh ones would would make a clog in the outlet pipe if I went too fast. So my thoughts are that I will ferment the banana slices first, grind them, then reseal them in buckets for further fermenting and storage.  

Next issue....cut the time and labor in cutting up the banana stalks. When I was experimenting I used a knife to cut the stalks. But that's labor and time intensive. So I'm now using my trusty sawsall. It cuts through the stalks like butter. Very quick. I can wack down, chop use, and seal in buckets a whole tree in minutes rather than close to an hour. 

The sawsall makes this whole idea workable. The plan is to....
...harvest the bananas
...cut the tree down 
...using the sawsall, chop up the entire stalk 
...ferment the pieces for 7-10 days it through the garbage disposal 
...repack the buckets with the ground banana stalks. 
...continue to ferment until it is needed for feeding. 

Currently I'm only harvesting one banana bunch at a time. So chopping up the stalk won't be a big deal. If it's a small banana tree, I should get 3 days of pig feed out of it. A really big tree should yield a week's worth. In the next couple of weeks I'll see how accurate that prediction is. That's just a gut guess, so I could be far off on my estimate. 

ps- Since the chopped stalks get watered down in the 5 gallon buckets, I've decided to add some fresh cane juice. I plan to start using one large cane stalk of juice to one banana stalk and see how that turns out. I'll keep you posted. 


  1. Update. I'm no longer chopping and fermenting banana trunks. The pigs seem to like them initially, but as time went on they are less and less. After a few months I quit. It was time consuming. It took a lot of effort. And the pigs said "nay", eating only a little even if it was mixed in with other foods.

    So fermented banana joins the rank with other famine foods......used when needed, but otherwise not.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I've just cut a banana tree down and was wondering if my pigs would eat it. Thought I'd Google it first and bingo, you answered my question.

  3. Same here.with the COVID lockdown here in the Philippines even my pigs will go hungry if i will jus depend on the comercial feed.i googled banana stalk fermentation and there you are.