A Pig Feeding Guide for Raising Hogs
What Do Pigs Eat on the Farm?
Many times the only pig feeding guide you can find states that pigs can eat everything. While this may be true, pigs shouldn’t necessarily eat everything. Most homesteaders are raising a hog or two for the family’s meat needs. What you feed the hog will contribute to the quality of the pork product you eventually serve to your family. This doesn’t mean that feeding the backyard pig has to be expensive. Pigs are omnivores. Omnivores are able to eat a varied diet and thrive. Chickens and humans are omnivores too. Different types of management styles will also determine what is the best pig feeding guide for you to follow.
Methods of Raising Pigs
Confinement raising of pigs is one that most homesteaders are trying to get away from. In the 1970’s this was the new bright and shiny method. People were beginning to raise pigs on concrete slabs, in confined spaces. All food was brought to the pig and they were not able to range and forage for roots, bugs, and tasty greens. The growth was fast and the turn around quick. The pigs were fed a lot of grain and supplemented with garbage from the home.
Free Range/Pasture Raising
Much like grazing herbivores, pigs can forage in the pasture. Raising pigs on pasture results in a lean, healthy pork product. The hogs do tend to root up all the ground though, so this is usually a rotational grazing type of management. After the pigs go through, the land can be rested, then tilled to prepare for planting. Since pigs are omnivores, the parasite situation needs to be monitored. Using the same pasture for other species to graze too soon after the hogs can lead to parasite problems.
We use a modified free range set up. Our pigs have a few acres of fenced land. They quickly eat any growth and vegetation in the spring but we provide some grain, hay, milk, vegetable scraps from grocery stores, and table scraps and kitchen compost. The meat from our hogs is lean and tasty because they are eating a varied diet and getting fresh air and exercise.
How Much Does a Pig Need to Eat?
This will vary depending on the type of food you are feeding the hogs. Pigs will not over eat. They are smarter than the human omnivores in this way! Automatic grain feeders are a possibility for pigs because they will only eat what they need. I have seen this with our pigs too. We don’t use an automatic feeder but will put the carcass from a successful hunting trip in the pig pen. The pigs will eat all of it, but not necessarily right away. The geese carcasses sat for two days before they were all gone.
Making a homemade hog feeder is another optional way to feed the pigs. Placing it near the fence line can help you deliver feed without going into the pen, with the pigs.
What Vegetables Do the Pigs Eat?
Almost any vegetable you can grow is suitable for a pig. One year we raised a bumper crop of turnips, only to find out that no one in the family liked turnips at all! No problem! The pigs were happy to oblige us and ate every turnip we provided them.Overgrown greens, lettuces, spinach, and kale are good to toss to the pigs. Any garden produce that has some deer or other damage done to it can still be food for the pigs. Tomatoes, potatoes, overgrown cucumbers and squash are all good treats for the pigs. In a pig’s thinking, all vegetables should be included in a pig feeding guide.
Dairy, Eggs and Cheese
Excess or expired milk is a good way to add calories to the pig’s diet. Cheese is a huge treat for our breeding pigs. Since we also raise a lot of layer hens, occasionally I will have extra eggs. When eggs have been around for a couple weeks in my refrigerator and more eggs are piling up, I will treat the pigs to hard boiled eggs.
Baked Goods and Refined Grain Products
This is a matter of choice I suppose. We limit the breads, cakes, and any refined grain products we give to the pigs because it makes their waste products smell even more than normal. We all know pigs are a bit smelly. When we feed a large quantity of bread type products, the smell seems to reach a new level. When we cut this food group out or limit it, the smell is more tolerable.
Nuts and Meat
Nuts are a great source of protein for pigs. Most pig feeding guides will mention how much pigs love acorns, and other foraged nuts. If you have this available, definitely give your pigs nuts.
Meat scraps are usually fed raw if we have them. We don’t feed much other meat other than scraps from the kitchen or the carcass from hunting.
Note that not all countries permit the use of garbage as pig feed. In some countries, disease concerns and previous outbreaks have led to certain legislation being put in place, that limits the food fed to a pig. This can pertain to backyard pigs. As always, know your local laws and check with an agriculture extension office if you have any questions.
Pig Feeding Guide on Commercial Feed Bag
The feed stores have products that are specifically designed for hogs. Some carry specific show pig formulas. The bag will carry a pig feeding guide for that ration. This can get expensive but will ensure that you meet the nutritional needs of your hog. In addition to the foods we provide for our pigs, we also feed some commercial grain products. This means that our pigs are getting some GMO corn but that is a choice each of us has to make. The land you have, the management style you use and your resources are going to be factors in the decision to feed commercial grain. A general purpose livestock feed is the most inexpensive formula to purchase in most cases. Some people will buy just corn.
Check with Local Groceries
Not all grocery stores can or will be able to donate the scraps to you for your pig. If you can find a store that will, it’s a good deal! This may be offered on a first come, first serve basis as others in your community will be searching for the garden compost too.
Visit your local farmer’s market and ask to purchase seconds, or produce that is past it’s prime, at a reduced rate. The vendor might be very interested in working out a regular arrangement that benefits you both.
When you are raising pigs for meat it may require getting creative about their feed. It’s not too difficult to come up with your own pig feeding guide. List the foods available to you, including any kitchen waste, donations from grocery stores, pasture plants, and other sources of vegetation. Decide if you will need to supplement with commercial grain in order to keep the pigs well fed. Enjoy the pigs as they grow and soon enough you will have raised healthy delicious meat for your family.
What’s on your pig feeding guide? We’d love to hear in the comments below.