What Not to Feed Pigs
Not All Foods are Meant to be Pig Food
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By Mel Dickinson – As important as it is to know what to feed pigs, it is just as important to know what not to feed pigs. Raising pigs on your farm or homestead is a rewarding experience. In a few months, you can grow out market pigs and have homegrown pork to fill your freezer.
Pigs are single stomach animals and can eat a varied diet similar to humans. This gives homesteaders and farmers a lot of freedom in what they feed their pigs. Pigs have basic nutritional needs that must be met to ensure proper growth and health. This can be done by using commercial feed, working with an animal nutritionist, or using a feed ration guide to help make sure all dietary requires are met for the optimal well-being of your pigs. After these basic needs are met, supplementation, up to 10 percent of a market pigs’ diet, is a great way to enhance your pigs’ health, meat flavor, and reduce economic input to grow out a market pig. It is important to note, if you are selling pork, check your state regulations on supplemental feeding pigs. Rules vary from state to state and some states prohibit supplemental feeding to those pigs being sold as pork.
The next question is what do pigs eat? Pasturing pigs, along with feeding fresh produce, dairy, and spent grain are common dietary supplementation for pigs. It is a common misconception that pigs can and will eat anything. While they do enjoy a large variety of supplemental foods, there are some foods they do not like and others they should not be fed. What not to feed pigs is anything moldy, slimy, or rotten. Raw meat and raw eggs should never be fed to swine. Feeding raw meat to pigs can transfer diseases such as foot and mouth disease. Eating raw eggs can interfere with the biotin absorption of pigs. Cooked eggs do not have the same impact on the biotin absorption.
Pigs should eat diets low in salt and sugar. They should not eat high sodium foods or feed meant for other animals, such as dogs or cats, which have different sodium needs. It is also not recommended to feed pigs a diet high in pastries, candies, or solely fresh fruits which are all high in sugar. Pigs should have a balanced and varied diet.
Free-range pig farming allows pigs to eat fresh grass, bugs, and roots. Pastured pork is higher in vitamin D and other minerals found in the soil of their grazing land. Be cautious in areas with wild mushrooms. Death cap mushrooms are toxic and can be deadly to pigs.
Gardening and pigs go hand-in-hand. If there are excess vegetables available from your harvest, they make a healthy addition to a pig’s diet. Pigs can consume the majority of common garden items. What not to feed pigs from the garden are unripened tomatoes, raw potatoes, raw sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery, celery root, parsley, onions, avocados, and rhubarb. Pigs can eat almost everything else you plant though. If you’re planning to use your pigs to help rototill your garden at the end of the season, pull all remaining tomato, broccoli, cabbage, and turnips before putting them to work. The leaves, vines, roots, and seeds are toxic to pigs.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding what can pigs eat out of your garden is to make sure they eat a variety of produce. Pigs shouldn’t have only one type of fruit or vegetable the entire season. Just like it’s important for humans to eat a varied diet, the same is true for pigs.
If you don’t have a garden or extra produce to spare, ask farmers at local markets or your grocery store if they are willing to provide their unsellable produce. Many times farmers and stores are happy to provide unsellable items for free or a nominal fee.
Over the years, we have received old produce from these sources. They normally come as mixed boxes of fruits and vegetables. Whenever we are fortunate enough to get these boxes, the first thing we do is sort whatever is in them. We set aside all rotten, moldy, or toxic items and they are sent to the compost pile. Then we have two other piles which are the “raw” and “cook” piles.
Fresh produce that our pigs can have and enjoy eating raw, we will feed them uncooked. Items such as potatoes and sweet potatoes cannot be eaten raw, but are okay if they are cooked. Just like humans, pigs can be picky eaters. We have had pigs that wouldn’t eat raw zucchini, which of course is a big summer produce item from our garden and markets. We didn’t want to waste them, so we got sneaky. We would cook them in a large pot with the potatoes, dairy, and some other pig favorites. We would then have a safe slop and happy, zucchini-fed pigs!
Whether you are new to raising pigs or have been doing it for years, it is always helpful to have a written list of what not to feed pigs (and any other livestock) on hand. Talk with your local veterinarian or Extension Office to make a comprehensive “do not feed” list specific to your area. Adding supplemental foods such as pasture, produce, dairy, and spent grains can be beneficial for pigs, but feeding the wrong items can be deadly. Being proactive and prepared is the best when adding supplemental foods to your pigs’ diet.
What foods are on your list of what not to feed pigs?