I know you’re thinking, “A pig will eat anything.” But there is another side to that. Learn the answer to the question, “What do pigs eat?” and learn what they cannot eat for a happy, healthy herd of pigs.
Why is there no bag of pig food next to the dog food at the feed stores? If you are buying cat food, you won’t see a bag of pig food approved by swine nutritionists on the opposite shelf.
This is partly because fewer people own pigs than dogs and cats, and partly because there’s a wider range of possibilities when it comes to a pig’s diet.
The short answer to this question is pigs can eat pretty much anything. A better question might be, “What won’t they eat?” They seem to have a stomach of steel!
What Do Pigs Eat?
Nutritional Needs of Pigs
You might wonder if a balanced pig diet is different for different pig breeds. The answer is no, there isn’t much difference between a heritage breed pig you would find on the farm and a pet pig in the suburbs.
Young piglets that are weaned are often given pig starter. However, it’s difficult to find a brand that is non-GMO if you’re aiming at raising a truly healthy organic pig.
Many companies provide a non-GMO dog food option, but with pigs, it can be harder to find a prepackaged bag of feed without soybean meal and a lot of lower-grade fillers.
I know people who have miniature pigs like the potbellied pig. They feed them mostly dog food, but what exactly is a balanced diet for your own pig?
The digestive system of mini pigs, pet pigs, and the domestic pig are like those of the wild boar and feral pigs. They all do better on a natural diet that is balanced with a variety of nutrients.
Three main ways pig owners raise pigs.
1. Corn heavy diet, grower feeds, starter feed, pig pellets,
2. Grain heavy diet, farm grains, rice bran,
3. Free Range diet, natural environment, fresh vegetables,
Pastured, free range pork is the healthiest way to raise pigs and avoid common health issues.
Pastured pork is high in minerals and vitamin D, so it’s extremely beneficial to practice free-range feeding. They can consume roots, grass, and all the other things they eat in the wild to fulfil their nutritional requirements.
Of course, the grass, and other wild food is only as good as the soil it grows in. Using a rotational based paddock system is the best way to ensure this. You can read more about this system further in the article.
What can pigs eat out of my kitchen?
My great-grandmother had a job that was always mine when I was at her farm. It was emptying the slop bucket to the pigs. It was filled with leftover food and was kept on the enclosed back porch.
This 5 gallon bucket was filled almost every day ready to be poured into the hog trough with their solid feed.
This bucket didn’t stink because it was emptied almost every day and washed out at the handpump before returning it to the porch.
It was filled with spoiled and leftover raw A2A2 milk from the Jerseys, damaged fresh fruits, limp leafy greens, solid food left over from meals and about anything that would be called kitchen scraps.
I remember that the pigs loved this slop bucket like the free-ranged chickens loved the feed bucket.
It is a good rule of thumb that any food scraps over three days old should be placed in the compost pile and not the hog feeder. This is to help prevent the animals from ingesting bacteria, mold, and rot that is developing on old kitchen scraps.
What can pigs eat out of my garden?
Pigs are omnivorous animals, and love digging around for any fresh foods they can turn up. Some people use them to break new ground or turn over garden soil.
You can feed your pigs pretty much anything that you grow. Growing turnips, dark green lettuce, squash, snow peas, and corn in extra quantities is great for your pigs’ diet and easy on your wallet.
Gardening and pigs are a match made in heaven right alongside gardening and chickens.
If there are excess vegetables available from your harvest, they make a healthy addition to a pig’s diet.
If you’re planning to use your pigs to help root around in your garden soil at the end of the harvest season, be sure to remove all tomato, broccoli, and cabbage plants, before you do. The leaves, vines, roots, and seeds are toxic to pigs.
You should not feed pigs unripe tomatoes, raw potatoes, raw sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery, celery root, parsley, onions, avocados, and rhubarb. More on what pigs shouldn’t eat below.
When answering the question, what can pigs eat out of your garden, keep in mind 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 ask your local grocery store if they are willing to sell or donate their unsellable produce. Many times, farmers and stores are happy to provide unsellable items for free or a nominal fee.
What store bought feed can a pig eat?
When it comes to commercial feed, what’s available will depend on the goals you have set for your farm.
You have to decide if you want to raise the healthiest pigs possible for your consumption or if you are ok with standard commercial pig feed.
Some studies have suggested that you should be feeding a non-GMO variety of corn, grain, and soy.
In a study published in the Journal of Organic Systems, researchers found that feeding pigs GMO corn and soy resulted in a much higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than other pigs in the study that were fed non-GMO food.
Of course, there are a lot of studies you can reference and lookup on the effects of Genetically Modified Organisms. Everybody has a right to do their own research and make the best decision for their families and pets.
Here are a few countries that have made the decision to ban or have at least placed heavy restrictions on GMOs:
France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Greece, and Russia are just a few as well as some counties in California, Oregon, and Washington State in the United States.
What a Pig Cannot Eat
It should be pointed out that foods that are not recommended for pigs doesn’t necessarily imply they will be fatal to them.
Nightshades are a group of plants you may not want to feed your pigs.
Nightshade gets its name from the toxic alkaloids found in several eatable fruits and vegetables. If a pig eats a too much of these, their body will be overloaded with toxins.
Members of the nightshade family:
- Goji Berries
Ornamental Plants Pigs Can’t Eat
- Angel Trumpet
- Branching Ivy
- Devil’s Ivy
- Dumb Cane
- Dragon Tree
- Easter Lilies
- Elephant Ears
- Aloe Vera
- English Ivy
These are decorative plants that are toxic to pigs as well as humans and other animals.
Poison mushrooms are not good pig food. Wild boars and feral pigs don’t seem to consider them to be on their list of things to eat.
Feeding some kinds of raw meat to pigs can transfer diseases such as foot and mouth disease.
The African Swine Fever Virus was introduced into a herd after the feeding of uncooked contaminated pork in African pig farms.
The African Swine virus symptoms include: high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs, and death in less than 10 days. Mortality rates have been recorded in some areas at 100%.
Eating raw eggs (especially unhealthy factory eggs) can interfere with the biotin absorption in pigs. Cooked eggs do not have the same impact on biotin absorption.
Mycotoxins is a toxin produced by molds. It can be quite harmful when ingested by pigs as well as other animals.
They get it through ingesting moldy food. It will cause poisoning which can be identified through symptoms including:
- Weight and appetite loss
- Poor growth rate
- Poor immune system
- Respiratory issues
Again, it should be pointed out that foods that are not recommended for pigs doesn’t necessarily imply they will be fatal to them.
However, an inadequate diet may cause irritations, increase the risk of diseases, and can be the contributing factor in major health problems only noticed months down the road.
How much food does a pig eat?
Given the proper food, a healthy pig will eat around 8 pounds of food a day.
Healthy foods will effect body weight and if the pig gets the nutrients it needs, it will not feel as hungry. Just like us.
A pig’s weight will also factor in as adult pigs will need to consume more to maintain their weight.
Breed also effects the amount of food required for a healthy diet. Potbellied pigs will not consume half the amount of regular farm pigs. Heritage breeds of pigs will not consume as much as modern breeds of pigs.
The number of pigs also plays a role in this. Two or more pigs will feel competition at the feed trough. While one pig alone will not feel the need to get it before it’s gone and can even become a picky eater! Sounds just like dogs!
How to Feed Pigs Without Breaking the Bank
My grandma complained about the smell of their pig lot when the wind blew in the wrong direction. It would carry the smell of the pigs in the finishing pen up to the farmhouse windows. She would say, “I’ll sure be glad when those pigs go to market!” My grandpa would reply, “That’s the smell of money!”
Louis Bromfield is quoted as saying, “If you raise the pigs and raise the corn, you will make money.”
Louis was making a good point that to make money with pork, you must cut the cost of their feed by raising your own corn.
The price of corn has made the price of pork follow its rapid rise in recent years.
It is interesting that the best diet for your pigs can also be the least expensive option.
The Best Diet for Pigs
To save the most money and have the healthiest pigs around, I would recommend using a rotational based paddock system. We’ve shared a very informative video below on this system.
This can be done by dividing your pasture into 6 fenced in paddocks. The size depends on the number of pigs you are raising.
3 paddocks running right next to 3 paddocks so you can easily rotate the grazing with a gate between each paddock. Supplying the area with a fresh water source.
The pigs are allowed to free range in paddock one until eaten down, then you open paddock two and they live there until they clear that paddock, and on to 3, 4, 5, 6, and then back to paddock 1 which should be regrown by the time they return.
When pigs are finished eating down a paddock, you simply close it off move the clean water trough to the next paddock. Thus allowing the closed off paddocks time to recover.
In the springtime, you can let pigs eat down one of their paddocks completely. Then move them to the next paddock.
Sow the completely eaten paddock with pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and other root and vegetable crops that you know pigs love.
When those crops are ripe, you can then let the pigs back into this paddock to eat all the new vegetables.
If you have black walnut, oak, and hickory trees. You can setup a fenced in area around these trees where they can finish themselves out on walnuts, acorns, and hickory nuts. This is a great way to give the pork a great flavor before processing.
If you don’t have enough room to do paddock free-range rotational grassing, then try feeding them as high a percentage as you can from your own farm. Supplementing them feed you have to buy like a non-GMO pig grower, alfalfa hay, and grass hay. Although, this will raise the cost of your feed to meat ratio.
But with the way the majority of pork is raised, it may be worth it to be able to find quality bacon in your freezer for supper.