Some nutrition basics for pigs
Pigs are efficient converters of feed to liveweight. They have a single stomach very similar to our own, so do not cope very well with bulky fibrous feeds, particularly the younger pigs and lactating sows.
Here are a few pointers to get more out of your porkers:
- Feed them well at weaning
- The weaner is very efficient but needs the best quality feed available. Buy a ready-made ration to ensure the correct protein, energy, vitamin and mineral levels with no guess work required. They will get off to good start and be less susceptible to scours during the first week post-weaning. Feed 1kg divided into two feeds each day.
- Continue feeding this way for a month, gradually introducing cheaper feeds after three weeks
- An approximate meal feeding scale is
Growing pigs: 25kg
|Breeding sows and boars||2.5 - 3.5|
|Suckling sows||2.5 plus 0.5/piglet|
Meal feeds and cereals have similar dry matter content (80 - 90%) so can be fed at a similar rate
Alternative feeds such as potatoes, carrots, apple pomace and citrus pulp have a higher water content so the ‘as fed' rate needs to be adjusted
e.g. potatoes are only 20% dry matter so feed 5 times the equivalent amount of feed to get the ‘as fed' weight.
- Vitamin and trace minerals: avoid guessing their needs and feed a ready-made pre-mix. Pre-mixes cost around $15 for 2.5kg and this amount is sufficient to take three pigs to finishing weights. Cutting costs and feeding less is preferable to none at all.
- Macro minerals: calcium and phosphorus are also important but are not included in pre-mixes. DCP and limeflour can be added on a daily basis to balance the diet for these minerals.
That covers the basics, now just a few comments on some commonly used ingredients:
- Cereals - good source of energy with some protein. They need to be ground or boiled to aid digestion. Must provide an additional protein-rich feed to balance. Cereal-based products e.g. reject biscuits, bread and breakfast cereals are popular. Can be put through a garden shredder to produce a meal type feed.
- Potatoes - limit to 50% of the ration as bulky. Must be cooked and feed to pigs over 12 weeks only. Low in protein, calcium and phosphorus.
- Meat meals - limit to 25% of grower rations and 10% of weaner rations
- Fish meals - quality protein source but liable to produce a fat taint. Limit to creep, weaner and small grower feeds at 5% only.
- Garbage - remember by law all garbage must be boiled for one hour prior to feeding. Pigs don't like tea leaves, coffee grounds or citrus skins and commercial operators require a licence.
- Grazing - non-lactating dry stock only. Fodder beat, choumollier and pumpkins have some value. Avoid feeding pregnant sows lucerne due to oestrogen compounds causing abortions.
- Milk - whole milk is a good source of quality protein, but introduce gradually. Milk powders are also a great additive for creep and weaner feeds. Skim or separated milk remain good sources of protein but have lower energy content. Feed 2-4 litres daily depending on age and top up with a ground cereal plus mineral supplement. Whey is an energy source only (lactose), so balance with a protein type feed. Feed to older pigs (>14 weeks) as bloat is a common side effect.
- Water is the forgotten nutrient - pigs require from 1-10 litres per day depending on age and feed ration. Water should be cool and fresh (i.e. clean) and keep drinkers away from the sleeping area to prevent soiling. Nipple drinkers are preferable to troughs as the water will be clean all the time.
If you have any questions about your pig's diet or other health issues, please feel free to contact a vet at Totally Vets.