What Do Pigs Eat?

Pigs are omnivores, so-called omnivores. As such, they eat animal and plant food. You have to put together a varied pig feed. It should taste good to the animals, and at the same time they should be well provided for. However, the bristly animals must not eat everything. The days when pigs used leftovers from the kitchen are long gone for reasons of disease control. Find out what should go into your pigs’ feed troughs in our guide.

What do pigs eat in nature?

Pigs rely on their noses to find food in natural environments. The bristly animals are known as super noses – for example, when searching for truffles. With over 1,300 olfactory genes, they are superior to all other mammals at smelling. In humans, only 350 genes are involved in the sense of smell.

Pigs’ sense of taste is less well developed. Whether sweet, savory or bitter, pigs probably taste worse than humans. This is shown by a study published in the scientific journal “Nature”. One of the researchers reasoned that the animals readily eat things that are repulsive to the human palate. These include tree bark, roots and tubers or worms, maggots and insects. But pigs also like things that humans can make friends with. For example, they eat grass, herbs, chestnuts, acorns and various fruits and vegetables.

The intelligent animals (see How smart are pigs guidebook) spend a large part of the day searching for food in the wild. They sniff and burrow to find food. In the process, they also eat animal food, especially carrion.

Pigs prey on:

Worms and insects
Eggs and live young such as birds, mice, etc.
Small reptiles and amphibians (snakes, lizards, frogs, etc.).
Varied food for the domestic pig

Many animal lovers are enthusiastic about keeping mini pigs, for example. Mini pigs are very cute and do not require as much space in the attitude as a “normal” domestic pig.

There are a few things to keep in mind when feeding your pig:

When feeding the bristly animal, alternating feed is important. Hay, straw, oats, barley and corn flakes form the nutritional basis – oats, corn and barley also ground or crushed.
The animals like to nibble branches, tree bark, leaves and grass. They even eat fir trees.
Vegetables and fruits complement the feed well. Cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, potatoes (raw and cooked) and zucchini are popular. Eggplant, fennel or asparagus are also fine. For fruit, apples, bananas, pears and watermelon are good for the pigs kept.
Acorns and nuts (hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts) are fatty and therefore recommended only in moderation for pigs kept as pets.
With a salt and mineral stone you provide your animals with minerals and trace elements in the best possible way.
Water must always be available to the animals in sufficient quantity and quality. It is considered the most important feed for pigs. High-quality pig drinkers provide the animals with water in the best possible way.
IMPORTANT: For disease control reasons, you must not feed animal by-products such as kitchen and food waste to your bristling animals. They can carry diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease or swine fever.

When foot-and-mouth disease broke out in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the millennium, officials had to emergency slaughter more than ten million pigs. The outbreak was attributed to the feeding of untreated kitchen waste.

Predominantly vegetarian diet for the omnivore in livestock farming

In intensive farming, farmers currently feed the omnivorous pig primarily a vegetarian diet. Animal meal (with the exception of fish meal) and animal fats have been banned from the pig diet in the EU since 2003 due to concerns about epidemics. The BSE crisis ensured that animal proteins may no longer be fed to farm animals. BSE stands for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, an animal disease that causes fatal brain disease, especially in cattle.

In the meantime, the EU is discussing whether to allow certain animal meal to be used in animal feed again. If the EU member states vote in favor, the bristling animals could find poultry meal in the troughs, for example. Only processed protein of animal origin would then be explicitly allowed.

Animal meal contains a lot of protein, which plays an important role in the rearing and fattening of pigs. It is also argued that allowing animal-based diets would have positive effects. Above all, it would reduce the import of soy (protein feed very frequently fed as soy extraction meal) and the use of arable land for animal feed.

Huge choice of pig feed in intensive livestock farming

The vegetarian diet of farm-raised pigs is not one-sided. Currently, pig farmers can choose from around 400 different feeds to feed their bristling cattle.

In doing so, the farmer should pay attention to what is in the individual pig feed:

The feed usually consists of 75 to 85 percent energy feed (grains such as wheat, barley or corn). Accordingly, grain makes up the most important feed component in pig feed.
Suitable protein feeds include soybean meal, soybean concentrate and soybeans, canola meal, field beans, peas, lupins, cotton meal, linseed meal, sunflower meal and brewer’s yeast.
Pig nutrition for livestock is rounded out by raw fiber carriers such as wheat bran, dried pulp, grass cobs or a fiber mix. Crude fiber, as fiber is called, is important for pigs to keep their digestive tract healthy.
Fresh green forage rarely makes it into the feed trough in intensive farming. Some pig farmers produce their own feed to feed their animals. However, it is easiest for him to use ready-made mixtures for feeding. These are available in the form of pellets, powder or mash.

Roughage for pigs is of particular importance

Roughage is a feed with a high proportion of structured crude fiber. High-fiber feeds for pigs include straw, molasses chips, alfalfa meal or soybean hulls, for example.

To keep your bristling animals well and happy, provide them with adequate roughage. Fiber is essential for their digestion and metabolic processes to function properly. The animals break down the raw fiber in the large intestine by microbes.

Raw fiber is particularly important because it fills the gastrointestinal tract. This plays a role especially in pregnant sows, as the fibers saturate and soothe the animals. Also, swellable fiber components dilate the gastrointestinal tract and prepare it for lactation when the animals take in more feed.

In general, roughage has a positive effect on animals in two ways:

The roughage is nutritionally and health beneficial:

  • Roughage layers better in the stomach, protecting the entrance area of the stomach from stomach acid.
  • Crude fiber helps reduce the use of antibiotics when feeding pigs. Crude fiber stimulates intestinal peristalsis, so animals eliminate harmful germs faster. Constipation occurs less frequently.
  • While the soluble fibers are converted microbially, volatile fatty acids are released. These have a positive effect on intestinal health.
  • In hayracks for pigs, you present roughage such as hay or straw to the animals in a particularly hygienic way, since it is not lying on the dirty barn floor.
    The roughage serves as material for occupation:
  • You will keep your pigs well occupied with changeable, investigable and movable materials such as hay, straw, pressed straw or wood shavings.
    Meanwhile, the Animal Welfare Livestock Ordinance (TierSchNutztV) stipulates that employment material must be organic and rich in fiber. According to feed legislation, pig farmers should provide pregnant sows with a minimum amount of crude fiber.

Different feed requirements: piglets, pregnant and lactating sows, fattening pigs.
All pigs are not created equal when it comes to livestock production. There are special pig feeds for piglet production, sow breeding, piglet rearing, pregnant and lactating pigs, fattening pigs and boars in each case. The feed is designed for optimal development of the animals, good milk production and rapid weight gain. The animals in intensive farming should grow fast and gain a lot of weight through ideal feeding.

Nutrition influences boar scent

Boar meat has a certain inherent odor that is unpleasant to the human nose. Especially when you heat the meat, it starts to smell urine- and fecal-like.

Feed influences how pronounced this boar odor is. In addition to the sex pheromone androstenone, skatole is responsible for the characteristic boar odor. Skatole is a degradation product of the amino acid tryptophan, which is formed in the large intestine. By taking certain measures when feeding, you can reduce the concentration of skatole.

If you want to reduce boar odor, you should select feed components that are not digested in the small intestine but in the large intestine. It is also beneficial to use feeds with a low tryptophan content or feeds with a high crude fiber content.

What must pigs not eat?

Pigs are basically omnivores. However, this does not mean that they will not get sick from infected feed or that they cannot get poisoned from the wrong feed.

As stated above, you must not feed your bristling animals kitchen or food waste. They can spread animal diseases such as highly contagious swine fever.
Also, if you feed kitchen and bakery scraps, they can cause saline poisoning The risk of saline poisoning is especially high when animals have insufficient water and do not excrete sodium through their kidneys.

Grazing animals can become poisoned while eating buttercups They die suddenly from heart and respiratory paralysis.
In general, you should not feed prunings or waste from your ornamental garden. Some ornamental plants, such as boxwood or marsh marigold, are toxic to bristlecattle and can cause your animals to die.

Organic pig farming: 100 percent organic feed.

Adult pigs raised for organic meat have been allowed to receive only organic feed since 2021. Previously, if feed components were not available, farmers could use five percent conventional pig feed. In this way, they could circumvent a feed shortage. Exceptions to the rule now only exist in the keeping of animals weighing less than 35 kilograms.

Conclusion on pig feeding

Pigs are omnivores and spend many hours in natural environments foraging for plant and animal food. When kept as pets, pigs are real epicures and enjoy a varied diet that may include eggplant, fir trees and watermelons. Leftovers and kitchen waste are taboo – likewise for mini pigs. Feed of animal origin is also unsuitable for disease control reasons. In intensive animal husbandry, farmers also feed the animals mainly vegetarian. Pig farmers have access to around 400 feedstuffs to provide optimal nutrition for piglets, boars or sows.

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