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Feeding Your Pigs

Feeding Your Pigs

Pigs can be raised on a variety of feeds, as long as the nutritional requirements for the various stages of production and growth are met. Pigs need to be fed everyday, with the amount of feed they require being dependent on their breed, age, sex, stage of growth, condition, and type of ingredients used. Typically, sows and boars are fed once or twice a day, while growing pigs would ideally have access to feed 24 hours a day.

It is important to note that pigs cannot be raised on pasture alone and will require additional feed for proper growth and development. There are several things you need to consider when feeding your pigs. It is also important to know that it is illegal to feed any meat or meat products to your pigs. This is one reason not to feed table scraps.

Complete Feeds

Complete feeds are typically purchased from a feed mill and designed to meet all the nutritional requirements of your pigs. Different feeds will be required for different stages of growth, and your feed company can assist you with this. This might seem like the most expensive approach upfront, but it is also the simplest, and your pigs will have the best growth.

Grain-Based Homemade Feeds

Some people will prefer to make (grind) their own feed to save on cost. These diets can consist of a single grain (e.g. wheat or barley) or multiple grains (e.g. wheat/barley/peas/ lentils) with or without by-products (distillers, screenings). These diets will require an additional vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure nutritional requirements are met. Diets tend to be cheaper than complete feeds; however, pigs will also tend to grow more slowly. Vitamin/mineral supplements can be found at your local feed mill.

Produce-Based Homemade Feeds

In some cases, produce (fruits and vegetables) may provide a low-cost opportunity in feeding your pigs. These diets will require a very specific vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure nutritional needs of the pig are met. While it is acceptable to use produce in a feeding program, you must ensure it has never entered a kitchen or has been in contact with meat or products of animal origin. Typically, supermarket or market garden leftovers would provide a viable option for sourcing these types of products. DO NOT feed food/table scraps as they can be contaminated with meat products. Feeding any product that contains meat or meat products is illegal in Canada.


Pigs can be raised on a variety of feeds, as long as you meet the nutritional requirements for different ages and sizes pigs. Poorly balanced diets result in pigs that get sick more easily, grow slowly, convert feed inefficiently, and produce a poorer quality carcass (e.g. too fat, low muscle mass). If you plan on making your own feed, there are a couple of things you should take into consideration.

  • Pigs require energy for maintenance, growth, and reproduction. Fats and carbohydrates make up the bulk of the pig’s energy requirements.
  • Common energy sources include wheat, barley, and corn.
  • Pigs of all ages and stages require protein.
  • Common protein sources include soybean meal, peas, or lentils.
  • Protein is normally the most expensive component in the diet. Try to avoid over feeding protein sources.
  • If you have access to a feed company, consult with their nutritionist for recommendations on the correct protein level for your pigs.
Vitamins & Minerals
  • Vitamins and minerals are essential for the proper functioning of all physiological processes. Deficiencies, excesses, and imbalances in vitamins and minerals can cause health and/or production issues.
  • Check with your feed company regarding availability.
  • Use a vitamin/mineral supplement for all pig rations if not using a complete feed.
Alternative Feed Ingredients
  • Common recycled food products that are approved as livestock feed include dehydrated bakery waste, dried distillers grains, and breakfast cereal process residue.
  • An available/inexpensive ingredient should not compromise the health, well-being, or productivity of the pig when added to the diet.
  • Any alternative ingredient must not contain meat products or by-products. For this reason, do not feed your pigs kitchen scraps (or international waste products from planes or ships).
Feed Quantity

How much a pig eats is dependent on their breed and sex, age, stage of growth, ingredients used, and weather. Adjust the amount of feed provided based on the age, size, and condition of the pigs. Often you will see feed intake is higher than expected when feed is nutritionally inadequate (particularly in energy).

Providing more feed than required to breeding stock increases cost, feed waste, and can result in obesity and lower reproductive performance. However feed should be provided on a consistent basis to feeder and finishing pigs, ensuring they achieve the best health and growth potential. However feed needs to be delivered in a way that minimizes feed waste and spoilage.

It is very important to note that pigs cannot be raised on pasture alone as nutritional requirements won’t be met. In addition, pigs raised outdoors require more feed to maintain their body temperature than pigs raised indoors, particularly in colder weather. It is best to speak with a veterinarian and feed company regarding developing a plan on feeding your pigs.

Feed Safety Tips
  • It is important to avoid feeding mouldy grain and diets, as this can severely impact pig growth and health.
  • Clean up feed spills immediately as spills will attract pests and wild animals.
  • Do not feed meat scraps and avoid purchasing feed from unknown sources.
  • Store feed in a dry, secure area.
  • Do not feed hay or straw to pigs that contain visible contaminants, such as dead rodents, bird nests, or animal feces. Also, avoid getting hay or straw from other farms that use pig manure to fertilize their soil. 

Potential growth problems, vomiting, diarrhea and, in extreme cases, death. Mycotoxins can cause significant reproductive issues when fed to sows. Can be present in feed that does not appear ‘mouldy.’

Redroot Pigweed

Can lead to weakness, trembling, lack of coordination, dragging rear legs, and death. Exposure occurs throughout summer and early fall.


Can lead to depression, nausea, weakness, vomiting, or death. Two-leaf seedling stage and ground seeds are most hazardous.

Black Nightshade

Can lead to anorexia, depression, or death. Unpalatable – generally consumed in over-grazing situations. Leaves and green berries are most hazardous.


There are a number of different of types of feeders that you can purchase or build to effectively feed your pigs. Regardless of the type of feeder you choose there are a couple of things that you should consider.

  • One feeder space (minimum 15 inches wide) can usually accommodates 13-18 pigs.
  • A feeder should be weather and pest resistant. This will alleviate lots of problems in the long run.
  • Ensure feeders are easily accessible to all pigs, regardless of size. Make sure the feeder openings are large enough for your biggest pig to eat.
  • A hinged cover on a feed bunk, that your pigs can open with their snouts, helps protect the feed from pests, other animals, and the weather.
  • Avoid feces and urine contamination – make sure feeders are cleaned on a regular basis.
  • If you locate feeders near the pen walls/fences it will let you feed your pigs (when feeding few pigs) without getting in the pen.
  • If you have a large number of pigs you should consider using some type of hopper. This ensures your pigs have constant 24-hour access to feed.