Pigs are said to be able to eat just about anything which sometimes gives them the reputation of being “dirty” animals. However, that’s not always the case, and there are different conditions under which pigs eat different foods. Domestic pigs today are far from dirty animals. Most farmers avoid feeding them potentially toxic supplements or concentrates. Instead, pigs eat a range of different foods and they can eat a great amount!
Farmed pigs, that farmers aim to grow big and reproduce healthily, require that is adapted to meet the needs of pigs in terms of age, gender and size. The food needs to contain nutritional ingredients. It’s no secret that pigs are omnivores, they eat both meat and vegetable-based foods. Studies show that their diet is very varied.
Up until recent decades, pigs were the most abundant source of meat for humans. They helped humans meet their nutritional needs, and have food supplies for months. Pig meat could be roasted or even smoked to keep it preserved during the cold winter months.
Today, pigs are widely domesticated animals. Nevertheless, they’re still present in the wild where they feed on different kinds of foods. Although pigs today most commonly exist on farms, some people adopt pigs as pets.
It’s important to know the nutritional needs of such animals to be able to provide them with the food they need to survive and feel comfortable. Many people think that animals like pigs can survive on any available food. However, just like all other animals, there is good food and bad food for pigs.
We want to help you explore these ingredients and provide the best possible diet for your pets. Whether you are trying to maintain fully-grown pigs or take care of a piglet, this article is for you.
Nutritional Needs of Wild Pigs
Where do wild pigs live? Anywhere away from the human influence. You can find them in the wetlands, grasslands, fields, forests, and mountains. Anywhere with plenty of food that they can feed on.
Pigs are omnivores, so if they can’t find the vegetables or grains, they’ll feed on small animals.
Let’s start with the plant-based diet. Pigs will try to find nutrients and vitamins that are necessary for their energy from plant-based ingredients like roots, leaves, grains, and other grass-like plants.
Domesticated pigs aren’t supposed to eat mushrooms, but wild pigs do, and are good at recognizing which ones are safe for them to eat. Adult pigs will also eat seeds and nuts that have fallen from trees.
If they’re unable to find those nutrients, they’ll turn to other animals. Part of their meat diet includes worms, larvae, and insects, but they won’t stop there. If large enough, they’ll move to bigger and more complex animals. Although it is rare, they’ll try to fulfil their needs with different reptiles and amphibians like small snakes and lizards, or even frogs. More often than not, they’ll feed on mice and rats.
Editor’s notes: Keep in mind that just because wild hogs eat certain foods like rats, mice and mushrooms, domestic pigs shouldn’t eat them. Consuming rats and mice can lead to the infection of Trichinella which can spread from infected pigs to humans who eat the meat.
What Do Domestic & Pet Pigs Eat?
Luckily for people who eat pork, domestic pigs don’t have the same nutritional needs and cravings as wild hogs. Years and centuries of domesticating wild pigs led to change in their nutritional needs, to the point that some foods could even make them sick.
Pigs now grow up on processed foods, eating supplements and concentrated food to meet certain nutritional needs.
Nevertheless, a lot of farmers want to keep clean eating habits in their pigs, so they choose carefully picked food that will help them grow up and reproduce quickly.
Domestic pigs mostly eat plant-based food, and will not eat meat, although they have retained their omnivore eating preference. One of the most important ingredients that pigs eat is the grain-based food and fibers, similar to the cereals we eat.
With such food rich in fiber and carbs, farmers help pigs gain the necessary weight, grow up and be ready to reproduce or head out to the market.
Most commonly given foods for pigs:
This makes sense because all of this food is rich in fiber, vitamins, carbohydrates that give the pigs energy. More importantly, on farms, this food is available in abundance and is readily available for pigs to eat.
Additionally, these ingredients are so abundant, to point that they’re cheap to buy, maintain and grow.
There are exceptions, however. Farmers will sometimes introduce some vegetables, seeds, and nuts that can help the pigs enrich their diet. These ingredients are more commonly introduced to pet pigs that live in home conditions. They’re more like special snacks that pigs will eat throughout the day.
In addition to insects and other snacks, pet pigs will eat the following fruits and vegetables:
- Pumpkin – Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Iron, Copper, Potassium
- Leafy Greens – Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, Antioxidants, Calcium, Iron
- Squash – Vitamin A, B6, C, Magnesium, Folate, Fiber
- Radish – Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium
- Cauliflower – Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium, Magnesium
- Potatoes – Vitamin B1, B3, B6, Potassium
- Broccoli – Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc
- Melons – Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium
- Eggplant – Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Copper, Fiber
- Lettuce – Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate
- Berries – Vitamin C, Copper, Manganese
- Apples without seeds – Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B6
- Bananas – Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium
Of course, you’re more than welcome to mix these for your pet pig along with other cereal ingredients we mentioned above. You can also carefully feed them with nuts, quinoa, and other oats. Make sure that they are not saturated in sugar or salt.
What Should Piglets Eat?
Baby pigs, also called, piglets, shouldn’t be adopted as pets immediately after being born, nor for a few weeks after because they should only feed on milk from their mothers. For the first week or two, the piglet will only drink milk.
It’ll take some time before piglets can start eating solid foods because theirdigestive system needs some time to develop before they can readily take food like corn and other cereals.
On farms, farmers will introduce piglets to enzymes and minerals that are necessary to develop the digestive tract, enough to allow them to eat solid foods. That speeds the entire process if you want your pig is being farmed commercially. If your piglet is just a pet, you should go with the natural flow, though taking probiotics won’t hurt.
Here’s what you can feed the piglets other than milk:
- Creep feed with proteins found in the milk. This is used for piglets adopted by someone when the mother’s milk is not available.
- Pre-Starting feeds that are rich in milk proteins, as well as small amounts of grains and cereals which will speed up weight gain.
- Starter Feed including soybean, unsalted peanuts, sorghum, sunflower seeds, and other fibers once the piglet is big enough to eat foods other than milk.
Editor’s notes: Once the piglet reaches 50 lbs you will no longer need to feed it starter foods. You can use other ingredients we mentioned above.
What Shouldn’t Pigs Eat?
Although pigs are said to benefit from almost any food, there are some foods that you should be cautious about. Below, we’ll discuss that food and help you make informed decisions in case you catch your pig eating food they shouldn’t. Remember not to feed them with the following:
1. Spoiled Foods
Although a lot of people feed their pets the food that was made a few days back, or foods with expiration dates past the threshold, it’s not a good practice to feed any animal with spoiled food and leftovers. It’s okay to feed them leftovers if the food hasn’t gone bad.
Food which has started to rot can cause pigs to feel discomfort, and is not be appropriate for them. Pigs generally eat a lot and may not be able to recognize what foods can do them harm. A lot of people are sure that pigs won’t feel harm from eating bad food once, but if it continues to be an ongoing practice you can compromise their health.
2. Overly Sugary Foods
Chocolate is not appropriate for most animals. Dogs can even get poisoned to death by eating chocolate. The same goes for many other animals that are not supposed to eat chocolate. In excess amounts, chocolate, fruits, and other sugary food is bad news for pigs, which is why you shouldn’t overdo it with such ingredients.
Fruits are a good option for pet pigs in moderation. However, excess amounts of fruits can lead to blockages in their digestive tracts and long-term damage.
Editor’s notes: If you feed your pet pigs with fruits occasionally, make sure to avoid feeding them with seeds that come along with the fruits. That can cause problems with digestion.
3. Food for Pets
Pigs don’t have a filter to tell them when they’ve had enough or what food is bad or not. That’s why they’ll feed on anything, including the pet food that is nowhere near good for them. Even though pet food is advertised to be beneficial for cats or dogs, that’s where the benefits end. Pigs shouldn’t eat such food, and you should focus on natural ingredients.
4. Human Fast Food
Although we’re okay with eating cereals, bread, crackers, pizzas, chips, and other snacks from the processed foods list, these are not appropriate foods for pigs. A pig’s digestive system is not adapted to excess carbs which are industrially processed for human consumption. Stick to clean foods and you won’t make mistakes, and your pig pet will be grateful!
Mold is also something that pigs shouldn’t eat. If you notice that your pet pigs’ ingredients have gone bad and moldy, replace them with new ones. They can be highly intoxicating for the pigs. That’s why it’s also important to get rid of leftover food if too many days have gone by.
Pigs in the wild can recognize which mushrooms are bad and which ones are good. Domestic pigs likely can’t and no one can be 100% that they’ve found the edible mushroom in the wild. That’s why pigs should avoid eating mushrooms because they can not just harm and poison them, they can also kill them.