Overfeeding Pigs: A Common Problem Or Not?

three feeder pigs eating out of a pan in their outside pen

Your pigs can really eat a lot of feed, especially as they get bigger! Will pigs stop eating when they are full or is overfeeding your pigs something you should be concerned about?

Feeder pigs can not be overfed, they will stop eating when they are full. Breeding stock pigs can easily be overfed.

Feeder pigs will not over eat feed

Overfeeding your growing pigs, like feeder pigs, is not a problem to worry about. Your feeders will eat what they need/want for the day then stop when they are satisfied.

The most common feeding plan used by people raising feeder pigs is the all you can eat plan.

Natural Feeds For Your Pigs gives you a list of pelleted or ground feeds that you could buy or alternative feeds that may be available in your area.

The idea is to keep the pig feeder full all of the time. The pigs can eat as much as they want, whenever they are hungry.

This is how we raise our feeder pigs. They have a bulk feeder that we refill as needed.

The feed changes a bit as they grow, older pigs need less protein, but always the self serve, “get it when they feel like it” ground feed.

The three piglets pictured above are ours, as well. They are eating out of a rubber feed pan. I have one bulk feeder, but two groups of feeder pigs!

Since the other group has 15, these characters get fed in pans, which is fine for just three!

Breeding stock pigs can and will over eat.

Overfeeding is a potential problem in your breeding stock pigs. Adult pigs will eat significantly more than they need, just because they like to eat, not because they need it!

Best Pigs For Breeding Stock shows you how to pick the pigs that suit you and your plans.

It’s your job to keep them at a healthy weight and not let them “pig out”.

Fat sows (you may have seen the words “over conditioned”-it means fat) will have trouble conceiving and are likely to have more farrowing difficulties. The same hold true for fat gilts.

Over weight sows is a productivity killer. This is a hard one for me, I like to feed extra “just to keep them happy”.

I end up regretting it later, when the litter size is small or the sow won’t breed. Both my fault because I caved in and gave more feed than I should have.

Obesity can cause conception problems, and too much fat around the cervix also makes farrowing more difficult.

Emily Houghton, Former Editor at The Pig Site.com

No exceptions for the boars, they do not get to eat all they want, either! On full or unrestricted feed, boars will grow to be too heavy to use to breed your sows or gilts.

By keeping the boar at his ideal weight you’ll prolong his usefulness as a herd sire.

Not kidding about this “boar getting too big” stuff.

Years ago, we had a Tamworth boar that got huge, 790 pounds when we finally managed to get his sweet self on a trailer! Obviously, he was too big to be useful, just great at eating feed!

Why do pigs eat so much?

The easy answer here is that the pigs are growing super fast, so they need lots of energy to fuel that growth.

Growing pigs are on a round the clock, all you can eat type diet when they are young. That’s the only way they can eat enough food to fuel their metabolism.

Think about it, a normal size pig will go from just born to 250+ pounds in 6 months! It will take a lot of feed to keep up with that calorie need. Generally, 3-4 pounds of feed for each pound of gain. That’s a lot of feed!

The crazy part is that the pig likely was around 50 pounds when you got it, at about 8-10 weeks.

The piglet would have weighed about 4 pounds at birth, so gained 46 pounds in the first two months of his life. (46 pounds of gain in 60 days.)

Your feeder pig is gaining over 200 pounds in 4 months that you have him to get him up to market weight (from 2-6 months of age).

That’s another 4 months (120 days) in which he’ll gain over 200 pounds! This 200 pounds of gain will take about 750-800 pounds of feed to achieve.

How much food do pigs need per day?

Age in days50100160
Weight in pounds50175265
Feed intake in pounds/day3.26.07.0
Gain in pounds/day1.82.11.75
Feed : Gain Ratio234
This is the summary of Table Number 1 from an Iowa State PDF that you can find here.

The exact amount your pigs will eat each day depends upon their weight, genetics and age.

The table above will give you a good average consumption level to compare to.

When they are close to butchering size, your pigs will be eating around 7 pounds of feed each per day. When you first got them (at around 50 pounds) they were eating just over 3 pounds of feed each per day.

Your feeder pigs need as much as they are willing to eat per day. Anything less than that is limiting the amount of growth you’ll get per day from your piglets.

Since we want fast growth, restricting feed and the resulting growth is not a good plan.

It seems counter intuitive, but you actually will save feed and money by making sure your pigs have all of the feed they want when they are growing.

Check out my article on Cost To Raise Feeder Pigs to get more details on what you can expect to spend feeding your pigs.

Breeding stock pigs need 4# of feed/day/head

If you are talking about adult breeding stock pigs on their maintenance feed per day, the answer is very, very different! Adult pigs need 4 pounds of feed per head per day.

For three adult pigs, you would need to feed them a total of 12 pounds per day. I like to feed twice a day, but once a day would work as well.

Monitor the body condition of your pigs, you may need to adjust the amount fed to better suit your pigs or your environment.

For sows that are nursing, the amount of feed needed per day is 6 pounds plus 1/2 pound of feed per piglet. You’ll need to feed more feed if sows are thin.

If you are like me and tend to overfeed the adults, stop guessing and start weighing the feed! I like to use a scale to figure out how much my container holds then add from there.

For example: the plastic coffee can we use for shelled corn holds, 5.5 pounds when full.

If you had three adult pigs and you wanted to feed them the 4 pounds each per day, you would need two cans (for a total of 11 pounds) and a bit extra.

Be sure to check yourself with the scale once in a while to make sure you are still on target with your amounts!

Giving pigs snacks (in addition to ground feed) is fine

Your pigs will actually appreciate a bit of roughage, like hay, thrown in to their pen for them to chew on. It helps them to digest their feed!

three small square bales of grass hay that have just been baled, now ready to be taken to the barn for storage
Small square bales of 1st cutting grass hay that we made this summer. It is from a right of way under a power line. Our neighbor wants the growth kept down to avoid trimmers spraying her property so we bale it for our animals. This hay will make a nice meal or snack for any of our livestock, including the pigs.

However, notice I wrote a bit, not a huge amount or a drastic change in their diet! Drastic changes can and will upset their digestion, so introduce any new foods gradually.

Pigs will love to eat extra produce from your garden or the left over hay that the goats left in the feeder!

Giving large amounts of junk food is a poor idea, nutritionally and gut health wise.

Please note that I wrote snacks are fine, not huge additions of a totally new food all at once! That’s a recipe for digestive trouble!

The occasional quick bite of a new food will keep them happy, lots of new foods given will run the risk of messing up their gut’s microbial balance.


So, there you have it: feeder pigs can not be over fed. Keep your feeder pigs on full/all they can eat feed until you are ready to sell/butcher them.

Adult pigs, on the other hand, must have their feed intake closely monitored.

Use a scale and weigh the feed to keep your breeding stock productive and in great condition.

Osbourne Livestock Equipment has a great article on feeding pigs, with the different feeds needed split up by the weight of the feeder pigs.

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