Normally pigs are all about eating, but sometimes your spunky pigs aren’t feeling top notch and stop eating. Here are a few easy things you can try to get your little porkers back to eating again.
If your pigs are not eating check that they are comfortable (not too hot), have clean water, are eating fresh (not moldy) feed and have some roughage, like hay, available.
Let me start off by saying if your pigs are looking unhealthy, you need to call a vet. The tips I’m sharing are easy, at home fixes for pigs needing a management change, not sick pigs needing medical treatment.
These ideas will be for situations affecting all of the pigs at once. If you have one pig not eating but the other pigs are eating, now you have a problem. Investigate the situation and consider calling in the vet.
Is Raising Pigs For Meat Worth It? is an article I wrote with costs and a budget with first time pig raisers in mind.
Pigs need water to digest their food
The first place to look when pigs are not eating is to their water. Pigs need plenty of water to digest their food. Shorting pigs on water means shorting them on growth, since they will also be limiting the amount of feed they eat.
In general, a pig will consume 1/4 to 1/3 gallon of water for every pound of dry feed.Swine.extension.org How much water does a pig consume?
An easy way to think of the amount of water a pig needs is to think how much feed your pigs are getting, now multiply that much feed 2-3 times. That’s how much water they need.
Are your pigs getting the water they need?
- Do the pigs have clean water? Emphasis on clean, meaning you would be willing to drink out of it.
- Is the waterer working well? Manually check the water flow.
Check the pig waterer, is it full?
Often times the water problems are easily fixed. Either someone forgot to fill the waterer, or just didn’t realize how fast the pigs were drinking it down in a day. Especially if they are playing in some of the water, too!
If your pigs are emptying out the waterer by the time you check them, get a bigger waterer. You’ll still need to check on them twice a day, but with a bigger waterer, you’ll only have to fill it up once every few days.
Is the water valve working for the pigs?
The second common problem is that the waterer is full but the water is not coming out of the nipple or valve. This happens to me quite a bit.
It’s usually just a piece of straw or hay that was floating around in the water barrel that go pulled into the valve or nipple, plugging it up.
You can reach down in the barrel and swipe across the intake screen with your fingers to see if that will allow water to start flowing again. If so, the fix is easy but will get you a wet arm.
Remember the piece that plugged the waterer and all of it’s friends are still in there so you’ll have to check daily to make sure the water is not plugged again.
You can check the flow by actually running out some water, or just keeping track of the water level in the top of the waterer. As long as the water level goes down each day, the pigs are drinking.
When pigs are hot they do not eat
Pigs are actually harder to keep comfortable in the summer compared to other times of the year because of the heat! Pigs that are hot do not eat.
If your pigs are laying around, sleeping with no care for the feed, consider if they are comfortable or too hot.
For my pigs, when they are too hot, I hose them down or pour water in their pen to give them a wallow. They will immediately get up and eat after cooling off.
Some folks use fans, but I use water just because it’s easier for me. If I had the fans in place, those would work fine for keeping the pigs comfortable, instead of splashing around the water. Use whatever works for you and your pigs.
If your pigs are cool and comfortable, this isn’t it, try another idea. Comfortable pigs like to eat.
It’s funny that, at least around here, it’s more popular to raise pigs in the summer than the cooler times of the year, even though summer is hot and the hardest time to raise pigs for quick growth!
If you are raising your pigs in the summer, heat will be a big deal for your porkers. Be sure to check them multiple times a day to see how they are dealing with the heat and keep their wallow full so they can cool off.
If you have the option to raise pigs later in the fall, go for it, they will be happier with the cooler weather.
Poor quality feeds may be refused by your pigs
Your pig has a wonderful sense of smell and can tell if feed is moldy. Poor quality feeds will not taste as good, or be as good for the pigs, as high quality, fresh feeds. Some low quality feeds will be refused by the pigs.
A few of the molds on feed make it so the pigs will not eat the feed, I figure it tastes bitter, but I don’t know for sure. I just know they won’t eat it, at all!
Some of the corn we bought this year had a mold that my pigs hated! They wouldn’t eat any of it. The sheep liked the corn but the pigs hated it and refused to eat it whole or ground.
If your feed mill used some of the moldy corn that the pigs hate the taste of and put it in the pig feed, this could be your problem.
If the feed is bad the pigs will still want to eat! But when they come up to sniff the feed before eating it, they walk away. This tells you something is wrong with the feed itself.
In this situation, the pigs are hungry but they are refusing the feed, which is completely different than refusing to eat at all.
If you are using the same feed as yesterday when the pigs ate well, it’s probably not the feed. Check their water and their comfort level.
Sudden diet changes can stop pigs from eating
If you all of a sudden completely switch the things you are feeding your pigs, you can have some digestive problems pop up. Pigs that do not feel well, do not eat well, either.
The easy fix here is to make any changes as slowly as you can, or only change part of their diet, not the whole thing.
Another sudden change in diet that you may not think of is if you have had the pigs on limited feed and you switch them too full or all they can eat feed.
Sometimes your piglets will get overzealous, actually pigging out, and eat too much. As long as they have plenty of water and some roughage (see below) they’ll come around in a day or two and go back up to a more normal intake.
If your pigs have completely stopped eating, something is up. You need to investigate and find the problem.
Your pigs may need more roughage (hay)
Pigs like to eat roughage, like hay and grass. Roughage is more usable in older pigs, but the younger pigs seem to enjoy it, as well. I give my pigs hay as a treat to go along with their ground feed, since they seem to enjoy it.
My piglets that I just weaned are eating a noticeable amount of hay. I think they like it to bulk up their food after pigging out on their ground feed. At weaning, a bit of hay seems to help balance out their digestion.
If your pigs do not have any roughage (plant material to chew on) give them some and see if that’s all they needed to get them eating again.
Can Pigs Eat Hay? goes over more of the details regarding feeding hay to your pigs while keeping them growing well.
I think, sometimes pigs can eat so much they end up feeling a bit off, like when you eat too much cake or candy. The roughage seems to help the pigs put themselves back to right again.
If your pigs are not getting much bedding, so they do not have much to chew on, give them some hay and see what happens.
Pigs need to chew more than the eating of their ground feed requires. Give them something to use up all of that pent up chewiness and you may see them perk right up.
I have a gilt named Cricket who will not eat her grain if she needs hay or water first. This is easy to see, all you have to do is watch, but it does happen. Good news, it’s an easy fix!
When your pigs aren’t too keen on their ground feed, try some roughage and see how it goes.
In the roughage category, I also include grass, weeds from your garden, extra or old produce, etc. My pigs really love squash and squash peelings. That perks them right up!
If your pigs are sick, call the vet!
If your pigs are sick, call the vet! By sick I mean that you’ve tried the things above and still don’t see any results.
The sooner you get help, the more likely the outcome will be positive. Waiting until the pigs are “really sick” will make them harder to treat.
The quick fixes in this article are just that, quick fixes. If none of these ideas work in a short amount of time, call in a pro (that’s the vet).