Are you looking to raise the best tasting pork you and your family has ever had? Here’s a list of feed sources that will keep your pigs happy, provide high quality nutrition and make great tasting pork.
Fresh and clean water is the forgotten feed ingredient
As crazy as it sounds, the most important feed ingredient in a pig’s diet is fresh and clean water! It also seem to be the most likely to be forgotten about feed ingredient, which is why we are going over it first.
Without good water, nothing else you feed your pigs will give you the results you are hoping for. When your pigs have fresh water they can use the rest of their feed well.
The watering set up does not have to be complicated, just a water barrel with a nipple waterer in the side will provide water for quite a few pigs.
If you do not have a waterer yet, go with a flat rubber pan to get you started.
The good news here is that this is a cheap way to get started, the not so great news is that the pigs will spill the pan, all the time, like it’s their job!
Once you get going, you’ll probably want to look into a nipple waterer in barrel or on a pipe. It will make watering quite a bit easier!
Ask around online, anyone who had pigs for a fair project (4-H or FFA) and doesn’t need it anymore would be a great source for watering equipment for you.
High quality pig feed
High quality commercial pig feed is the base of most pig diets and will be one of the easiest ways to make sure that your pigs get the calories and the vitamins and minerals they need to grow well.
Well grown pigs will taste good.
You’ll want to feed your pigs free choice feed (they eat whatever feed they want, whenever they want to), as their sole ration or in addition to another or multiple other feed sources like any listed in this article.
How Much Feed Do Pigs Need? goes over the math for raising your pigs so you can plan out your feed purchases.
Do you have to feed pig feed?
Some folks want to raise pigs without any feed whatsoever, it’s doable, but a tough way to go for anyone new to pigs and anyone who is using normal commercially produced feeder pigs.
If you are new to pigs or just want a quicker and easier way to raise pigs for meat then use at least some pig feed. It will make your pigs grow much more quickly and put on fat.
Why does fat matter? Plentiful fat in the meat the key to great tasting pork, which is the entire point of what you’re doing!
If you do not want to feed any feed at all, get your pigs from someone who has proven success on no grain pigs, they are tough to find but are out there.
Start with Sugar Mountain Farm and read through the articles. They also sell piglets, so if you are in the Vermont area (or are willing to drive there) these folks would be a great source for low or no grain piglets.
Pigs love to eat living soil
Pigs love to eat soil, not just dirt, but soil, living full of life and nutrients soil. If you have your pigs on pasture, you’ve got this one already!
Not only will the pigs get some of the dirt, of course, they will also get the bugs, worms, roots and whatnot that is also in the soil, in addition to the myriad of good bacteria and fungi.
While it’s hard to point to exactly what the pigs get out of the soil, it’s not hard to see that they love rooting around and finding snacks in it!
Anytime you have pigs eating plentiful food that they enjoy in an environment they like, you’ll have happy pigs and great pork.
Pigs love to eat hay
Pigs seem to really enjoy eating hay. Feeding hay gives your pigs something to do with themselves, since it is more of an involved eating experience than feed, it keeps them busy.
Any good hay is potential pig fodder, alfalfa, clover, orchard grass, bermuda, etc. If other livestock in your area like the hay, get a few bales and see what your pigs think.
Older pigs have more ability to digest hay than younger pigs, so if you have younger feeder pigs, make sure to give them a finer stemmed hay, something like a 2nd or 3rd cutting so it’s easy for them to eat.
Also, pigs love to mess around with hay and toss it around then sleep on it.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you see them sitting on the hay rather than eating it, either cut back the amount you are giving them each day or switch to a different kind of hay.
I like to see them playing with the hay, even though it is technically wasting it, that tells me they have plenty to eat now and they can always change their minds and choose to snack on it later.
Pigs enjoy forages, like pasture
Pigs like to eat forages. Forages are any plants that the pigs could go out and find and eat for themselves. An easy to think of forage would be pasture grasses and weeds.
You could put your pigs out on the forage, so fence them onto a pasture or part of your yard, or you can bring the forage to them if letting the pigs harvest it themselves will not work in your situation.
Good for pigs forages include any grass grown for hay, most plant in your pasture, most weeds in your pasture and quite a few of the understory type plants in a lightly wooded or edge of the woods area.
As long as the pigs have choices as to what forages they eat, they’ll pick the ones they like and leave the ones they don’t.
Pigs eating forages is another example of pigs that live a happy, low stress and interesting life providing you with great tasting pork.
Pigs On Pasture gives you a few ideas on how to put together your pig pasture arrangement if you decide to rotate pastures.
Imperfect vegetables for pigs
Less than perfect vegetables are another potential source of pig food. These vegetables could be from your garden or someone else’s, as long as they are free or really cheap.
Pigs will enjoy the variety in their diet and happy pigs taste better, but be careful about what you pay for any non pig feed foods, they are usually not worth the extra costs especially if you have to drive to get them.
There won’t be too many calories for the pigs in most vegetables, it’s more about the new to their diet foods with a different nutrient profile that are also fun for the pigs to explore and eat.
Extra eggs for pigs
My pigs love eggs! I normally don’t give them many, we’d rather keep them for the house, but when I have extras or find one or two dirty ones, the pigs get a handy snack.
Food scraps for pigs
You can give your pigs kitchen scraps, but think about what you are doing first. If you are giving them wilted lettuce or slug damaged cabbage, great. If you are giving them old lunch meat, not so great.
The way I think of food scraps is, if the pigs would normally eat something like this, then they can have it, so salad stuff is fine, candy bars or pop are not.
Outdated food for pigs
Pigs can and do happily eat outdated food, as long as it is something they would have eaten normally.
Things like outdated frozen peaches or past their prime crackers would be people type foods that your pigs would happily eat.
Fruit processing waste for pigs
If you are lucky enough to live close to an orchard, you may have a great source of supplemental pig food in the fruit processing waste.
The fruit waste could be peelings, seeds or left over pulp from making cider or juice.
Orchard seconds or dropped fruit for pig feed
Orchards will have a good number of unsellable fruits, either damaged or dropped, that are perfect additions to you pig’s diet.
Damaged fruit is just a cosmetic issue, an odd shape or other small imperfection in an other wise just fine fruit. Some folks buy these for canning or freezing, since they are cutting the fruit anyway.
Damaged fruit would be great for your pigs.
Dropped fruit is unsuitable for resale. When the apple, for instance, drops to the ground it has a big bruise or mushy spot under the skin, which makes it unsellable as fresh fruit but great for your pigs.
Old bread as an occasional snack for pigs
If you have it, old bread would make a nice occasional snack for your pigs, I think of it as more of a fun food, but not really much in the way of nutrition.
The main benefit to the pigs is the novelty of a new to them food that you would be able to use more like you would dog treats.
Dairy processing or cheese making waste
Dairy or cheese processing waste is also a potential source of good nutrition for tasty pigs. This could be whey, cheese trimmings, outdated soft cheeses, etc.
The catch with dairy is that it’s tough to find an economical source for most folks, but if it’s easy for you this is another source of high quality calories that your pigs will enjoy.
Happy pigs taste better
As you can see from the variety of food sources listed here, pigs can and do happily get nutrients from a huge selection of edibles.
Generally, feeding pigs for taste is not so much about giving the pigs something specific to make them taste a certain way, great tasting pork can be raised from numerous feed sources.
It’s more about giving your pigs a happy life so they can grow well and taste great using the things that are available in your area.
Make sure your pigs have a way to choose how they spend their day, so when it’s hot they can cool down but when it’s cool or wet, they can be somewhere dry.
This has little to nothing to do with feed, but a lot to do with keeping your pigs happy and happy pigs taste better.