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When people think of a pig, they likely think of a farm animal that eats everything. But a pig’s diet is just as important as any other animal, but can pigs be healthy on a vegan diet? These notorious “slop” eaters have nutritional needs, and many pig owners think should their pigs be on a vegan diet.
Pigs are omnivores and will eat just about anything. That does not necessarily mean that they should. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and vegan-friendly protein options such as soybeans are an excellent choice. A vegan diet is a healthy option for pigs as long as their nutritional needs are met.
Pig owners might not think about the importance of their pig’s diet. That’s because pigs get their noses into everything. I will share vital information on what a pig’s diet should consist of.
I will also share why going vegan is healthy and safe. Here, you will learn more about the pig’s exciting stomach and why he isn’t afraid to munch on literal garbage.
What Do Pigs Eat?
Many people are under the impression that pigs eat “slop”. While it’s true that pigs thoroughly enjoy indulging in a fresh batch of trash, it doesn’t mean that their diet should consist of nothing but filth. So what should a pig eat?
A pig’s diet should consist of plenty of protein and fiber. This roughage can come from hay or pasture. It also comes from a plethora of fruits and vegetables, which is what most pig diet’s in today’s society consist of. This is why many people believe that pigs are vegetarians — but that is not the case.
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Can Pigs Be Healthy on a Vegan Diet?
Yes, pigs can be healthy on a vegan diet. It’s the optimal choice for a pig. Why? Because a vegan diet reduces the risk of a pig contracting harmful diseases. These diseases can spread to other livestock.
Switching to a vegan diet should not be a major overhaul for most pig owners. That is because a pig’s diet is almost entirely composed of fruits and vegetables. Most pig owners will raise their pigs in a pasture where they graze throughout the day. So, they are naturally engaging in a vegan-friendly diet.
There is no concern when it comes to protein intake. That is because there are many vegan-friendly options. Pigs love all types of nuts and they can be tossed onto the ground for consumption. Most feed will have soybeans, barley, or canola meal. These provide the necessary protein to keep up with the pig’s energy needs.
Best Fruits and Vegetables for Pigs
Some of the best fruits and vegetables to incorporate into a pig’s diet include:
- Pitted apricots
- Cooked broccoli
- Dark, leafy greens
- Cooked potatoes
- Snow peas
Pig owners should be extra careful when feeding their pigs fruits that contain pits and seeds. Pits and seeds contain amygdalin. This naturally occurring substance is a cyanogenic glycoside that releases while chewing. This substance can cause illness and even death. Be sure to remove all seeds and pits before offering it to a pig.
Never offer potatoes to pigs. They contain glycoalkaloids which leads to severe stomach pain. In some cases, death can even occur. Potatoes also contain solanine. This substance destroys red blood cells. It also leads to diarrhea and heart failure.
To learn about foods that are toxic to Pigs see my recent article
What Proteins Should I Feed My Pigs?
Fruits, vegetables, and pasture aren’t enough to keep a pig happy and healthy. They also need a certain amount of protein in their diet. But where do pigs get these vital nutrients from?
- Dried whey
- Canola meal
As you can see, meat is not necessary for a pig to be robust and lean. Pet owners may still wonder if it is an option, though. So what is the deal with pigs and meat consumption? Good idea or bad?
Pigs Can Eat Meat, But It Is Not Ideal
The majority of a pig’s diet contains fruits and vegetables. But the pig is not a true vegetarian. He will eat anything that’s in front of him, which includes meat. He will even consume pork products as it makes no difference to the hungry hog.
While pigs can consume meat, it’s not a good idea that they do. This is why most pig owners will not put any type of meat or meat products in their pig’s food trough. There is a major reason for this: meat and meat products can contain viruses that lead to severe diseases in pigs. These devastating illnesses include foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever.
Most of these diseases do not transfer to humans. They kill off and destroy pigs and other infected livestock. That is why it is so important to avoid meat consumption. In fact, in many parts of the world, it is now illegal to feed meat and meat products. It is “swill feeding” and includes all of the following:
- Food scraps and waste from a personal or professional kitchen.
- Used cooking oil.
- Blood, bones, and carcasses.
- Any food that you are unsure of whether or not it has come into contact with meat or meat products.
- Meat and meat products.
Avoiding “swill feeding” is critical for your pig’s health as well as the health of other livestock. It’s best to stick to meat-free protein options such as soybeans and canola meal. These will provide your pig with the protein and energy he needs to remain healthy and strong. You also reduce the fear of contaminating him with diseases from the foods in the feed trough.
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Pigs Should Not Consume Salt
Another common question is whether a pig can consume salt. There is an issue when it comes to salt consumption. Pigs have a hard time digesting salt which can lead to salt poisoning. This can also occur if there is any type of water deprivation.
That’s right — the hog that can eat anything should not consume salt. That is why it’s best to avoid feed and foods that contain high levels of salt. Unfortunately, salt poisoning can also occur after heavy rainfall. This is because he ingests excessive salt that overflows from salt boxes on the farm.
Symptoms of salt poisoning include:
- Sudden aimless wandering
- Sitting like a dog
- Raising the nose up and down slowly
- Falling on his side and spasming
- Paddling of the legs
Why Can Pigs Eat Everything?
Pigs can indeed jump into a trash can and eat everything inside of it. They will even eat pork bacon when offered. That leads many to wonder, how can pigs consume a variety of junk and not become ill?
A pig’s body is uniquely designed to be able to handle a variety of foods and indigestible materials. The pig’s body has an easy time filtering out the harmful substances and toxins. Instead of sitting in the stomach, these substances stored in the pig’s fat immediately after consumption. The pig’s body is so resilient to toxins, they can even consume venomous snakes without becoming ill.
It’s not just the adapted and advanced digestive system that allows the pig to be a top-notch scavenger. It is the way his body can excrete toxins, too. When a pig consumes excessive amounts of toxins, it secretes through their hooves.
While the secretion is a natural occurrence to a pig’s health, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “good” thing. It is saving his life, but it essentially means he has overdone it with the junk. Excessive secreting through the hooves can lead to painful sores. Professionals should look at the sores to avoid other potential health issues.
Aside from a visit to the vet, pig owners will also need to ensure that they are providing their pigs with a healthy, proper diet. Keep in mind that pigs eat anything that’s put in front of them. You may have to take extra precautions to guarantee that no “junk” or “slop” is finding its way into the hog’s mouth.
One way to keep your pig in tip-top condition is to consider a vegan diet.
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How to Make Your Own Vegan-Friendly Pig Feed
Having good pig feed will ensure the best growth and health for your hogs and it can be made at home. Formulating your vegan pig feed at home will allow you to feel more comfortable and confident in the ingredients. You will know exactly what is going into your pig’s belly. It’s pretty simple and cost-effective to put together vegan pig feed, too. Here is how:
- Consider using farm grains. Farm grains will make up the bulk of your vegan pig feed. These are vegan-friendly options including corn, wheat, rye, and sorghum. Corn is the most common choice. That is due to its high levels of digestible carbohydrates and low amounts of fiber. It’s also one of the cheaper sources.
- Add supplements. You will need to add supplements to the pig feed. These will include vitamins, proteins, and antibacterial compounds. These will ensure that naturally occurring bacteria does not run rampant and destroy the livestock. TruCare Z/M Top-Dress Trace Mineral Blend is a respectable supplementing product.
- Add other foods. There is a variety of foods that can add necessary vitamins, nutrients, and protein. Consider adding soybeans, cassava, vegetables, and maize in place of supplements. These are excellent options with proven positive results.
It’s not enough to assure that your pigs are getting a high-quality, vegan diet. You also need to make sure that they are getting enough food. Pigs have special food requirements depending on their age.
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Foods to Avoid in Homemade Pig Feed
Not everything that is vegan-friendly should be offered to your hog. Here is a list of foods that should not be consumed as they are toxic to pigs:
- Wild and bitter almonds (Including leaves and seeds)
- Avocados (including the skin and the pit)
- Corn stalks
- Nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, bell pepper, and cayenne
- Parsley celery tops
- Parsnip tops
- Raw cashews
- Tomato leaves
- Fruits that have not been pitted
- Walnuts have been unshelled
Be Wary of Certain Weeds and Plants, Too
Foods aren’t the only thing that is toxic to pigs. There is a variety of weeds and plants that can easily find its way into pig feed. These certain foliage include:
- Prickly Burr
- Devil’s Weed
- Jamestown Week
- Devil’s Cucumber
How Much Do Pigs Need to Eat Per Day?
The amount of food and water a pig requires will change as they grow, on average they will eat 6-8 pounds of food a day. Ensuring they receive the proper amount will lead to a healthy and confident hog.
Water and food consumption will change with the outdoor temperature. This is one of a few different methods pigs use to say cool when it’s hot.
Piglets are brand new, baby hogs under 40 pounds. For the first week of their life, they will be suckling on their mother for milk. They should eat solid food after the first week of life in conjunction with nursing. This is the process of “creep feeding”. But what exactly is creep feeding, and why is it so important?
Creep feeding is a transitional strategy. It encourages piglets to indulge in solid foods while they are still suckling. The benefits and utter importance of creep feeding are insurmountable.
A piglet grows at an extremely rapid pace in the first few weeks of life. They are subject to many stresses. These stresses can impact their digestive system and immune system. Creep feeding ensures that their gastro-intestinal tract is ready for solid foods. This is essential when the time comes to stop nursing.
Creep feeding also helps with the weaning process. This is a very stressful time for mom and piglet. It happens faster than one might think, too. A sow’s milk production will begin to decline after just a single month of nursing her babies. That means that your new piglet needs to be accustomed to solid foods sooner rather than later.
Keep in mind that as the piglet grows, so does his nutritional needs. Start with pig feed that is nutrient-dense to encourage healthy growth. You will need to increase solid food intake daily as his weight grows. Don’t worry about overfeeding, though. Pigs naturally know when they are full and it is time to stop eating.
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When a piglet reaches 40 pounds, they are growing pigs. Once he hits 125 pounds, he is a finishing pig. He will continue to be a finisher pig as he reaches his adult size and weight. Grown finishing pigs should be around 230 pounds. Some pigs may be heavier, though, while others can be a bit lighter.
During the stages of growing and finishing, the pig will need pig feed. The feed should have a higher emphasis on protein and less on nutrient density. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for meat or dairy for protein.
To keep it vegan, add nuts, soybeans, and other vegan protein options to the feed. Don’t be overly concerned with roughage. A mix of grains and corn is enough.
A Few Tips for Pig Vegan Diet Success
Adopting a vegan diet for your pigs is not incredibly challenging. That’s because pigs are typically vegetarian as it is. Some pig owners may add whey, milk, eggs, or cheese to enhance the protein levels. This is not necessary, though. Vegan pig owners can add vegan-friendly proteins like soybeans.
Here are a few other things to consider when moving forward with a vegan pig diet:
- Pigs need more than just pasture. Letting your pigs graze in the pasture all day is a great way to instigate a vegan diet. Yet, they need more. A balanced diet is key. Supply your pig with vegan-friendly grains like corn, wheat, and soy.
- Water should always be available for success. It doesn’t matter if you are feeding your pigs the healthiest vegan diet there is. Without water, pigs cannot thrive. Always have water readily available to your hogs.
- Match the needs of the pigs. Remember that pigs have different requirements based on their age. That is not the only consideration, though. You must also pay attention to where their shelter is and how the weather is. On hotter days, pigs that live outside need more energy. Thus, they will need more food with higher sustenance.
- When in doubt, ask a professional. It can be difficult to know if your pig feed, vegan or not, is the right balance and ratio. When in doubt, it is best to contact a professional. They will be able to give you advice on necessary add-ins or takeaways.
Many people are adopting a vegan diet for their health and the health of their pets or livestock. It’s a healthy option for pigs, who are naturally inclined to consume a vegetarian diet. You can make your own vegan pig feed using wheat, corn, fruits, and vegetables. You may consider supplements for added nutrients, especially during the piglet stage of life.