I’ve gotten good at raising cheap pork. We can raise them at less than half-cost.
The cheapest way to feed a pig is to grow your own feed ingredients. The second method is to collect food waste from local food operations. You can also buy bulk grains and beans or peas and make a cheap liquid fermented feed. Pigs can be raised on pasture for additional feed savings.
There are a lot of options but it’s important to keep your animals’ diet balanced and healthful. Let’s cover the different options.
Cost of Pig Feed
- From the hobby farm store, $0.34 cents pound
- From the local feed mill in bulk, $0.30 cents a pound.
- Buying bulk grains and fermenting $0.17 cents a pound
*This list is our current cost for pig feed locally.
Growing Your Own Pig Feed, is it feasible?
You can grow proper feed for 1 hog, approximately 700 dry pounds of carbs and protein, on 1/14th of an acre. That’s About 50×60 feet. Any amount you grow will help to reduce the feed bill and anything with starch or protein makes wonderful pig feed.
The most common crops grown for pigs are corn, oats, wheat, or barley for carbs and sunflowers, shelled beans or peas for protein. Other good options include potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, and sugar beets. In even a small garden you can grow enough to offset the cost of feeding a pig.
We grow a lot of feed on our 1-acre homestead. We focus on corn and jerusalem artichoke for energy and sunflowers for protein and oil. I don’t buy any pre-made pig feed and we raise 30-40 pigs a year. A good portion of that is what we grow.
The most productive crop for pig feed is the jeruslem artichoke, or sunroot. We tried them last year and are banking heavily on those this year. They provide all the carbs pigs need. Potatoes are also very productive, growing twice the calories per foot as corn. The sunroots are still better in my opinion.
Corn is less productive, but the most productive grain. It’s popular because of the government subsidies that keep it cheaper. It’s also easy to store. Potatoes and sunroots can go bad in storage. They actually store best in the ground.
Sunflower seeds provide protein for our young pigs. The are easy to grow, store, and harvest. I just toss in a flower head for the young pigs to eat now and then.
Vegetable and fruit crops are great for pigs too, although they don’t digest fiber as well as some animals. We have a 1/4 acre market garden and give all the farmer’s market leftovers to the pigs. They don’t grow big on tomatoes and kale, but they do get great vitamins and minerals from them.
Anything sweet contains sugars, which are carbs, which are energy. We collect bad apples and pears from the fruit trees for the pigs. They can be acidic so we limit them, but at up to 25 percent of their diet it seems to be fine.
Did you know you can feed pigs lawn trimmings? Pigs love fresh grass. Grass is absolutely full of vitamins that pigs need. I use fresh grass and other green weeds as a vitamin suplement for out pigs. It really works. We also give our pigs tree leaves from time to time. When pigs are short on any trace minerals, tree leaves will balance them out. It's the same with any green plant with a taproot, like chickory or comfrey. Here's an article delving deeper into Growing Your Own Pig Feed
Feeding Food Waste to Pigs
Kitchen scraps and food waste can be fed to pigs. Restaurants, catering services, and food distribution services often have leftover or unsellable food that needs to go. Many times, they’d rather give it to a farmer than pay for it to be disposed of.
We give every scrap of our unusable kitchen waste to our pigs. It’s free, it’s good for them, and they love it. When I’m in town at the farmer’s market, I can collect leftovers from the nearby restaurants. If you know someone in the food industry, ask them to call you if they ever get a lot of food waste.
If it’s not out of my way, I’ll stop and pick up food waste on my way home from work. I’d certainly take free feed.
Disclaimer: Feeding food scraps to your pigs is fine, but it’s federally illegal for a commercial operation to feed food waste that contains or may have come into contact with uncooked meat. It has to be collected and cooked to 180 degrees first. But, that’s only if you are selling the animal.
Mixing Your Own Pig Feed
Purchase the grains and protein and mix them together. Soaking or fermenting greatly improves the digestibility and is considered an appropriate method of processing pig feed. It’s easy to mix your own pig feed and you don’t need a grain grinder or processor.
You can buy bulk grains from feed mills and grain elevators, and straight from the farmer. We buy shelled corn right off the farm for 16 cents a pound, which is 40 percent cheaper than the local feed mill. It’s an 8-9 percent protein yellow corn. Good stuff. We also buy Oats for about 16 cents a pound.
Oats have more fiber and more protein than corn, buy slightly fewer carbs. We feed both to our pigs to help balance the diet some, especially in the winter when there’s no fresh vegetation for fiber. I found the farmer by asking around. Ask around and check Facebook Marketplace. Most rural areas have something.
Most pig feeds are about 80 percent corn and 15 percent soybean meal by weight, with added minerals and a little fiber. That basic formulation should be a pig feed with about 14 percent protein. If you do a straight-up 4:1 ratio of corn/soybean, that’s going to be between a 15 and 16 percent protein mix.
A 3:1 ratio of corn to soy will be close to 18 percent protein, which is good for younger pigs. Sunflower seed can be evenly substituted for soybean, pound for pound. We have bought some soybeans from the feed mill. If ground or roasted, they don’t need soaking.
For more information, here’s an article I wrote on The Best Grains to Feed Pigs
fermenting roasted soybeans or soybean meal (usually steamed) can actually cause slight a nutrient loss because they have already been broken down so much by heat. Any raw grains or beans will gain nutritional content and digestibility by soaking and/or fermenting. We ferment our grains.
After weaning, our young pigs may get protein supplement (soy or sunflower seed) for the next month, then it’s just fermented grains, or whatever other starches I have at the time. Once fermented, they seem to have enough protein for our pigs at that point.
Soaking and Fermenting Grains for Pigs.
Soaking grain in water weakens the tough hulls and makes them considerably;y more digestible, making it equal to ground grains for pigs. It’s usually done overnight, for about 12 hours. If left for 24+ hours, it begins to ferment. Fermenting completely changes the starch, protein, and vitamin structure of grain.
Fermenting grains can increase the overall protein content by 40-50 percent and increase the lysine by over 130 percent. It breaks down fiber and tough starches, and increases the vitamin content, particularly vitamin a, and adds healthy probiotics. The result is a greatly improved feed for pigs.
For example, most corn has about 8 percent protein and 0.25 percent lysine. Most pig feed is 14-16 percent protein and 1 percent lysine. By fermenting corn, it becomes 12 percent protein with 0.6 percent lysine. That’s close to a complete feed, and functional if it’s all you have.
Oats are usually 12 percent protein with 0.5 percent lysine. After fermenting, it comes to around 17 percent protein and 1 percent lysine.
A 50/50 mix of the two would be around 14.5 percent protein and 0.8 percent lysine, which is a well-acceptable protein content. The fermented grains still are mostly carbs and have enough starchy energy to help pigs grow well. That’s how we feed our pigs for the most part. Other things are just supplements.
We start with mostly fermented oats with the newly weaned pigs at 2 months old, then start mixing in a more corn. I change the ratio by adding 25 percent corn every month until they are on fermented corn only. Here’s a link to an article on making fermented pig feed
- Weaned to 3 months old, 75:25 oats/corn.
- 3-4 months old, 50:50 oats/corn.
- 4-5 months old, 25:75 oats/corn.
- 5-6 months, 100 percent fermented corn.
We do it this way because the oats have more protein but less energy. As the pigs grow, their protein needs go down and their caloric needs go up. It’s a fairly suitable feed regimen for them. Plus, sometimes corn is a little cheaper than oats.