9 Ways to Feed Pastured Pigs (and keep them healthy)

We have a herd of pastured pigs. Learning how to cut costs and improve their feed has become my favorite hobby.

Fermented Grain

Fermented whole grain is our favorite method of pig feed. By soaking grain in water for 48 hours at room temperature, it converts sugars, and some starches to protein and creates a mild carbonic acid solution that breaks down husks and hulls of grain so pigs can digest them.

Currently, this is the only grain that our pigs get. We ferment oats and corn, just because that’s what’s cheap nearby. I don’t grind or crack anything, just ferment it. We do it in 5-gallon buckets, but barrels work too. Just fill 2/3ds with grain and top it off with water. Don’t seal a lid, it needs to gas out.

Fermented grain, even as a supplement to commercial hog feed, improves digestion, health, and immune function in pigs. Fermenting breaks down glyphosate residue, further improving their gut-health. For more about fermenting grain for pigs, click this link to read a complete article

Sprouted Grain

Sprouted grain is more digestible and more nutritious than dry whole grains. Sprouted grains sometimes have more sugars and less starch, depending on how long you let it sprout. I recommend anywhere from just starting to germinate all the way to a 1-inch sprout.

Sprouted grain usually has about 10 percent more protein and fat than un-sprouted grains. In the sprouting process, starches are converted to sugars, so aminals like them more and they digest pretty easily. That’s how they make the malt powder that sometimes goes into milkshakes.

Sprouted grain that’s only just started to germinate contains a lot of the sugars maltose, maltotriose, and maltodextrins. At that stage, I think it’d be most worth it. As soon as the germination is first noticeable. just soak the grain for a few hours, drain, and keep it at room temperature until it’s germinating.

Personally, I prefer the results and benefits we’ve gotten from fermenting grain far more than from sprouting it.

One thing you need for pigs, no matter your raising system, is a parasitic worm treatment. The best swine dewormer is Fenbendazole. It’s known by the brand name Safeguard. Safeguard is available as a medicated corn/alfalfa pellet. It’s the only way I can worm my pigs since they won’t stand still for an injection of Ivermectin. It’s easy and cheap.

I use the multi-species version because it’s what’s available in my local store and I can use it for my chickens too. It’s the most effective swine wormer and the easiest to administer. I use it on all weaned piglets and adults twice a year. Don’t go without it.

Grain Fodder

Grain fodder is sprouted grain with several inches of green growth and some root mass. It’s grown without soil but with a functional light source. It’s tender, incredibly digestible, and contains good vitamins. This is done in some commercial operations.

Sometimes it’s called grain fodder or just fodder, but I like to clarify things. Traditionally, fodder was any plant matter designated to livestock feed. Today when people talk about feeding fodder, they’re talking about sprouting grain until it’s around 3-4 inches tall.

They sell that sort of thing at some grocery stores under the name Sprouts. It’s done pretty much the same as a simple (just germinated) sprouted grain, only you keep it moist and let it go a few days longer. The benefits are significant;y more vitamins, easier digestibility, and chlorophyll.

Here’s what Fodder Tech says about the nutrient content of sprouted grain fodder.

  • High digestibility
  • Vitamins & mineral saturation
  • Phytate reduction for pH normalization
  • Enzymatic activity increase
  • Omega 3, amino acids, natural hormones

I know a guy who feeds this as almost a complete feed for his hogs. They sure do love it. I like fermenting, he likes sprouting fodder. They’re both great for pigs and grazing animals. I would argue that the sprouted fodder is better for ruminants. Both options are one thousand percent (slightly exaggerated) better than dry grain.

Jerusalem Artichoke makes a great perennial crop in rotational feeding operations.

Perennial Pasture

Perennial pasturing is my favorite way to feed pigs because it’s so darn simple. You will need some sort of outdoor space. It can be done in two ways. You can use a traditional large pasture where pigs are left to graze at whim. You can also do the cut ‘n carry method. That’s where the pigs are in a smaller paddock or pen, and you cut the fresh greenery for them daily. That’s what we do most of the time.

We cut a wagonload of fresh perennial greens, usually grass and tree fodder, for the pig’s breakfast. We have 22 pigs right now and feed them to the brim with fresh perennial greens each morning. With the setup we have right now, it works well. Cutting greens each day was simpler than setting up more fences.

Annual Pasture

Annual pasture used to be the preferred method for feeding market hogs. It’s simply an annual crop planted in a fenced-in area to put pigs in. Common crops are sugarbeet, corn, milo, and barley. Usually, it’s a mixed crop. An acquaintance of mine up north plants turnip as an annual crop for pigs. He prefers crops that don’t need much fertilizer and will grow a quick spring green.

My favorites are sugarbeet and short-stalked corn. In warmer regions, sweet potatoes, and peanuts are good options. Just about anything vegetative will give pigs some sustenance, and fresh vegetation will boost their health and vitality every time. All pigs should get some fresh vegetation when available.

Wild trees like this red maple can be a great coppiced fodder tree.

Fodder Trees

Fodder trees are a good choice for pig feed. They can grow sugary fruit, starchy nuts, and nutrient-dense leaves for your pigs. Tree leaves are generally superior to traditional pasture growth as a feed source. We have a 1/2 acre fodder forest for our pigs.

Fruit trees like apple, pear, and mulberry drop calorie-rich feedstuffs and coppiced (cut short) trees grow easily harvestable leaves. Mulberry, poplar, and willow are the most popular fodder leaf trees. We have mostly Red Maple, Black Oak, and Cottonwood.

But, I am planting some white mulberry purchased from Nick Ferguson’s plant store. He has the best stock available. Check out his company, Rare Plant Store, for the best fodder trees you can get.

Food Waste

Food waste recycling is best done through animals. Pigs are great at eating pretty much all your leftovers, kitchen waste, and mildly spoiled foods. Australia, Canada, and most of Europe outright banned this practice. They say anything from your kitchen could be contaminated.

We give all our food waste to either pigs or chickens. It’s good for them. Many bakeries sell their old bread to pig farmers in our area. Some grocery stores do the same.

Feed Garden

A feed garden is simply a smaller version of an annual pasture. You can plant an assortment of vegetables as pig feed. If your pigs don’t have much green vegetation or much variety in their diet, it’s an option to consider. It only takes a bit to make a difference to their health, gain, and condition.

Even for completely pastured pigs, growing a feed garden of Hubbard squash or sugarbeet will benefit them. They need more than just weeds and grass.

Commercial Feed

Most pastured pig farmers feed a commercial hog feed. I don’t. Not that it’s all bad, it’s just expensive for us. But, it’s super convenient and time-saving. It’s also able to be used in a feed hopper or auto-feeding trough. Commercial feed is usually around 80 percent corn and 15 percent soy, with little minerals and fat added.

We’ve fed standard feed and it’s fine. Although it did make their manure smell worse. Personally, I’m needing to do things cheaper so we buy and ferment the whole grains, and feed fresh vegetation. It works better with our breed always. We raise Pot Bellied Pigs for pork.

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I practice what I preach. Here in rural west Michigan, me, my wife, and 5 young kids work together to grow food, raise animals, and grow aninmal feed on just 1 acre. I teach homesteading classes locally, and help people where I can.

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