Develop a dietary plan for pigs

When you put together a pig feeding program, think about:

  • pigs' classes and their general condition
  • hygiene and environment you'll feed the pigs in
  • equipment and methods you’ll use to feed the pigs.

You must carefully manage and record information to make sure your pigs get the right nutrients at each stage of their lives, within your budget. A balanced diet can also lower your feed costs because pigs are more likely to eat a diet that matches their needs.

Some foods can harm pigs and cause problems in their short-term health, which hurts your business in the long term. It is illegal to feed certain foods to pigs in Australia, mainly meat products known as swill.

Understand your herd's needs

You need to know a pigs' growth rate and feed intake in each stage of production to estimate their dietary requirements.

The amount of feed pigs need depends on:

  • age
  • weight
  • genotype
  • sex
  • environment
  • time of year.

To put together a new pig feeding program, first analyse your herd's dietary needs with a nutritionist or feed company. This way you can create the best dietary plans to match a pigs' genotype, sex and age with as little feed wastage as possible.

For example, pigs usually eat less food in summer than in winter. Adding a high-energy ingredient such as animal fat or edible oil to their normal summer feed ensures that your pigs still get the right amount of energy even though they eat less feed.

Calculate energy requirements

To calculate diets for pigs, think of feed in terms of the amount of energy pigs need each day, instead of the weight of feed it eats.

Use your knowledge of your herd's past performance to work out how much energy each pig needs to perform at its best. Once you decide on the amount of energy needed per day, you can calculate how much daily feed to provide.

Use feed calculation software

The easiest way to make a dietary plan for your herd is to use a feed formulation programs. They help you match the combination of feeds to your pigs' nutrient specifications at the lowest possible cost.

Only use feed calculation programs if you are familiar with nutrition, otherwise you may get formulations that don’t meet pigs' needs.

Some programs add a 'filler' to get a diet formula that suits your budget. In some cases, this can lead to unnecessarily high levels of limestone or free amino acids being included in the pigs' diet so keep this in mind when you look for a feed calculation program.

Balance ingredients for nutrition

You may need to limit some ingredients depending on:

  • whether pigs enjoy the taste
  • how easily pigs can digest them
  • the amount of toxins they contain
  • compatibility with other ingredients
  • availability.

Recommendations for common ingredients:

  • Wheat - no limit, can be used as the only cereal grain. High in energy with average protein. The most common cereal grain used in Australia
  • Barley - no limit, but usually not used in diets for young pigs because barley has less energy and higher fibre than wheat
  • Maize - limit to 30% of grain component. High energy grain, but has unsaturated fat and pigments that affect pig fat quality
  • Soybean meal - no limit. The best quality vegetable protein source used around the world. High in protein and energy, excellent source of amino acids
  • Salt - limit to 0.3%. If more is used then salt starts to dilute instead of adding energy.

Re-formulate for new ingredients

Regularly re-formulate diets to ensure you are using the best priced feed for the pigs' needs.

You may choose to keep them on a fixed diet for months or even years or only change their diets when market conditions change. Always re-formulate when a new ingredient is added.

Make sure to check:

  • ingredient costs and limits (i.e. are your ingredients the best for the job? What would happen if you limit certain ingredients?)
  • whether it is cheaper to buy or make feed yourself on the farm
  • ingredient quality (i.e. regularly get your grain analysed for DE)
  • the accuracy of your feed milling and mixing (i.e. is your feed the right size and consistency?)
  • all diets have the correct additives, such as enzymes, organic acids and toxin binders (i.e. products that are added to diets to address specific problems should be taken out once the problem is gone).