Thursday, 21 June 2012

How much to feed a pig.


Daisy relaxes while the piglets play.
First, a point of order.  I have decided that if the sunrise is a mass of grey sky it will not get star billing at the top of the page. This is for two reasons. One: to punish the god of the sunrises for making me get up at silly o'clock just to see what grey looks like. Two: the first picture is often what appears in links to posts - who's going to follow a link with a picture of grey sky??
Thursday 21st June 2012
It's summer!
... really.

How much to feed a pig?
Most importantly, never ask the pigs. There are many sayings about pigs, not all true, but the one about beady eyes is, and so is the one about being greedy!
The books tell you how much to feed your pigs, but of course it's not an exact science. In general, if they are not squealing as if the end of the world is upon them, then you're feeding them too much. For pigs are ALWAYS hungry and will attempt to eat whatever you put in front of them. The extent of the squealing is the only clue you will get from them.
This is actually quite a useful feature of pigs, in that there is most definitely one way to a pig's heart. Make it skip a meal and it will follow that bucket of food wherever you lead it. In fact, it will switch allegiance from you at the drop of a hat if it's someone else holding the bucket.
I found a quote to sum this up:

 "If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.."
And that brings me onto the subject of what to feed a pig. Well, they'll eat pretty much anything, though mine don't like onions or orange peel. They're also very strictly not allowed to eat anything that has been in the kitchen, so these days the slops bucket is a no no.
At the right time of year, my pigs get lots of apples. Caution is required here, as I have heard of pigs getting drunk on apples!
They also get lots of potatoes. In fact, tons of potatoes, literally. All those that are the wrong size or shape or that have blemishes. But potatoes are not the ideal food for pigs and are only really of much value if cooked. But of course, not in the kitchen, and probably not with gas and electricity costing as much as they do these days. So most people go ahead and feed raw potatoes, unless they've got endless supplies of wood and an outdoor cooker.

Personally, I see potatoes as a filler and as a means of providing variety for the pigs. I like to chuck them all over the place and encourage the pigs to hunt for them.
I also have a very scientific way of knowing how many potatoes is the right amount to feed. For this I'll need the photo at the top of this post again, to illustrate my point.

Can you see the four tyres? Well, at feed time I grab a handful of spuds and take aim. When I've managed to get one potato in each tyre, that's enough. So there you have it, my scientific way of measuring how many potatoes to feed. The best feature of this system is that the potatoes bounce off the tyres and end up all over the place. The downside is that I think the pigs have worked out my system, as the tyres keep moving and there's always one or two which are impossibly distant. They also stand in the way of the tyres, seeming impervious to the occasional thump on the back by a flying spud!

Pigs do, undoubtedly, have their favourite foods. They will methodically pick out their favourites from a pile of vegetables and will always pick out the clover and dandelion roots from a mound of weeds.

Unfortunately their absolute favourite is pig nuts. These are not some delightfully natural food dug from the beech and oak forests of England, nor the seed of a country herb found growing wild in the fenland dykes. No! This is the rather romantic name for the manufactured pellets which are their standard food. Coming in 20kg or 25kg sacks, it resembles giant layers pellets, fish food or even cat litter! And it goes up in price by about twice the rate of inflation!
These sacks of sow and weaner pellets are what makes keeping pigs such a marginal enterprise. They are also the perfect package of protein and nutrient and somehow the pigs know this, as they'll leave all other foodstuffs in favour of their pellets.

So back to the title of this post. How much to feed them.

Well, there's no easy answer! But in general, if they look like they are getting podgy, cut down a  little bit. Within a week you'll notice them looking leaner.
I'm not sure how to know if you're not feeding them enough. I guess they've always managed to hoodwink me into feeding them plenty!

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