Pigs are one of the most common and also most popular kinds of livestock out there. Probably the best thing about pigs as livestock is that most breeds can produce a ton of meat in a wide variety of cuts when they are ready for harvest, and the market for those cuts is bottomless!
But pigs, like all animals, have their own drawbacks and quirks you’ll need to be aware of.
The biggest for pigs is the fact that they eat a lot! If you’re buying nothing but conventional feed from the usual sellers this gets extremely expensive.
Naturally, pig owners are wise to save money on feed wherever they can if they can do so without compromising on nutrition and growth rate.
To help you do that, I’ll be bringing you 11 proven ideas that can help any homesteader feed their pigs on the cheap…
1. Kitchen Scraps
One of the most time-tested ways to supplement the diet of pigs, any kind of pigs, is simply by giving them scraps from your very own kitchen.
Whatever kind of meal you are preparing and whatever time of day it is, you might be surprised to learn just how many kitchen scraps are actually edible and nutritious foods for pigs.
This could be peelings from potatoes and all other kinds of vegetables, the green tops of carrots, apple cores and much more.
Stale bread is always a viable option, as are leftover quantities of simple, wholesome foods that don’t have too many added ingredients or salt.
You can also give your pigs any produce that has started to wilt or brown, and other foods that are just slightly old or out of date.
Just because you think it’s trash doesn’t mean your pigs do too! But do make sure you aren’t giving them anything that is rotten or obviously spoiled. More on that a little later…
2. Restaurant Waste
If you have a large herd of pigs, the scraps from your own kitchen are probably only going to be a fraction of the food they need, even if you have a large family and are diligent about collecting everything you can.
You can take this idea and “supersize” it by collecting leftover or wasted food from local restaurants.
Making an acquaintance of a manager or acquisitions personnel in larger restaurants might keep you rolling in nutritious food for your pigs; considering the typical volume of customers that restaurants serve you’ll certainly have dramatically more scraps that you can feed your pigs.
From soups and stews to whole, fresh fruits and vegetables or even cuts of meat, it’s all possible.
Keep in mind that, depending on how the restaurant operates, they might permit you to take these scraps out of their waste containers or potentially have it ready to go for you at certain times on certain dates.
Either is viable, but you’ll want to keep an eye on your pigs’ salt intake and also make sure that you don’t feed them anything that is obviously rotten or spoiled.
3. Old Grocery Stock
An ideal way to supplement the diet of your pigs with wholesome, nutritious food is by making friends with a grocery store manager or night stocking crew member that can hook you up with the out-of-date fruits, veggies, and meats that they would just throw away in the trash otherwise.
Trust me; they have a lot more to get rid of than that tiny rack of same-day bakery bread you see for sale!
This is the best way to get tons of needed nutrition while having better control over what your pigs eat while minimizing salt intake and other potentially harmful ingredients and additives compared to getting waste from a restaurant.
Something else to keep in mind is that, even if you can’t take possession of the food directly, they might not have any problems with you fishing it out of the dumpster if you’re up to the task.
4. Out-of-Date Dairy Products
In the same vein as getting discarded food from a restaurant or grocery, you might hit up a local dairy or major business consumer of dairy products in your area.
Out-of-date milk, yogurt and potentially even cheese can all be valuable protein-packed and highly caloric food for your hogs.
The trick with getting your hands on these out-of-date dairy products is that they’ll be difficult to transport compared to boxes of produce or containers full of old meat.
Unless you are getting retail-ready product, which is fairly unlikely unless you’re getting it from a grocery, you’ll need containers to haul the stuff because the dairy probably won’t part with theirs under the circumstances.
But some milk cans, large plastic containers and even heavy-duty plastic trash cans with lids on a trailer might be all you need to do to hook your pigs up with a lot of nutritious (and fattening!) dairy products in their diet.
5. Stale Bakery Bread
Baked bread is a great way to bulk up feed and other foods for your pigs with calories in the form of mass carbohydrates, while also giving your pigs minerals that they need.
But like I mentioned above, even if you and your family are constantly baking or eating your own bread, you’re probably just not going to generate that much for your pigs in the form of scraps, and purchasing bread for them is not cost-efficient.
Once again, you can connect with local businesses in your area to help them and help yourself at the same time…
Especially in the case of small business bakeries, it rarely fails that they will have a huge supply of old and leftover bread at the end of every day, or because of orders that fall through.
Their loss can be your gain, as you can usually purchase these products at a very steep discount, or even get them for free.
Try not to give your hogs anything that is overloaded with sugar, but you can then give them the bread as-is as a treat, or crumble it up and mix it into anything else they are eating.
Pigs really like bread and they’ll be happy to get it!
6. Mix Your Own Feed
If you’re like most pig owners, you probably reached “critical mass” when it comes to the sticker price of the pig feed sold in those big 50 and 60 pound bags.
Especially today, with the climbing cost of all commodities and the diminishing value of the dollar, you can easily wind up paying .30 to .50 cents a pound! And your pigs can blow through that and no time flat!
What is sure to be the most obvious solution to some owners is simply mixing up their own feed.
By purchasing the major ingredients of common pig feeds separately and then mixing them yourself it is possible to net savings of .20 to .40 cents a pound compared to the large bags of high-end feed.
Corn, wheat and other grains, soybeans, sorghum, sunflower seeds and other common ingredients can all be purchased in bulk by themselves from feed mills and other suppliers pretty cheaply.
All you need to do is get several barrels worth and then combine them in a separate “finished” barrel or other container by weight according to the nutritional requirements of your herd.
I have several friends that keep pigs who have gone this route and they swear they are never going back to the usual bagged stuff!
7. Buy Feed Mill Ground Stock
If you are fortunate enough to live near a large feed mill that grinds their own product and is willing to sell it in bulk, consider yourself in luck because chances are good you will realize immense savings over purchasing the usual bag feed from a reseller.
I have seen this “direct” ground feed go for as little as .15 cents a pound! No matter how you slice it, that is huge savings over other commercial feeds.
The problem is that not all feed mills are willing to sell direct to individual customers, and the ones that do might have truly immense minimum orders.
This can make the logistics, to say nothing of the cost, of purchasing this feed prohibitive.
Also, don’t be swayed by this idea if you don’t have a feed mill that’s within a reasonable driving distance: remember that your time and gas also cost you money that contribute to the bottom line cost!
8. Let Them Eat Grass
Most animals will forage for their own food; pigs are no different. But you might not know is that pigs can, and will, eat grass.
Pigs are omnivores and so cannot live on grass alone, but they will eat it and also derive nutrition from it.
Letting your pigs out to roam in a grassy spot that you don’t mind them tearing up with them get nutrition from the grass while also keeping it short so you don’t have to deal with it.
Rotating where your pigs are kept can allow them to make better, continual use of grass in their diet and give their former spot a break so the grass can grow back and reestablish itself for next time.
9. Allow Pigs to Forage on Crops
It rarely fails that pigs that break out of their enclosure or are allowed to free-range will head straight for the garden or other patches of vegetables.
If you’re the keeper of said garden, or if the garden belongs to your neighbor, this is a true disaster!
But it doesn’t have to be: if you have an old garden that has gone wild or want to grow various fruits and veggies just for your pigs, you can let them eat the fruits, plants, and all if you allow them to forage.
This saves you work since you won’t need to harvest them, and your pigs frankly will not care if the harvest is of particularly high quality. They are pigs, after all!
10. Acorns and Other Tree Nuts
Acorns and other tree nuts can be great supplemental foods for your pigs.
A few high-producing trees on your property can turn out a surprising amount of calories for your herd, along with lots of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals.
Now concerning acorns, even though they have a long history and use as a livestock finishing feed, you must be careful to mind the quantity because they contain potentially toxic tannins that can make pigs sick, or even kill them.
The way to avoid this outcome is simply by moderating the amount of acorns you allow your hogs to eat, or if you’re able to collect the acorns giving them a long soak in water, changing it out periodically until it stays clear.
That means the tannins are leached out and completely safe to eat.
11. Bulk Corn
Lastly, don’t forget the budget-boosting power of bulk corn for your pigs. It gets a bad rap as a food that is going to simply fatten pigs without noticeably increasing the quality of their meat.
However, they do love the stuff, it’s healthy, and it has plenty of calories that they desperately need as they grow.
You can use corn in a lot of ways to feed your pigs, including giving it to them as is, or fermenting it and mixing it with other ingredients. You’ll rarely find any feed that is cheaper!
A Word of Caution on Scrap and Waste Food
I made several mentions of collecting food scraps, old food and so-called “waste” products from restaurants and other vendors for feeding to your pigs.
This is definitely a viable way to give them varied foods in their diet and increase calorie intake overall, but you must be cautious not to give your pigs anything that is spoiled, moldy, rotten, etc.
To the uninitiated, pigs can eat anything with no consequences: Some people think they are nothing more than living garbage disposals.
Anyone who has kept pigs, and actually cared about them, knows that isn’t true…
They are as vulnerable to disease and illness as any other living thing, and one of the easiest ways to make them sick or kill them is by giving them bad food.
Keep in mind, pigs might gleefully eat something that you and I literally could not force ourselves go near, but that doesn’t mean they can tolerate it if they eat it.
Don’t give your pigs any food that is truly too far gone, and if you’re collecting scraps or old food from groceries and restaurants, consider cooking them over a fire or large burner to kill off any lurking germs.
The results might not be pretty, but your pigs will still like it, and it will be safer for them.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.