Out of all the livestock species that you might keep, there is no doubt that pigs have the reputation of being the biggest eaters. After all, saying that someone or something eats like a pig is not a compliment!
Though it is a stereotype, pigs really are big eaters but with good cause. Most breeds tend to get big, very big, and putting on the ideal amount of healthy weight prior to slaughter is priority number one for many keepers.
It turns out that most of the work involved with keeping pigs is simply figuring out how much food they need and making sure you can afford it! So, how much do pigs eat?
An average growing pig will need around 5 to 7 pounds of food per day for optimum healthy growth, depending on the type of food. Very large breeds or nursing sows need significantly more, around 2,900 calories per day.
Of course, this is only a simple rule of thumb. A keeper’s objectives, the breed, health and age of the pigs and other nutritional requirements must all be considered in factored into that daily caloric budget.
The calorie requirements of each individual pig in your herd might be slightly different, and the closer you can get to ideal the healthier, happier and more valuable your pigs will be.
Keep reading and I will tell you everything you need to know about how much pigs need to eat.
How Many Calories Does a Pig Need Per Day?
On average, a growing pig will need around 2,300 calories per day. However, the calorie requirements of your pigs, and any given individual pig, are based on several things.
Obviously, the breed and age of the pig are prime factors. Younger pigs that are growing quickly need more calories in order to pack on weight in a healthy way, especially considering they are likely to be more active also.
Older and more sedentary pigs don’t need as many calories to maintain a healthy weight.
On the other hand, pregnant sows, or sows that have farrowed and are nursing heavily, will need many more calories, as will fast growing larger breeds.
Any of these pigs may need between 2,900 and 3,600 calories each and every day.
And of course, all of this must be balanced against the type of feed and other foods that will be given to the pigs and the overall quality of their diet.
Better feed and whole foods that are easier to digest have a better caloric value overall than ones that are low quality and harder to digest. This can, actually, change your calculation somewhat.
How Much Should You Feed Your Pigs?
You should feed your pigs only as much food as needed to meet their calorie requirements for their phase of life and for their growth objectives according to your purposes.
Overfeeding pigs does nothing except promote unhealthy weight gain and eventually obesity which can cause a host of detrimental health issues.
Again, as mentioned above determining the specific daily food requirements for page is it somewhat complicated, but the chart below will provide you with dependable guidelines for feeding average size of pigs at various stages of life:
|Age of Pig, Weeks||Weight of Pig, Pounds||Food Daily, Pounds, Appx.|
How May Times Per Day Should Pigs Be Fed?
Ideally, you will feed your pigs on a schedule and at least twice per day, potentially with a snack or two here and there or opportunities to graze and root.
But again, this is highly dependent on your objectives and your strategies for getting your pigs to an ideal target weight if you’re going to slaughter them.
If you want your pigs to gain weight even quicker, without packing on too much unhealthy fat, it is better to feed your pigs more frequent meals but smaller ones.
In some cases, they might be eating at six times per day or even more often.
Is It Okay to Feed Pigs Only Once Per Day?
It is okay, but far from ideal and might be unhealthy. The best way to get your pigs to grow healthy and thrive is to feed them on a consistent schedule, at least twice per day.
Even if had more often, a consistent, steady intake of calories and nutrients will promote optimal growth and overall health.
Infrequent, single feedings typically leads to gorging which regularly results in digestive issues and illness.
In a best case scenario, this will slow down growth and development. In a worst case scenario it’s going to need to serious health problems.
For whatever reason, if you’re only going to be able to feed pigs once per day you should try to give them plenty of high-quality and easily digestible food.
Can You Let Pigs “Free Feed”?
Definitely not. Although you’ll sometimes find keepers that do this, letting pigs free feed, or have a free access to food and be able to eat as much as they want, is a bad idea. Given unlimited access to food, pigs really well eat like, well, pigs!
Invariably this will cause serious digestive events and also inevitably lead to obesity. It might be tempting to make your life easier, but don’t give in to this idea.
Establish a dependable feeding schedule based on your objectives for the pigs and their stage of development and then stick to it.
How Do You Calculate Feed Intake for Pigs?
You’ll calculate the feed intake based on their breed size standards, the age of the pig, your purposes for the pig and what kind of feed you have.
Knowing the first three factors will tell you how many calories per day a pig needs, more or less.
Once you know the last factor, the kind of feed you have, you can determine its caloric value and then figure out how much food, by volume or weight, each pig needs daily.
If you are unsure how to go about this, you’ll find tons of resources online for feeding standards and other guidelines. But as a general rule of thumb, you can refer back to the chart included above.
How Much Does It Cost to Feed an Average Pig for One Month?
Your feed costs will naturally be determined by how much your pigs eat and the cost of feed, but the formulas are for determining this are simple.
As an example, let’s say you have a pig that weighs around 280 pounds. A pig this size will eat between six and seven pounds of food per day depending on the type of food.
Let’s say it is a common and highly nutritious commercial pig feed.
How much does a bag of this feed cost? Let’s say it costs about $22 for a 50 pound bag. That brings our feed cost to about 22 cents per pound.
So for a pig that needs six or seven pounds of that food per day, you’re looking at a cost of between $1.32 and $1.54 daily. That comes out to $39.60 to $46.20 per month (30 days)
But that’s per pig: if you have 20 pigs about the same size as the first one, your feed costs are now $26.40 to $30.80 per day, or $792 to $924 per month.
Ultimately it’s pretty simple math, but the tricky part is staying on top of these costs that increase as the pig grows or needs more food for any other reason.
Frequently Asked Questions
An average pig will need around 2,300 calories per day. This can be anywhere from four to seven pounds of food or even more depending on what the food is.
An average pig weighing around 125 pounds eats anywhere from 630 to 1,200 lbs of food in 6 months.
Yes. Pigs need extra calories in the wintertime in order to help keep their body temperature up, since pigs are digesting food stay warmer.
Some do, but most don’t. Pigs are prone to overeating if they are given unlimited access to food.
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.