There’s one thing you can count on most livestock animals eating, it is hay. Cows, goats, sheep, horses, and other animals all eat hay.
But I can’t remember if I’ve ever heard people talking about their pigs eating hay, have you? That’s a really good question! What’s the answer? Do pigs eat hay?
Yes, pigs can eat hay. Hay is safe for pigs to eat and it is a fairly nutritious staple food, though it is not a nutritionally complete one. But so long as they have other food to meet their requirements hay is a good part of their diet.
If you keep pigs, hay can be an indispensable part of your operation because it is highly affordable, and filling, and can help make the most of other food sources you give to your herd while improving their digestion.
You need to know straight away that pigs cannot live on hay alone. There’s a lot more you’ll want to know, too, so keep reading…
Do Pigs Like Hay?
Generally yes. Most pigs will eat hay very readily, though they will rarely choose hay instead of other, tastier foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, and meat.
What is Hay, Exactly?
If you’ve never had a need for hay before, you might not know exactly what it is. Hay is nothing more than dried grass or sometimes other kinds of plants, although it isn’t exactly the same kind of grass that grows on your lawn.
Once hay is mature, it is cut and left to dry before being processed into bales which are then broken up and fed to animals.
Most importantly, hay is distinct from straw because hay still contains seeds and other parts of the plant that are nutritious for animals.
Can Pigs Even Digest Hay?
They sure can. Pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plant-based material.
Since hay is a plant-based material, you better believe they can digest it just fine. In fact, the digestive system of a pig is optimized for getting maximum nutrition even from suboptimal foods like hay. This is because it relies on fermentation, partially, for the extraction of nutrients.
This means that your pigs are going to get more calories and better nutrition from hay than you might think at first, even though it isn’t adequate for all of their needs by itself.
Is Hay Healthy for Pigs?
Yes, hay is definitely healthy for your pigs. Hay provides calories, vitamins and minerals for pigs, and they need all three in order to maintain their energy levels and other bodily processes.
Most kinds of hay are particularly good sources of phosphorus, potassium and calcium, and some types like clover and alfalfa hay are a great source of protein.
But more than this, hay provides lots of fiber and other compounds that can greatly improve digestion in pigs and also keep their digestive tract clear and moving properly, with well-formed droppings.
Considering that hay is likely very cheap compared to other foods you might feed your pigs, and it is something they can eat all day as part of their usual diet, this makes it a mainstay for your herd. It isn’t quite as crucial for pigs as other herbivorous animals, but it is still very important!
Can Pigs Live on Hay Alone?
No, they cannot. As good as it is, hay is nowhere near nutritionally complete for pigs. It doesn’t have enough protein or vitamins for pigs to live on, even though it does offer several minerals that they need
Accordingly, you’ll need to give hay to your pigs as part of a well-rounded diet if you want them to thrive and stay healthy. Pigs can subsist for a time on hay alone, but eventually, they will start to suffer from malnutrition.
Understanding Feed-to-Gain Ratio
A really important concept you’ll need to understand when it comes to feeding hay to pigs, or any other food really, is the feed-to-gain ratio. In short, this is the amount of food that a pig must have in order to produce a given increase in weight.
This ratio is a variable depending on several other factors, namely the size of the pig and the quality of the feed. For pigs, this ratio is usually between 5:1 (five to one) and 3:1, with larger breeds or larger individual pigs requiring more food to gain a pound of weight.
In the example above, a pig will need anywhere from 5 pounds to 3 pounds of food to gain 1 pound of weight. This means that watching calorie intake is the first step to moderating the feed-to-gain ratio.
Hay is considered a low-calorie food for pigs, so that’s something you’ve got to keep in mind for your objectives.
Is Haygrass Okay for Pigs?
Yes, it is. Hay grass, also known as raw hay, is ideal for pigs because it’s easy to eat, easily digestible, and contains the best possible amount of nutrients and a great amount of fiber.
Is Dry Hay Okay for Pigs?
Yes, dry hay is okay for pigs. This is the usual form of hay that you’ll see on farms and homesteads all over the world. Easy to eat and digest, and has a good amount of nutrients, though some is lost in the drying process.
Is Fermented Hay Okay for Pigs?
It sure is. Fermented hay is also known as silage, and though it sounds strange it has been a common livestock food for a very long time and is suitable for long-term storage.
Keep in mind that the fermentation process produces sugars which will increase the overall calories in the hay.
Is Alfalfa Hay Safe for Pigs?
Yes, alfalfa hay is totally safe for pigs. Although it sometimes gets a bad rap with sheep and goats because of its propensity to cause frothy bloat, pigs won’t suffer from that.
However, too much protein-rich hay like alfalfa or clover can still cause digestive upset, so keep an eye out for that.
Is Hay Toxic or Harmful to Pigs in Any Way?
No, not directly, assuming they are getting other food besides hay. However, you should never give old, moldy hay to pigs because it can easily make them sick.
Pigs are particularly vulnerable to pathogens that may be present in their food, and for hay particularly, some microorganisms that produce mycotoxins can make them dreadfully sick or even kill them.
Beyond this, you must check the quality of any hay you get for your pigs thoroughly. For starters, you need to perform a nutritional analysis on it to know precisely what your pigs are getting from it.
Also, it’s imperative that you only buy from high-quality suppliers and even then keep an eye on it for any debris like plastic, wire, scrap metal or even something like broken glass.
Any of these things can severely injure your pigs whether or not they swallow them, and if they do, it could have life-threatening complications.
How Often Can Pigs Eat Hay?
Pigs can eat hay daily as long as they’re getting the right amount of it. The guideline for feeding hay to your pigs is they should get no more than 2% of their body weight in hay every day.
But remember, this is just a guideline: the precise amount of hay that you give your pigs will depend on your objectives for them, the nutritional content of the hay, and the rest of the pig’s diet.
As an example, if your pigs are already getting plenty of protein in their diet and lots of other fiber-rich foods they won’t need much hay, generally, and they won’t need alfalfa or clover hay particularly because they are so high in protein.
How Can I Feed My Pigs Hay?
There’s not much to do if you want to serve hay to your pigs. You can toss some hay in the feeder or scatter it on the ground and your pigs will get right to it. That’s it!
Can Piglets Have Hay, Too?
Yes, baby piglets can have hay as soon as they are old enough to start eating solid food, but you want to serve it to them cautiously because they might not be able to completely digest it as well as adult pigs.
Also, piglets’ underdeveloped teeth will struggle with larger pieces of hay, so consider giving it a chop before you serve it to them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Hay Be Used for Pig Bedding?
You can use hay as bedding for your pigs, but this isn’t a great idea for two reasons: For starters, it’s a lot more expensive than straw which works just as well, and it’s also likely that your pigs will eat it! 🙂
Do Hogs Eat Alfalfa Hay?
Yes, hogs can and will eat alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is packed with protein and lots of other minerals that hogs can benefit from, and it can help them put on weight quickly.
What is the Best Hay for Pigs?
There are several good hay options for pigs, including orchard grass, brome, and timothy hay along with alfalfa and clover. Just keep in mind that the latter two have considerably more protein and are higher in calories.
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.