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Choose supplements for pigs with care

Keeping backyard pigs has been a common practice for centuries, as pigs will eat a wide range of different feedstuffs and can be efficient converters of waste foods or feed into high quality protein for human consumption.

Supplementing your pigs’ diet with reject vegetables or waste milk on a dairy farm can be a good way of reducing waste and you may even consider feeding left over table scraps to your pigs. But, these feedstuffs pose a potential threat to the health of your pigs, as well as others and extra care must be taken when these supplements are feed.

Waste vegetables can be a useful source of fibre, particularly for older animals and kunekune type pigs. However, pigs are single-stomached animals, like humans and so fibrous, high moisture feeds should only be fed in moderation. Feeds like potatoes, turnips and swedes can be a good source of energy but are generally high in moisture and low in protein and essential minerals required for muscle growth and development and bone integrity respectively. High roughage feeds like pasture, cabbages and other vegetables are a good source of fibre but are low in dry matter and most pigs are unable to eat enough of these high moisture feeds to support good growth rates or high levels of milk production in sows. These feeds can be particularly useful for mature, non-lactating animals, which have lower nutrient requirements or kunekune type pigs, which have a greater ability to utilise high forage feeds.

Feeding waste milk to pigs is a common practice and milk provides a good source of high quality protein. However, feeding large quantities of milk can lead to digestive upsets and feeding milk alone does not provide enough energy or essential trace elements for pigs. Milk fed pigs must be supplemented with a high energy density feed and trace minerals if pigs are to remain healthy and achieve good growth rates. Feeding milk that has not been heat treated can also help to support the spread of disease, particularly where milk is not produced on the same farm where pigs are kept.

Although there are relatively few pig diseases present in New Zealand and border control measures are in place to help limit the possibility of a disease entering New Zealand, the risk of spreading disease is the main reason behind the strict laws controlling the feeding of food waste to pigs in New Zealand. For example, feeding contaminated food waste to pigs is considered to have been the most likely cause of the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak in the UK in 2001. Under New Zealand law, any food waste that has come into contact with any meat, cooked or raw, must be heat treated to over 100oC for 1 hour to ensure that any bacteria or viruses present in the waste will be destroyed. These laws apply equally to commercially prepared and home-produced food.

Properly treated food waste, reject vegetables and waste milk, can all be used to help reduce the cost of feeding pigs kept on small-holdings. To ensure optimum health and welfare of pigs and to support production in rapidly growing young animals or high producing sows, balanced feeds that provide appropriate levels of energy, high quality protein and essential minerals and vitamins should make up the vast majority of the animal’s diet. NRM Big Pig Nuts are ideal for feeding to growing pigs over 65kg and to dry sows and boars. Formulated to provide a balanced source of energy, protein and essential minerals, NRM Big Pig Nuts also contain a balanced level of fibre to support gut health in mature pigs. For rapidly growing animals or sows in milk, NRM Little Pig Tucker provides high energy and protein levels as well as minerals and vitamins to support weight gain and milk production.

For more information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.

Article supplied by Natalie Chrystal, Nutritionist.