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By now, we all know that proper nutrition is critical for not only our health but also for the health of our livestock. The question is, what are the nutritional requirements of a healthy pig? Proper feeding is required for growth and maintenance, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, pigs can do just fine on a diet of pasture and kitchen scraps alone, without the need for further supplementation, provided they have ample amounts of each.

What You Should Know About Pig Nutrition

When fed on a proper diet, pigs will grow faster, maintain their weight better, have better lactation, and reproduce more successfully. In general, a pig fed a proper diet will be healthier all around, which is good for the farmer, as well as the pig. Pigs are omnivores so they will eat both meat and plants. On pasture, they will consume grasses, roots, and even earthworms. If they are missing essential nutrients from their diet, their growth rate will be slow, and that’s not good for productivity.

Although pigs love pasture, they will need to have additional food sources to supplement their foraging. Since pigs have a single stomach, they don’t digest fiber well. They can actually only digest about 50% of the fiber in their diet, and since pasture primarily all fiber, it makes sense that they would require other foods sources. It is important to provide sources of protein such as peanuts, milk, soybeans, corn, or peas. Cereal grains such as wheat or oats can be included, but they do not provide enough protein on their own, so additional protein will still need to be provided.

What to Feed Baby Pigs

As with any other animal, the nutritional needs of baby pigs are different from those of adult pigs. Make sure that your newborn pigs get colostrum with 24 hours of farrowing (birth). The colostrum will provide important antibodies needed for the baby pigs’ healthy immune system.

Once your baby pigs reach three weeks of age, creep feed can be introduced to supplement the mother pig’s milk. If offered before three weeks of age, much of the feed will be wasted. Creep feeding helps the piglets develop the necessary digestive enzymes they need for digesting food sources other than milk, which also helps to make the weaning process easier.

As your piglets are weaned, they will transition from the creep feed to a grower diet that is high in lysine and other amino acids that encourage maximum growth. The grower diet is usually fed from about 50 pounds until 120 pounds. After that, the pigs are transitioned to a finisher diet.

Feeding Pregnant and Lactating Sows

Never overfeed you pregnant sows. Overfeeding can lead to problems during gestation and farrowing. During gestation, a sow should eat between four to six pounds of commercial swine feed each day. However, a lactating sow will usually consume anywhere from nine to 15 pounds of commercial swine feed per day.

What to Feed Your Adult Pigs

The nutritional needs of pigs fall into six categories: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. These feeds can all be fed to pigs:

• Although this is probably the most expensive option, there are commercially prepared swine feeds that contain a proper balance of fruits, vegetables, and grains. These may make a good option for overwintering your pigs or supplementing the diet when pasture and other free food sources are scarce. Commercial diets are also good for sows during gestation and lactation, and for young piglets, to make sure proper nutritional needs are met.

• Kitchen scraps are a great source of free food for pigs. Bread, fruit, vegetables, and even surplus milk will all provide nutritious sustenance for your pigs.

• Restaurant scraps can be another great source of free pig food. Check around with local restaurants to see if they will save all their fruit, vegetable, and bread scraps for you.

• Forage is another excellent free food for pigs. They love to root around in the pasture looking for goodies to eat.

• If there is a distillery or brewery in your area, the leftover grains from the distillation process can make excellent feed for pigs.

What Not to Feed Your Pigs of Any Age

Don’t give your pigs any meat products, fish, or animal carcasses. Although some pigs might be happy to eat meat, pigs that are fed meet risk contracting diseases that are contagious to humans when the pork is consumed.

Feeding Pigs on the Homestead

Generally, the average homesteader raising a couple of pigs for the freezer each year is going to be interested in feeding them as affordably as possible without sacrificing growth or meat quality. Rotating your pigs on quality forage is a great way to raise pigs inexpensively. When roaming in the pasture, pigs will eat fruits, nuts, roots, grasses, insects, and even small animals like mice.

To keep your pigs contained within the pasture, electric fencing is most effective, and portable electric net fencing allows you to rotate them easily to a new spot every few days. Pasture rotation minimizes damage to the pasture and helps to keep both the pigs and the land healthier. Just be sure that your pigs have access to shade, some type of shelter from rain and wind, and of course fresh water at all times.

You can also let your pigs run in your garden and fields after the growing season. They will clean up any food that’s been left behind, saving you some money on pig feed. Pigs run on a cornfield at the end of the season might not even touch grain because they are so well satisfied.

The Takeaway

If you can provide plenty of food scraps and access to access to quality forage, you won’t need to provide much commercial feed at all. This is especially true if you are just raising a couple of weaner pigs to market weight. You will be butchering them in late fall so you won’t have to spend money to feed them all winter.

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The “Boost Your Mood” Food Guide

By Amanda Gia Johnson

The key to staying as healthy as possible is lowered inflammation, healthy weight maintenance, and not being overrun by negative stress and depression. The following foods have the key elements to accomplish those goals and also improve the quality of life.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation in the body is defined as experiencing disturbed function. Disturbed function in the body leads to disease and diminishes quality of life. If the inflammation or improper function can be prevented, diseases can be cut off at the pass and avoided altogether.

1. Tart Cherry

Cherries are full of unique anthocyanins and other compounds that naturally mediate the inflammation in the body. These and some other deeply colored berries, fruits, and vegetables contain nutrients that combat inflammation. While all cherries pack an anti-inflammatory punch, tart cherries contain higher levels of the flavonoid anthocyanin.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

Your mom was right to make you eat your Brussels sprouts! Cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower reign supreme with cutting down inflammation. There is a clear cut difference between inflammation levels in individuals who consume cruciferous vegetables regularly as opposed to those who do not.

3. Legumes

Chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of cancer. Legumes, most specifically lentils, are the superheroes of cancer prevention. They have an abundance of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. One of the most important nutrients of all legumes is dietary fiber. The presence of fiber in all legumes is one of the essential nutrients to combat inflammation.

4. Green Tomatoes

Not to be eaten raw due to toxic compounds, cooked green tomatoes are vitamin and mineral dense. These nutrients ward off cell degeneration which occurs with time and sedentary lifestyles. They are great post workout foods because the active, valuable compound tomatidine is a muscle builder. Muscle atrophy occurs naturally with aging. Cooked green tomatoes’ tomatidine works against that process extending your life.

Healthy Weight Maintenance

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is eating nutrient dense foods that will keep you fuller for longer periods of time. Protein and inflammation fighting fiber are the nutrients that have many health benefits and will keep hunger pangs at bay. Swapping out high saturated fats for healthy unsaturated fats will also help with maintaining a healthy weight.

5. Olive & Olive Oil

This antioxidant super food fights and prevents cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and the list goes on. It combats obesity despite its high caloric content. Instead of butter and margarine which lack nutrients, use olive oil which is rich in phenolic antioxidants. These antioxidants are also found in honey, the majority of legumes, berries, cruciferous veggies, green tea, onions, chocolate, red wine, among others. These antioxidants combat inflammation as well. The monounsaturated fat content in olives and olive oil has been found to enhance the body’s breakdown of stored fat equaling weight loss!

6. Whole Grains like Quinoa, Freekah and Teff

With these exotic whole grains, your palette and your hunger will be satisfied. Along with being high in hunger fighting protein, these grains are known for controlling and preventing diseases such as diabetes, certain colorectal cancers, and macular degeneration. You’ll live longer and will be able to see which is a bonus! Replacing wheat with freekah and teff will give you immediate benefits. Substituting rice with quinoa is a smart move. These grains are clear examples that all carbs are not bad

7. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

This omega-3 fatty acid rich fish also is high in protein and other beneficial amino acids. Any protein that provides good fats and is low in bad fats is an ideal staple to any diet.

Mood Boosters

Depression is caused by imbalances in brain chemicals especially serotonin and dopamine. There are various triggers such as substance abuse, emotional trauma, vitamin deficiency, and physical diseases that can negatively impact this balance. Strategically including the following foods to your diet will increase key brain chemicals that boost your mood and thwarts the imbalances that cause the doldrums that shorten lifespan and make it unbearable to boot.

8. Shell Fish

Vitamin B12 and zinc are immediate mood boosters and are found in most shellfish such as clams and oysters. Vitamin B12 is used by the brain to make dopamine and serotonin which are the “happy” chemicals. Zinc is present in brain cells and helps create new brain cells.

9. Walnuts

Walnuts are a Super Food that provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is necessary for proper levels of dopamine and serotonin. Proper levels of ALA also prevent inflammation.

10. Coffee (in moderation)

Caffeine sometimes has a bad reputation, but that is when used in excess. Coffee has beneficial health effects, but as it pertains to mood, caffeine stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin.


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