If you’re thinking of getting some pigs for your lifestyle block here’s a guide on what pigs need to be happy & healthy.
Pigs are very intelligent and make great pets or friendly farmyard animals. Pigs have been domesticated for thousands of years and they’re quite easy to train. They are easily motivated by food and will quickly learn to come when they are called if you call them when you feed them.
When keeping pet pigs you will notice that they love attention and being spoken to. They also enjoy a scratch behind the ear and a good scrub down with a brush.
What to feed pigs?
Pigs will eat almost anything and everything they can find. They are omnivores and incredibly have 15,000 taste buds; humans only have 9000, so this may explain why they love food so much!
The basic diet for a pig would be to feed them a combination of grass, household scraps or old crops from your vegetable garden or orchard combined with pig feed or grain. On average a pig should be given about 2 kg of pig feed or grain a day, or less if you are supplementing with household or garden scraps.
Fresh, clean water should be available to your pigs at all times, and make sure that the troughs that you are using a strong. Concrete troughs that are heavy and unmovable are ideal.
What not to feed pigs?
Everyone knows that pigs like their food but it best to be careful about what you feed them as some things can make them sick or even kill them if you give them too much. Salt is really bad for pigs and too much salt can result in death! They shouldn’t eat dripping or fats either. Some vegetables are toxic and can make pigs sick if they eat large quantities such as apple or pear seeds, cassava, wild mushrooms, unripened tomatoes, avocados, rhubarb and green potatoes. Other things pigs don't eat are; citrus fruit, capsicums, onions, pineapples and some brassicas.
Feeding household food scraps that contain meat or have been in contact with meat is against the law in NZ unless the waste has been boiled for an hour, and it's best to avoid food waste from other sources altogether if you don't know exactly what's in it. Feeding raw meat to pigs can transfer diseases such as foot and mouth disease.
Pigs can eat almost everything else you plant though. If you’re planning to use your pigs to help dig your garden at the end of the season, pull all remaining tomato, broccoli, cabbage, and turnips before putting them to work. The leaves, vines, roots, and seeds are toxic to pigs.Be careful that your pig does not over eat. If a pig carries too much weight, they can be prone to conditions such as arthritis.
Pigs are intelligent and curious which makes them lots of fun but can also make them hard to keep behind a fence. They will push and poke at their fence to find a way to escape their enclosure. Once they have made the first great escape they will try again, and again and again.
Tips for electric fencing for pigs
If you aren’t using a pre-made poly wire netting, the height of the wire for an electric pig fence is critical to containment. Small piglets or feeders can easily slip under a strand of wire if it isn’t low enough. As they grow, if the line is too low, they can leap over it. A three strand fence standing at four, eight, and twelve, to sixteen inches above the ground will contain a pig of any size. As the pig is trained, it will learn to respect and avoid the fence altogether.
Pigs hate extreme weather conditions, be it cold winds and draughts or soaring temperatures and humidity. So ensure that they have access to shelter; somewhere dry to sleep with shelter from the wind and rain. Pig pens should be draught-free but there needs to be a good circulation of air when temperatures rise, it’s a good idea to choose a pig pen that is relocatable so that you can position it to shelter from the cold in the winter and then move it to a shadier spot for the summer months.
Pigs will tolerate temperatures between 12-26°C. Anything, either side of these temperatures and your pet pig will be in distress. This is why in hot weather those mud baths are so necessary for your pig to be able to cool down as he doesn't have the ability to do so through sweating. A relocatable paddock shelter is a great option for your pigs. You can move it from paddock to paddock to follow your pigs.
Your pig will enjoy a bed of deep, clean straw or litter. If there are other pigs present they will often be seen cuddling up to each other in these situations. They are actually very clean animals, and will not urinate or poo on their bedding, but will do so in a corner of their pen, away from their bedding. You can even train pigs to poo in one place in the sty by simply leaving a little soiled litter there as an example. Click here to see the range of Outpost Pig Shelters >
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