All pigs must have access to clean water and a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Proper nutrition provides pigs with their most basic needs by allowing them to remain in good health and full of energy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Nutrition. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your pigs have what they need for good nutrition.
Pigs do not have the ability to sweat naturally, so they need a lot of water (and not just for drinking!). The quality of water is also very important as about half the weight of a pig is water! Pigs can drink up to 20 litres of water a day, and they can become very ill (or even die) without enough water. Water should always be fresh and clean so that your pig does not pick up any illness from the water and become ill.
Your pigs should always be able to get to and drink water whenever they need. Pigs usually eat and drink out of large tubs called troughs. Pigs are very playful and have been known to try and swim in their water troughs or flip them over for fun with their very strong noses. This means your pig could end up wasting water, or contaminating it, therefore using a proper water trough or drinker that your pig cannot tip it over, is important.
Pigs will eat just about anything – even things they should not eat, therefore it is very important that you provide your pig with a balanced, nutritious diet to ensure they are eating all the right foods and staying healthy.
Pigs can come in a variety of sizes depending on their breed, so the amount they will need to eat will vary. Like humans, pigs are omnivores so they will eat a wide variety of food. The average diet for a companion pig kept at home will consist of a combination of pig nuts (commercial pig pellets) and a variety of limited fruits and vegetables. There is a range of pig food available to buy which are suitable for lifestyle block pigs.
These feed mixes are either in the form of pellets or crushed up. They are made up of soy and grains such as barley, oats and wheat. These feeds contain the right amount of nutrients in them to keep your companion pig healthy. Most pigs will need about 2-3kg of feed mix a day, which should be fed twice daily, but again this will depend on the breed and size of your pig. If you are unsure, it is best to speak to your veterinarian or an experienced pig owner about the right diet for your pig.
Most pigs will graze on grass if they are provided with it in their housing area. However, pigs should not purely live on grass alone. Make sure you are feeding your pig a balanced and varied diet, along with the grass it grazes on. Just be sure to reduce your pig’s diet accordingly if they are grazing throughout the day.
Hay can also be given to pigs to eat to keep them busy throughout the day. Some pigs do not seem to like hay, but many others will eat it willingly. If you do choose to try and feed your pig hay, make sure the hay is of good quality. Pigs will not want to eat dirty or mouldy hay and it's not good for them.
Pigs can eat a variety of produce (fruits and vegetables) in moderation. If you are feeding your pig produce, however, remember to decrease the amount of pellets or feed mix so they are not eating too much. Healthy vegetables that are suitable for pigs include:
Some pigs will prefer their vegetables cooked rather than raw. Any cooked vegetables should be baked or steamed and should not be cooked with butter or salt.
The majority of fruits are suitable for pigs including; banana, berries, kiwifruit, mango, nectarine and many others. Rememeber that fruit must only be fed in limited amounts, as too much can lead to cover-eating. Pigs becoming too fat leads to an unhealthy pig.
Just like people, pigs have individual taste preferences and will have foods they dislike and foods that are their favourite! Introduce different healthy foods to your pig to find out what they do and don’t like. Once you have found what their favourite foods are, these can also be used as rewards for training your pig.
Pigs will want to eat anything they can, therefore you need to ensure your pig does not eat poisonous foods or those which are harmful to your pig. There are a few foods that pigs should not eat these include:
Seeds from apples and pears seeds and kernels from apricots and peaches: These seeds and kernels contain harmful substances which can make your pig very ill and can even lead to death. When feeding these fruits, always be sure to remove the kernels and seeds first.
Wild Mushrooms: Commercially grown and sold mushrooms are fine to feed to your pig, however, some wild growing mushrooms are likely to be poisonous.
Green Potatoes: Sometimes the tops of potatoes or their sprouts can be green, especially when potatoes have been left in the sun. Make sure you do not give the green parts of potatoes to your pig, otherwise it will get a very bad tummy ache!
Rhubarb: This plant contains an acid in it that is highly toxic to pigs, so avoid giving rhubarb to your pig.
Meat: In New Zealand, it's actually against the law to feed pigs meat or food that has touched meat.
Pigs will eat a variety of foods, and a lot of it, therefore you need to be careful about what, and how much you feed your pig. Pigs can put on weight easily, so you should feed them only what they need to be healthy and full.
Pigs that are overweight can develop health problems and become ill. A pig that is overweight is at risk of getting a painful condition in their legs and joints called arthritis. This can make it hard for them to walk.
Other problems overweight pigs may develop include breathing problems, organ failure, and heart disease. You need to be very aware of overfeeding your pig, therefore talking to your local veterinarian about amounts and type of food to feed your pig is important.
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