pig farm; biosecurity; pork; sows; feeding

Pork production: Feeding your pigs for the best results

Without correct feeding, a farmer won’t be able to run a profitable pig production business. 

To raise healthy pigs, farmers must ensure that their animals receive a nutritious, well-balanced diet at every stage of production.


  • Nutrition is a fairly specialised branch of pig production.
  • Farmers are encouraged farmers to enlist the help of nutritionists to determine suitable rations for their herds.

Rations usually contain an energy source such as maize, wheat or sorghum; protein; vitamins and minerals; and fibre.

  • Feed should be formulated based on a pig’s stage of production, energy and protein requirements.
  • Certain raw materials should not be used in excess.
  • For example, if there’s too much sunflower oil cake, the fibre content will be too high.
  • Keep a close eye on the feed conversion ratio (FCR) of your pigs.
  • FCR means the quantity of feed a pig needs for every kilogramme of carcass mass it produces and that the farmer ultimately sells.
  • Farmers know the average daily growth (ADG) of pigs.
  • Knowing these things will tell you what your profit margins will be.


A breeding herd needs a proper diet for good reproductive performance.

  • A breeding herd requires different rations during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Pregnancy rations should contain lower energy ingredients with a relatively high fibre content.
  • Calcium, phosphorus and minerals should also be included in the diet.
  • Lactation rations are fed to sows after they’ve delivered their litters and should be designed to meet the needs of milk production.
  • This diet should have a high content of calcium, phosphorous and protein, and lesser quantities of fibre.


  • Balanced nutrition for newly weaned pigs is crucial, particularly for enzyme production and acid control.
  • This phase in the production cycle lasts four to 10 weeks.
  • This is one of the most important phases in the production cycle, from a nutritional point of view.
  • The ration needs a high milk or whey powder content, as the pigs will still be accustomed to receiving the milk they had as piglets.
  • Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained and is a by-product in the manufacture of cheese.
  • This formulation will help their digestive systems with enzyme production.
  • As the piglets get older, their enzyme system will change so that they can better digest carbohydrates and starches.
  • If the diet doesn’t match the abilities of the pig’s digestive system, it won’t perform properly. And undigested food in a pig’s stomach can lead to disease.


  • Pigs in this phase of production should receive a different ration every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • This is necessary to cater for the growing pig’s changing energy and protein needs.
  • If you feed only one type of ration, you’ll either under- or over-provide essential nutrients.
  • Grower-finisher rations are designed to optimise the growth and carcass quality of pigs.


  • On-farm mixing can be more cost-effective, as farmers don’t have to pay additional milling and mixing costs.
  • But it must be done accurately for the pigs to get maximum benefit from the feed.
  • If your feed requirement is 100 tons or more a month, it would be viable to put up your own mixing plant.
  • The texture of the feed is also important and has a great influence on pig performance.
  • Feed should not be too finely ground, otherwise it will cake, and if it is too chunky it will be difficult to digest.
  • A good rule of thumb is 700 microns to 800 microns – this is roughly the size of a pinhead.
  • If the budget allows, farmers could also consider buying pelleted food from feed mills.
  • This will reduce dust in the sties (which can cause respiratory irritation in pigs).
  • It will also reduce wastage and improve feed efficiency.


  • Install the correct type of feed dispensers and you’ll avoid wasting feed.
  • Farmers should use single-space feeders, instead of multi-feeders.
  • This will ensure that only one pig eats at a time.
  • Multi-space feeders could effectively cause you to lose about 20% of your feed through wastage.
  • Although single-space feeders may cost more, you’ll waste less feed.


  • Farmers should not to feed pigs kitchen, restaurant or hospital waste.
  • The energy and protein content of rations will not be consistent and it can bring disease on to a farm.
  • This is crucial for biosecurity on the farm.
  • But it is acceptable to feed rejected breakfast cereal, dog biscuits or brewers grain to pigs, as there is usually nothing wrong with product quality and consistency.
  • This is one option to help reduce overall feeding costs.

Also read:
Pork production: Getting the basics right
How to keep disease off your pig farm

  • This article was written by Wilma den Hartigh and first appeared in Farming SA.

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