The ever growing agricultural industry puts a strain on feed resources. Consequentially, livestock feed costs have skyrocketed to a point where some farmers are unable to provide animals with a constant supply of good quality feed. Studies indicate that livestock feed prices are expected to double over the next few years. As such, there is need for farmers to develop affordable alternative feeding strategies. Since fruits and vegetables are highly famed for their nutritional benefits, there are considerations on whether pigs can eat bananas. Studies focused on the subject matter reveal remarkable results. It is said that pigs can feed on bananas without experiencing negative effects on maintenance, reproduction as well as production. As a matter of fact, production is likely to increase.

Nutritional Benefits

Pigs are classified as monogastric animals, meaning they digest feed similarly to humans. They are therefore able to effectively digest most unconventional feedstuff primarily meant for humans. That being said, pigs can eat bananas to acquire similar health benefits. The upside of using banana feed for livestock is that it is readily available, especially in the tropics. Approximately 30% to 40% of the total banana production fails to meet the world consumer market and so can be used as animal feed. Studies indicate that of the 36 million tone world banana production, an estimate of 7 to 10 million tonnes yearly can be used as livestock feed. Banana feed for pigs includes damaged bananas and even peels. Bananas are a rich source of minerals and nutrients for daily sustenance. They contain carbohydrates, sugar and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. They are also a magnificent source of trace minerals, namely; potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride and selenium. To add on, bananas have a high water content of approximately 78% to 80%. Note that the nutritional composition of bananas is dependent on the degree of ripeness.

Pigs can eat bananas provided they are ensiled with a complementary feed. In fact, due to their highly fermentable sugar content, bananas are fairly easy to ensile.  The key is mixing with a relevant feed rich in lacking nutrients. Although they are a rich source of nutrients and minerals, bananas are poor in essential minerals including calcium and phosphorus. Additionally, whether ripe or unripe, bananas have a very low protein value which is the most important for livestock growth and development.  Bananas are also deficient in sulphur and lysine. Another important point to note is that pigs can feed on bananas in limited amounts as excess feed can limit production. They contain tannins which are only slightly polymerised in the green fruit, therefore inhibit the action of enzymes. In ripe fruit, polymerisation is however high. A common misconception is that pigs can feed on bananas among other primary human diets as they have similar digestive systems. This is however not the case as they have different nutritional requirements among other factors. As such, care should be practised when providing unconventional feedstuff to pigs as errors may cause adverse effects on maintenance, reproduction and production.

Physiological Development

The physiological development of livestock depends on the type of feed provided. Livestock that are provided with poor quality feed tend to grow at a slower rate in comparison to those offered well-balanced diets. Additionally, they are susceptible to a range of disease which may hinder growth. As such, pigs can feed on bananas in order to absorb necessary nutrients and minerals for timely and successful physiological development. Consequently, both the quality and the quantity of the yield is improved. Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates needed for livestock maintenance. Carbohydrates allow animals to perform regular functions such as muscle movement, heat production, and feed digestion as well as to metabolise nutrients. Bananas also contain calcium which is highly famed for its role in teeth, bone and muscle development. Calcium is also responsible for activating enzymes. To add on, pigs can eat bananas so as to absorb vitamins which are essential for normal growth, reproduction and maintenance. Minerals are important in the nutrition of goats because they are a key component of almost every metabolic process in the body. Bananas are a rich source of macro nutrients including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium that are considered as key constituents of bone. Deficiencies of minerals can result in ill-thrift, poor growth and fertility, and bone breakages, depending on the specific deficiency.

Note that although pigs can eat bananas for physiological development, this is only possible when the feed is mixed with complementary supplements. This is because bananas are lacking in some essential nutrients therefore cannot solely maintain the dietary requirements of pigs. According to research, adding bananas to a pig ration reduces the digestibility of its total nitrogen content. Bananas are said to have a low energy value, approximately 20% of that found in maize. As such, pigs can feed on bananas when energy and nitrogen supplementation are provided.  It is recommended to cut bananas into thin slices for easy digestion. Studies indicate that ripe bananas are easily digested than the green fruit and so contribute to better growth. Additionally, it has been proven that cooking the green fruit improves the growth rate of pigs by 10%. It is also said to improve nutritional efficiency of diets. Banana feed mixed with soybean cake containing a protein value of about 12.5 to 20.9% significantly improves growth performance as well as feed conversion efficiency.

Health Maintenance

Bananas are an excellent source of nutrients needed for health maintenance. They contain a significant amount of vitamins that are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the immune system. Animals are therefore allowed the opportunity to effectively fight some rampant disease. Pigs can also feed on bananas in order to acquire essential nutrients milk production. Consequentially, young pigs are provided good quality milk which strengthens their immune systems thus also protecting them from disease and infection among other health related issues. Bananas are known for their high mineral value including cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc. These are responsible for nerve transmission, acid-base balance, blood synthesis, enzyme formation, protection of cell membranes and also have immune functions. The trace minerals found in bananas are responsible for protecting livestock form oxidation. Oxidation is known to affect the quality of the produce costing farmers a lot of money. It often affects the texture and taste of the meat, even its nutritional value. Bananas contain antioxidant compounds that help to fight free radicals. Furthermore, pigs can eat bananas in order to absorb water. Bananas are said to have high water content which is essential for animal health. Water deficiencies exposes livestock to a number of health related issues therefore limiting productivity. In severe cases, death may occur. As such, bananas can be provided to animals so as to improve on overall performance. Take care to provide suitable rations and relevant supplementary feed.