Pigs are opportunistic omnivores that have evolved to eat a wide range of feeds. They are classified as monogastric thus digest feed similarly to humans, with limited ability to extract nutrients from high fibre feeds such as pasture. Feed is an important aspect of pig farming. It accounts for approximately 60 to 70% of pig meat production. This is because good nutrition is fundamental to growth rate, reproductive success, health and longevity of pigs. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to provide appropriate formulations and rations at each stage of growth. Feeding diets that are appropriate to each stage of production can help capture gains in performance and efficiency. Farmers therefore need to be aware of various types of pig feed required at different stages of pig maturity. In addition, they should also have knowledge about proper feed rations.

Characteristics of Pig Feed

Good feed is necessary for growth, body maintenance and the production of meat. Pig feed should meet the animal’s needs for maintenance, growth and reproduction. There are various types of pig feed available to date. Common types of pig feed include rice bran, broken rice, maize, soya-beans, cassava, vegetables and distillery waste.  Take care not to give distillery waste to pregnant and lactating sows, piglets and weaners as the alcohol contents in the waste can be harmful to animal health. Most farmers prefer commercially produced feed as they are a rich source of nutrients necessary for growth and productivity. Commercially produced type of pig feed are in form of pellets, cubes, crumbs or meal. Farmers are advised to check the nutritional value of all commercially produced pig feed. The nutritional requirements of pigs can be divided into six categories, namely; water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Traditional types of pig feed can be used as substitute. These are less expensive and can be nutritionally complete when properly prepared. In fact, pigs can be fed well using only kitchen scraps. An important point to note is that types of pig feed vary according to their maturity level, and so it is necessary to understand their nutritional needs at different stages. The following are some of the recommended traditional types of pig feed:

  • Cola-cassia: leaves and stems are a good source of for pigs. It is also a rich source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, which are important constituents of diet.
  • Banana Stem: it is advisable to chop them and sprinkle some salt on the Green bananas or plantains are preferred to the ripe fruits which tend to quickly lose some dry matter, particularly sugars during ensiling.
  • Vegetables: damaged vegetables during transportation, storage and handling can also be used as pig feed. It is recommended to mix with other feeds such as rice bran, broken rice and maize. Suitable vegetables include cabbage, lettuce, spinach, morning glory, sweet potato vine, cola-cassia (needs boiling), pumpkin and guards.
  • Soybeans: they contain 38% protein among other nutrients hence are highly recommended. Soya beans should be dried, milled or well-cooked and mixed with other feedstuff like rice bran, broken rice and maize.

Creep Feed

Creep feeding can be described as a strategic means to introduce piglets to solid feed. Ideally, creep feed must contain about 18 to 20% protein that is highly fortified with milk by-products. It must available in small, chewable, highly palatable pellets for easy digestion. It is advisable to provide pellets with sugar or mixed with artificial sweeteners than those which are sugar coated. Piglets use dry feed more efficiently prior to weaning thus should be provided in proper rations and timeously. This type of pig feed should have a combination of protein source, milk replacer, vitamins, amino acids and rich feed ingredients like corn, soya bean meal, barley, wheat bran, vegetable protein, oilseeds extracts, fatty acids, feed phosphate, pig vitamins, and trace minerals. Small scale farmers often struggle to provide adequate creep feed and so must consider using home-made creep feed. The common type of pig feed for piglets in this stage consists of a mixture of fine rice bran, broken rice and milled maize grains. Piglets should consume about 500g of feed prior to weaning. Starter feed is provided to piglets soon after weaning. It is often made from dried milk products like lactose, whey and animal protein products such as dried plasma. This type of pig feed is provided in 3 phases depending on the weight of piglets. As already mentioned, piglets receive their first starter just after weaning until they reach about 7 kg. From this point they are given the second starter and once reaching approximately 11 kg, the last starter is provided. This should be given continuously until piglets reach about 20kg.

Grower Feed

Grower feed is aimed at maximising growth during the early stages when the pig is capable of utilising a high density diet to rapidly lay down lean body tissue and convert feed efficiently. Grower feed is given to pigs that are about 12 weeks old, weighing more than 20kg to about 35kg.  The key aspect in grower feeds is to master the rations and nutritional requirements of pigs. As such, farmers should focus on increasing feed intake because nutritional requirements tend to change rapidly with each phase. Feed intakes increases in line with growth rate. Feed intakes are likely to be in the region of 1.2kg/day in the grower phase.  The most popular types of pig feed include wheat, barley, and high protein soya as well as rape meal, either home-milled or sourced from a compounder. Soya can be combined with raw cereals at a feed conversion efficiency of less than 2:1.  Note that although pigs at this stage no longer require special diets, they still need high levels of protein which is found in soya and further balanced with synthetic amino acids such as lysine.

Finisher Feed

Finisher types of pig feed have a well-balanced nutritional value to ensure strong, healthy growth, and high lean meat yield. They are provided to feed weighing above 35kg, depending on the type of pig feed. The ration can typically include wheat, barley, wheat feed, high-protein soya, rape seed extract and co-products of human food production, such as bakery by-products or even crisps. Other protein sources such as extracted sunflower meal and field beans are also not uncommon. Finisher pig feed should contain 16% protein. Pigs provided with a good diet gain anywhere between 680 to 771g per day up to about 50kg. After that, weight gain of 816 to 998g per day is aachieved.