A Deeper Look In To Nutrition...
There are a lot of articles and information floating around on the internet about proper pot belly pig or miniature pig nutrition and how to create a well balanced, all natural or even a vegan type diet for your pigs. At Pet Pig Education, we actually see this as a lot “fluff” and don’t find it entirely necessary. We tend to believe that going overboard with hand made and all natural diets can eventually lead to medical complications because when getting down to the reality of it, your pig may not be getting the essential minerals and nutrients that he needs in order to properly sustain optimized health. There are a few things that we do know for certain regarding Pot Belly Pig and miniature pig nutritional health and we will be touching on those.
What to Feed- A Staple Diet
The most important thing to start with is NEVER and under ANY circumstances feed your pet pig cat or dog food! This will eventually lead to organ failure. We also never recommend feeding a commercial swine feed. the reason behind this is commercial farming and feed is designed to put on weight rapidly in order to increase total weight for market or slaughter purposes. These are typically called “finishing feeds”. It is the goal of the farmer to put on as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time, this is not a good way to approach mini pig or pot belly pig feeding! It will lead to quick obesity! There are specialty designed manufactured feeds that are readily available in local feed and farm stores nationwide, that cater specifically to pot bellies and miniature pigs. Here at Pet Pig, we have always had success with Mazuri Mini Pig feed. You can find the link to their page at the bottom of this article. One of the other reasons we so heavily stand behind the Mazuri brand is because of all the other, very high quality, exotic feeds they provide for many other species that we have had major success with for years. We have seen and used them for decades as a staple diet in many well known zoos who implement very rigid feeding routines and even have animal nutritionists requesting Mazuri as these exotic's main form of feed. There are many other brands out there designed for pot bellies, so if you can’t find Mazuri or your feed store refuses to carry it, there are a few other options out there. We do know that in certain countries, it can be hard to get specially formulated pot belly pig food because of import regulations. If the only option you do have at your disposal is a finishing type feed for farm hogs, we cannot reiterate enough how careful and sparing you need to be with this feed so as not to overfeed. It will be a fine line between obesity and enough exercise to properly care for the pigs metabolic requirements in these situations. The other brands that are out there and formulated for mini pigs or pot bellies are: Manna Pro, Peak Performance, Nutrina, Agway Pro Plan, ProLab, Ross Mill, Ace Hi Feeds, Diamond, Kruse's Perfection, Nutrisource and Heartland. Some of these feeds are only available in certain geographical locations, half of them being out in California or the East Coast. You can check for their availability through their websites or call your local feed store to see if they carry them or may be willing to carry them for you. Some of these companies will directly drop ship to customers as well, so check both the feed store and the main company headquarters.
When it comes to Mazuri feed, there are 3 different types of feed that they offer for the mini pig. Mini Pig Youth is what you initially feed a piglet or the entire litter, from the time they are of weaning age (around 5-6 weeks) till about 4 months old. The Youth formula is specifically designed to meet the growing needs and nutritional requirements of the active and major growth stages of the piglet. If the piglets have a difficult time eating the pellets, we always recommend wetting them down and soaking them for 5 minutes prior to feeding. This will make the feeding transition a little easier and the digestive breakdown more smooth. This is a 25 lbs bag and you should expect to pay around $22.00 a bag.
Once the pig is around the 4 month age mark, you will want to slowly transition it over to Mini Pig Active Adult. This feed is more correctly designed to not only meet all of your pigs daily nutritional requirements for an adult pig that no longer needs the higher calories for growth, but it's ingredients help maintain a healthy and ideal weight if fed properly. Your pig will most likely stay on this option of feed for the majority of it's life. You will buy more of this than you will any other form of mini pig food. This is a 25 lbs bag and you should expect to pay about $19.00 a bag.
Mazuri also offers a Mini Pig Elder feed that is formulated for the less active adult pig that may need weight loss assistance because of lower activity levels or joint issues. Under normal circumstances, we would recommended a slow switch to this feed once the pig reaches about 8-10 years of age. However, the feed can be given to younger adult pigs that need diet modification. The pig simply needs to be over a year and a half to start on this feed. The biggest change up in this feed is the lower energy to high fiber ratio for the less active pig. This is a 25 lbs bag and you should expect to pay about $18.50 a bag.
For different brands of manufactured feed, there will always be different feeding guidelines based on what the feed consists of. So always make sure to read the feeding instructions on the back of the bag or the tag, shoot, you can even find the feeding guidelines for specific brands on their websites. We recommend feeding 1-2% of the adult pigs total body weight, then dividing that in to two daily feedings. This may need to be adjusted and is only a guideline for active adult pigs (4-6 months to about 8 years of age), for properly maintaining a healthy body weight. It is not a guide for dieting or when a pig needs to gain a little weight, It is simply a good maintenance routine. Piglets should always have free choice feed and after 8 weeks, you can start feeding approximately 3% of the piglets body weight. From there, take all factors in to consideration and adjust their feed accordingly.
We always recommend feeding by weight not by volume measurements. here in the US we use lbs/oz, overseas they use the metric system, so make sure to adjust for that! 1 kg = 2.2 lbs
Treats & Other Options
When it comes to treats and other homemade items you want to include in to your pet pigs diet, we suggest offering them sparingly if you are properly using a manufactured feed as a staple diet and your pig is getting enough grazing time outside. Grazing and rooting outside is an extremely important necessity in the overall health and well being of your pig. But if you have a predominantly indoor pet, we do highly suggest offering your pig a salad of leafy greens and a few vegetables, a couple times a week, in order for them to receive enough forage. Offering a few fruits is also fine, just make sure that they don’t have pits or a ton of seeds in them, that can cause a blockage. A pig that is offered fruit on their salad will most likely be more interested in eating it because fruits are naturally sweeter. Because of this, we only recommend a few offerings of fruit, do not over do it. Pigs naturally spend most of their day foraging on grasses, roots, bugs and seeds so if we are to remove this option from their daily routine, we need to adequately replace it with something else; fresh salads work well as a replacement. The most important things you should make sure your pig is receiving is high fiber and protein, both of which are included at appropriate levels in packaged feeds for mini pigs. When it comes to treats, give them sparingly and only as a reward for a good behavior that was worked for or an enrichment exercise. Do not just feed your pig food because you are also in the kitchen or snacking, that easily leads to obesity. Always stay away from salty or high sugar foods. Pigs can get salt toxicity if offered too much salt in their diets. Never feed your pig chocolate or beer, their digestive track and organs cannot handle more than a minuscule quantity of these. Most animals lack the enzyme necessary for the breakdown of chocolate, which is why it is so toxic to them. If your pig gets in to something they shouldn’t have, even a food in overdose amounts, always watch them very closely for odd behavior, which can be a sign of a blockage, severe constipation, allergic reaction or toxic levels of that foods ingredients. As a treat, we like to offer plain Cheerios, unsalted/unbuttered popcorn or a cut up strawberry. We like to use these heavily in training. Remember, if you are feeding a lot of treats or salads, make sure to incorporate that intake in to your daily feeding of the manufactured feeds. Don’t offer excessive treats then an hour later turn around and feed them their full regular meal, that is unless they have exerted the proper amount of energy or exercise required to meet that caloric intake.
Supplements. We normally don’t recommend them because your pigs manufactured feed will always take care of proper nutritional supplementing and in the required amounts for mini pigs. Unless your pig has a very specific issue or it has a medical need that has been addressed first by a veterinarian, we don’t recommend going crazy on oral supplements. If your pig is getting its required daily needs met in the form of grazing and proper meals, it will not need supplements. Many times when people go overboard with supplementing for every minuscule need they think their pig has, we run in to health problems that the owner themselves has managed to cause. Over supplementing can actually be a real problem in many animals!
There are a lot of websites that go in to great detail about minerals and amino acids when it comes to overall health of the pet pig. We don’t really think that is all that necessary for the everyday “layperson” or owner when it comes to proper feeding and nutrition. If fed a balanced diet with the ability to graze, you will never need to address those as the staple diet will always adequately provide them in proportionate amounts. If you ever need to get in to the bones of proper mineral intake or leveling amino acids, you should be seeking veterinarian or a licensed nutritionists advice, not formulating something of your own based off the internet. We don’t recommend worrying about these in detail, leave it to the experts and feed manufactures who have specialty degrees in animal nutrition.
Addressing the Pigs Overall Weight
Each pig is an individual, just like humans. Just because I stay at 120 pounds with my eating and activity levels, does not mean that the next person is unhealthy at 150 pounds for their body structure, exercise level and eating habits; we are all complex individuals that will need our own specific eating routines. A pet pigs ultimate adult weight will depend on MANY different factors not just food intake. This is one of the major flaws in the pet pig community that I hear and see on a regular basis. “I think my pig is over weight, what type of diet should I put him on? Help!” The best course of action, is never let it get to the point of becoming a problem, always address weight issues when you may suspect a negative trend. The other problem in answering this question is... every pig’s needs are entirely different. Someone that tries to answer this question without knowing your exact pigs’ personal daily routines, daily caloric intake, daily output in exercise, treat availability and even a good grasp of what his genetics may be, will ultimately have no idea how to answer this question properly. In humans, if we have a substantial weight issue, we seek guidance form a nutritionist and fitness trainer coupled with our medical health professional (or primary care physician) as the ultimate base of support for lifestyle and nutritional changes. So based on that, how comfortable are you taking diet advise for your pet pig from a random individual off the internet that has most likely, only seen a photograph of your pet? What if your pet has a medical condition that is contributing to being obese, this happens a lot in humans and even other species? That will need to first be addressed before any type of diet can be formulated. You can always seek advise from other pet pig parents on what may have worked for them but never allow that to be your end all because your pig is NOT their pig. Weight maintenance from the beginning is always better than dieting our having to bring your pig back to a healthy weight.
Obesity is a very growing concern in the pet pig community. It can cause many major health related issue and premature death if not properly addressed. Fat blindness is a real condition where the fat rolls near the fold of the eyes becomes so large that the pig can no longer see and if left unattended, usually ends in blindness from excessive ocular pressure. Another real problem is fat that is accumulated near the ears. This condition can cause a pig to go deaf and even alter the pigs equilibrium and ability to stand. A severely overweight pig will suffer arthritis, breathing issues, organ failure, heart disease and such bad joint breakdown that moving at all may become impossible. You never want to let it get to this point. If your pig is starting to develop rolls or its belly is dragging on the ground and developing sores, you need to seek vet guidance immediately.
Another growing trend is underfeeding piglets or young pigs in order to stunt their growth and keep them small. This is an unacceptable practice that will ultimately lead to organ failure and death. There are some horrible breeders out there that adhere to this practice and even try to teach you to do it as a prospective owner. They “claim” it will keep the pig small in stature and anything but a small “shot glass” amount of food is overfeeding your pig and will lead to obesity; which is entirely untrue! This is a form of animal cruelty and should actually be reported if a breeder is telling owners to do this. Underfeeding can kill your pig and even more quickly than obesity. Although we never want to see or treat either, underfeeding a pig is like not feeding a small child to keep them small. This practice is horridly unacceptable and will lead to premature death, broken bones and organ failure.
In conclusion, there are many factors that contribute to a pigs weight gain: Their daily routine, amount of daily exercise or outside time, amount and type of treats offered to them on a daily basis, their daily stress levels, their genetics and lastly, calories at meal time. That is a lot of other factors to take in to consideration when it comes to proper adult weight, not just a meal time plan!
Mazuri Website, Active Adult Feed: http://www.mazuri.com/mazuriminipigactiveadult.aspx
Written by Jodi Register (2015)