Pot-Bellied Pig Nutrition
by Kathleen Myers
Your pig’s diet begins with a good quality pig food formulated specifically for potbellied pigs. Since pigs are hungry all the time, they will do anything for food. It is up to you to control your pig’s diet by allowing it to eat the correct amount of food and treats to maintain a healthy body weight. Weight control is an important issue for every potbellied pig owner. Potbelly pigs are just like humans regarding their metabolic rates. Some pigs can get fat on 2 cups of pig food a day and some will need much more to maintain a healthy body weight. It is imperative to watch closely the development and weight gain of your pet pig.
Because food makes a pig so happy, it is easy to over-feed your pet. In worse case scenario of over feeding, a potbellied pig can be 100 pounds overweight. Extreme obesity can lead to blindness due to heavy fat accumulations around the eyes, deafness due to heavy fat accumulations around their ear canal; as well as negative behavior due to pain caused by its overweight condition. This overfeeding will lead to severe disabling diseases and physical problems, such as coronary artery disease, premature arthritis and joint disease. The obese pig is more prone to heat stress. It is much harder for your veterinarian to make an appropriate diagnosis if you pig is overweight. The pig vital signs can be distorted, collection of blood and urine can be extremely difficult. Should you pig become ill and need surgery, ultra sound, radiographic examination are hindered, anesthesia is a high risk and the obese pig is at a much higher risk for post surgical complications. Although sizes and weights of mature potbellied pigs may very greatly, even the heaviest mature weight for even the largest frame pig should not exceed 125 to 150 pounds.
Potbellied pigs have a large stomach capacity, requiring a diet high in fiber. It is important to provide your pig adequate grazing time in your yard and to add roughage to its diet. If grazing is not possible, a large green salad can do the same thing. Excess fat and protein consumption will lead to obesity. Dog food and cat food are NOT a good alternative to a quality food such as Heartland Feeds, which are made specifically for potbellied pigs.
Remember fiber bulk is important. Be sure and supplement your pig’s diet with extra fiber. By providing adequate grazing time in your yard and/or added roughage such as a daily salad, you are giving your pig a well-rounded diet plan. Wash all the insecticides, preservatives and waxes off the food prior to giving it to your pig. Low caloric vegetables such as cucumber, celery, lettuce (Iceberg Lettuce has little nutritional value), bell pepper, cabbage (cabbage can cause gas), spinach and broccoli can be fed in larger qualities. Some parts of vegetables we throw away such as the tops and bottoms of beans, the core of a head of lettuce and the rind from a soft melon pigs find delicious. Do not include foods by-products such as the husks or cobs from corn, artichokes leaves, whole fruits with pits or seeds still inside in your pet pig’s diet. It is a good idea to limit the amount of fruit your pig eats each day. Pigs prefer sweet tasting foods, but some pigs seem to have sugar intolerance. In some cases, too much sugar is thought to cause pigs to display bad behavior. A suggested serving ratio of 2/3 vegetables to 1/3 fruit is recommended.
Potbellied pigs should not be fed swine feed made for commercial hogs because it is designed for rapid weight gain of the hog, in a relatively short time. A specialized diet containing the right amount of fat, protein and fiber is always best. All of the Heartland feed products provide an excellent, balance diet, and are made specifically for your pet pig’s nutritional needs.
Over the counter vitamins and supplements are not necessary for the pig to maintain a balanced diet. Supplements are in highly concentrated doses and are absorbed quickly through the stomach wall into the bloodstream. It is much better to provide your pet pig a good quality potbellied pig food such as Heartland, well-balanced diet of vegetables, and adequate grazing time than to supplement its diet with vitamins.
Some human foods are not appropriate for the pet pig. Meat, Poultry, Fish, dairy products, cooked leftovers from the table, canned foods and alcoholic beverages cannot be included in your pig’s diet. Eliminate crackers, chips, pretzels, pizza, ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies and candy, expect on very rare occasions. The foods mentioned above, if fed regularly, can cause anything from obesity to an intestinal blockage. Salt and chocolate are two foods you never want to feed to your pig. Pigs can acquire salt poisoning from having too much salt in their diets. In some cases pigs are highly allergic to chocolate. Either of these foods have the potential to kill your pet pig. Be sure to keep all indoor and outdoor toxic plants out of your pig’s reach. In addition, should you have Oak Trees in your yard, be aware your pig cannot continuously eat acorns. If a pig ingests too many acorns, over a period of time, the pig can exhibit a toxic reaction. This can even lead to death in extreme cases.
On the other hand, some misinformed people believe feeding their pig a small amount of food each day will make their pig structurally smaller than other potbellies. This is dangerous misinformation. If you underfeed your pet pig in the hopes of keeping it small, you do your pet a grave disservice. The skeletal size of a potbellied pig is directly related to its genetic makeup and not to the amount of food it eats. By underfeeding your pig, you are not allowing it to develop in a positive physical and mental manner. Potbellies are again just like people. Through under feeding you are stunting the piglet while it is trying to develop good muscle and bones. You can cause malformed bones, poor bone density, bad hair coat and severe psychological problems and learning disabilities. In the extreme cases of underfeeding your potbellied pig, you can even cause the premature death of your pet.
To keep you pig in the best condition you must help to control your pig’s diet by providing it with the correct amount of a nutritionally sound food such as any of the Heartland Products.
Suggested Feeding Guidelines:
Heartland Feeds do not have specific feeding guidelines on each bag of feed. Remember the metabolic rate of pet pigs differs. The exact amount of feed given to your pig is based on your pig’s body condition.
Piglets – Prior to 6 weeks - Mini-Creep Feed
Prior to six weeks old, the age of weaning, the best choice is Heartland Mini-Creep Feed. The piglet is allowed to eat as much feed as it wants. The Mini-Creep Feed is in 5 pounds boxes.
Piglets - 6 Weeks to 12 weeks - Mini-Starter Feed
As your piglet reaches 6 weeks old it will be weaned. You can change to Heartland Mini-Starter Feed, which comes in 10-pound boxes. Gradually decrease the amount you pig is eating to approximately 1/2 cup of Mini-Starter. This 1/2 cup of feed is given to your pig three times a day. You can also begin to introduce different vegetables and fruits, one at a time. These vegetables can be a fourth meal, or you can offer them as dessert after your piglet finishes its Mini-Starter. Piglets are just like children. They have their own likes and dislikes. In some cases, they will learn to like the broccoli you offer and in some cases broccoli will be on their “No” list. A good ratio is 2/3 vegetables to 1/3 fruit. Remember each pig has its own metabolism, so adjust its food level based on your piglet’s appearance and its total calorie intake.
Piglets 12 weeks to 5/6 months - Mini-Grower Feed
At approximately 12 weeks old, your piglet is feed Heartland Mini-Grower, which comes in 25-pound bags. Your piglet is now fed two times a day, approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup of feed at each morning and evening feeding. Again, a daily salad of fresh vegetables is recommended. We suggest you limit the intake of fruits due to the unneeded extra calories and the potential harm of too much sugar in your pig’s diet. Weather permitting, be sure and allow your pig daily outside grazing time. All animals need to be in the fresh air and sunshine. Remember each pig has its own metabolism, so adjust its food level based on your piglet’s appearance and its total calorie intake (feed, vegetables & fruit, grass, and treats).
Pigs 5/6 months to 5/6 years - Mini-Pet Feed (Maintenance Diet)
The Mini-Pet Feed, offered in 25 or 50-pound bags, is designed for the young pig, through its adult life, until it reaches its elder years. Your pig can continue its daily salad, outside grazing time and healthy treats. Many pigs face obesity as they age due to unneeded calorie intake. Be sure and watch how many extra treats your pig is getting. On the other hand, when a pig has a very inefficient metabolism it can become too thin. Watch your pig closely and adjust it calories based on how its appearance. Should you pig become too fat, decrease its fruit first, then its treats, then its vegetables and finally its feed. Should your pig become too thin, increase its food first, then its vegetables, then its treats, and finally its fruit. Never discontinue its grazing time outside.
Elder Pigs – Over 5/6 Years - Senior Pet Pig Feed
Senior Pet Pig Feed comes in 25 or 50-pound bags. Your adult pig is fed approximately 3 to 4 cups of pig food a day, split between two meals. Of course, continue the daily salad, outside grazing time and healthy treats. As your pig ages, its dietary needs can change. Heartland Senior Pet Pig Feed is designed to meet those needs. All pigs have a large stomach capacity requiring a diet high in fiber. Since constipation can be a problem for some aging potbellies, it is wise to increase the fiber content of your older pig’s diet. Bulky Lax Plus, to be put on top of the pig’s feed, is designed for that purpose. Bulky Lax has proved to keep your pig regularity and to decrease the likelihood of aggression. Remember obesity and excess protein consumption will lead to the same geriatric problems we see in other animals such as arthritis, kidney failure and heart disease.
The first all-natural product, which is made by Heartland, aids in the discomfort or pain in pets due to old age or arthritic conditions. This product is to be added to the Senior Pet Pig Feed. It is made up of an all-natural biological source of vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, digestive bacteria, yeast culture and yucca shidigera extract. This product is for pigs that are suffering from loss of memory, loss of hearing, poor muscle tone, un-thriftiness, alertness, pain and discomfort.
Heartland has combined Elder-Aide, Glucosamine and MSM, three of the best pain relief remedies available for pet pigs today, and established the best over-all pet pig pain deliverance. This is also added to the Senior Pet Pig Feed.
Recommended Additional Treats and Dietary Supplements
Acceptable special treats for your pet pig are unbuttered, unsalted popcorn, all natural cereals or crackers that contain NO salt or sugar, and fresh or dehydrated fruits or vegetables. In most cases a well balanced diet of a good potbellied pig food such as Heartland feeds and supplemental vegetables, with grazing time will provide your pig all the nutrition it needs.
Inappropriate Foods and Treats
Salty foods – i.e. chips & pretzels
Candy and Sugar Treats
Fatty foods – i.e. meat & pizza
Dairy Products – i.e. cheese & milk
Poisonous Plants in your yard/home
Kathleen has written an excellent book that we recommend to all pet pig owners.
Click here to learn more about her newest revision.