WHAT ARE SOME SNACKS FOR PIGS?

Pigs are known for their appetites, and they have a collection of favorite foods to match. However, just like humans, pigs need a complete, well-balanced diet in order to stay well and avoid unhealthy weight gain. While feeding your pig a sugary treat or human leftovers now and then might sound tempting, giving her the occasional tasty, nutritious snack instead is a far wiser option.

Grains

A good portion of your pig’s diet should be composed of grains, which will typically be found in the pig feed your provide her. However, grains can also be a part of the nutritious treats you give your pig. Healthy grains can be found in all-natural crackers, bread and cereals that don’t have any added salt or sugars. Whole-grain popcorn is a tasty, suitable treat for pigs as well, so long as it’s unbuttered and unsalted.

Vegetables

In addition to a healthy diet of grains, pigs must eat a daily salad of fresh vegetables. While vegetables are an essential nutritional requirement for a pig’s everyday diet, they can also serve as delicious snacks. Dark, leafy greens, like kale or spinach, are perfect for pigs, providing ample amounts of vitamins. Other healthy vegetables snacks for pigs include bean sprouts, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, parsnips, peppers, pumpkin, summer squash, turnips, winter squashes and zucchini — or any other fresh vegetables you can find at the store or farmer’s market.

Fruits

Fruits are an especially delicious treat for pigs, but one that should be given only occasionally. Because of the sugar content found in fruit, pigs should only be fed one or two small portions of fruit a day as a treat. Small pieces of fruit can also be used as a reward if you’re attempting to train your pig; she’ll love the sweet prize. Pigs are able to eat a wide range of fruits, so long as it’s in moderation. Give your pig opportunities to try a variety of fruits — from bananas and apples to oranges and pears — to see which she likes best.

Unacceptable Snacks

Pigs will happily eat a wide variety of foods — even those that are not healthy for them. Some owners have been known to give their pigs snacks like cat or dog food, cooked leftovers or sugar, all of which are unhealthy and unacceptable for pigs, according to the North American Potbelly Association. Other unacceptable snacks include salt; meat, poultry or fish products; chocolate; milk products; and canned foods.

WHAT DO YOU WANT IN A SHOW PIG?

Show pigs are the beauty contestants of the hog world. They’re judged not only on appearance, but on how they might improve breed genetics. Ideally, show pigs are both heavily muscled and lean. They have that “eye appeal” of the correctly proportioned animal, but also meet all standards required by commercial hog producers.

Selection

When selecting a potential show pig, look carefully at conformation. Utah State University Extension advises choosing a well-muscled, large-boned hog. A pig with good bone structure, or structural correctness, moves well. That’s important, because pigs with soundness issues don’t place well at shows. The chest should be wide, and the animal should possess a strong rib cage. The pig must appear healthy, with no obvious problems. It should be the correct size for its current age, neither over- nor undersized.

Meet the Parents

If you’re buying a pig from a private farm, ask to see the boar and sow. That helps give you an idea of how your pig will develop. You should also ask to see any full or half siblings from previous matings, if that’s possible. You should investigate the genetic lines of any pig you’re considering. The breeder should be able to supply you with the information.

Timing

Since pigs are generally shown between the ages of 6 and 7 months, choose a piglet that will be that age at the time of your major show. You must also know what the pig is expected to weigh at the time of the show. Older pigs might exceed the maximum weight allowed for classes. Underfeeding a pig that is outgrowing the weight limit is not only bad husbandry, but the pig also won’t show well against correctly aged and sized hogs.

Breeds

If your primary shows consists of breed classes, you must choose a purebred animal. If the show doesn’t contain breed classes, you have a wider choice. Louisiana State University Extension recommends choosing purebred Durocs, Hampshires or Yorkshires, or crosses of those breeds for non-purebreds. According to LSU Extension, these breeds and crosses often exhibit more show qualities than other pigs.

Husbandry

Once you’ve chosen your pig, it’s up to you to ensure that your animal receives the best care so it can make the best impression on show day. Keep your pig in a clean, dry pen, with water always available. Feed a quality pig chow. Weigh your pig regularly, keeping a record of how much food he’s consuming daily. Ask your vet about a deworming protocol for your animal. The pig also needs sufficient exercise so he doesn’t develop excess fat. Walk him about 150 yards daily, which also helps you practice for showing.

HOW TO BUILD AN EASY PIG FEEDER

Feeding pigs will never be as fun for you as it is for the pigs. But with the right setup, you’ll save yourself labor and money. Dropped feed tends to get trampled and wasted; it can wind up costing you a significant amount of money over the long term. A sturdily built and convenient feeder can make your daily pig feeding much easier and your feed expenditures lower.

Feeder Capacity

An overfilled feed trough is going to cause spills; you can’t expect to fill it to the top and not waste feed. So plan on a trough that’s large enough for your messy eaters to eat without knocking feed over the edges of the trough. The average adult full-size pig needs to eat 4 to 6 pound of grain every day; use that to figure a size for a feed trough large enough to easy contain the daily ration your pigs need to survive. You can feed multiple pigs out of the same trough, so long as the pigs are not aggressive with one another, leaving weaker animals no access to food. You are better off with a feed trough too big than one that is not big enough — so decide how large of a feeder you will need before you start thinking about building one.

Feeder Durability

Pigs are tough on their feeders, so your feeder needs to be tough. Metal feeders are ideal for pigs because they can take a lot of abuse and do not appeal to pigs’ omnivorous appetites. You can make feeders out of heavy plastic or wood, though those materials tend to wear out sooner than metal.

Get Creative With It

The easiest feeders you can build are the ones you have to put the least amount of effort into building. Old sinks and old metal bathtubs can serve as readymade pig feeders after you remove the faucets and plug or screen the drain holes. Metal drums, barrels and water heaters can be cut in half and used as instant feed troughs; just make sure to sand any rough edges down.

Pig Feeder Placement

Most people choose to place feeders alongside a fence to allow supplying the feeder without having to actually enter the pen. If you go that route, use heavy-duty fasteners to attach the trough to the fence if you want to make sure it stays put. Pigs will nudge and push unsecured feeders around the pen while they’re trying to scarf the food inside.

HOW TO BUY A MINI PIG

Since mini pigs came to North America from Asia in the 1980s, they’ve become popular pets. National Geographic estimates as many as 1 million pet pigs reside in the United States and Canada. Before you buy a mini pig, learn about the species and make sure you’re ready to make a commitment to your new pet. Then, find a reputable breeder or sanctuary and avoid unscrupulous backyard breeders.

Learn About Pigs

Before you shop for a mini pig, become familiar with the names breeders use to sell them. The term mini pig refers to the pot-bellied pig, which is much smaller than the pigs you’ll see on a farm. A full-grown, 3-year-old pot-bellied pig may be as small as 60 pounds or as large as 175. She’ll range from 13 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder. A 175-pound mini pig is much smaller than her farm cousin, who can reach 800 pounds.

Some breeders advertise pigs using names such as micro mini pig or teacup pig. These pigs may look tiny as piglets, but they may grow to at least 60 pounds. Unscrupulous sellers try to keep pigs small by inbreeding and underfeeding their pigs, resulting in weak, sick animals. Others will sell farm piglets and claim that they’re adult pigs. Unfortunately, these little piglets grow up to be huge. Sometimes their owners don’t have room for them.

Prepare for Your Pig’s Needs

Mini pigs, like any pet, require time and money. Your new piglet will need food, bedding, bowls, a litter box, harness and leash. You’ll need to take her to a veterinarian adept at handling mini pigs. She’ll need vaccinations and regular trimming of tusks and hooves. She will need to be spayed, as well.

Your mini pig will live 12 to 15 years. She’ll need training, socialization and lots of attention to avoid getting bored or depressed. Sanctuaries and rescues across the country have hundreds of mini pigs who were abandoned when their owners could no longer care for them. Make sure you’re ready to make a long-term commitment to a mini pig before you start shopping.

Some municipalities do not allow farm animals. Check your local zoning laws to ensure that you can own a pet pig legally in your town.

Find a Pig Breeder

The National Potbellied Pig Association suggests that prospective pig owners buy from a reputable breeder or pig sanctuary. Contact NPPA for breeders in your area. Visit the breeder before committing to a pig. A responsible breeder:

  • Is knowledgeable about mini pigs
  • Only raises the number of pigs he can care for
  • Breeds healthy animals
  • Provides clean enclosures and a healthy diet
  • Seeks veterinary care and offers only spayed/neutered piglets
  • Socializes both adult pigs and piglets
  • Screens prospective owners to ensure that pigs go to good homes

Breeders should offer pigs a high-quality commercial chow specific to their breed at least twice a day, along with supplemental vegetables. Nutrition and adequate feeding ensure that mini pigs grow to a healthy size.

Buying a pig from a breeder may be more expensive than getting one from an ad. Remember that you’re working with a person who raises pigs for a living. You’re paying for veterinary care, socialization and quality food.

Find a Pig Sanctuary

Unfortunately, many mini pig owners find that they are unable to care for their pig. Luckily, many sanctuaries and rescues across the country take in pet pigs and offer them for adoption. The American Sanctuary Association offers a list of accredited sanctuaries by species.

Consider a mature pig rather than a piglet. When you adopt a mature pig, there’s no question about how large he’ll grow. You’ll be able to interact with him and see his personality. Pigs have been spayed or neutered and have received other veterinary care.

THE GOOD & POOR QUALITIES ABOUT DUROC PIGS

Modern Duroc pigs are the end result of more than 150 years of careful breeding and crossbreeding between various types of swine. According to the National Swine Registry, modern Durocs were first bred in 1812 when farmers started breeding red Duroc pigs with Jersey red pigs. Since 1860, Durocs have been bred and cultivated for their red coloring, size and meat quality — characteristics with a lot of appeal to breeders and hog farmers.

Meat Quality

The meat from Duroc pigs is typically dark red in color, maintains moisture well and has good fat marbling throughout — all highly desirable qualities in cuts of pork. Duroc pigs also possess a significant amount of lean muscle and when they are slaughtered the carcasses yield a high amount of usable flesh. Hog farmers favor Duroc pigs because the breed consistently yields plenty of high quality meat.

Growth

Duroc pigs are one of the fastest growing breeds of pig when they’re kept on a consistent and nutritious diet. They’re also very hardy. Duroc pigs are favored by hog farmers who want to keep their pigs outdoors because Durocs tend to stay healthy and happy in both cold and warm climates.

Reproduction

Durocs are known for producing large litters, especially when Duroc boars are crossed with sows of other breeds. Durocs are very popular for crossbreeding and improving other breeds of swine. Duroc sows are also known for taking very good care of their young.

Temperment

Duroc hogs are sometimes known to be aggressive. Aggressiveness can be minimized if you pay attention to the temperaments of the animals you are breeding and make sure to properly socialize your hogs. Aggressive boars can be dangerous if not handled very carefully and must be contained properly at all times.

HOW DO POT-BELLIED PIGS TELL YOU THEY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM?

If you share your life with a potbellied pig, housebreaking is a necessity. Porcines aren’t canines, so they won’t necessarily let you know when they have to conduct their business. They like routines, so letting your pet outside at established times quickly gets them into an elimination pattern. Stick to that routine and you should be fine. Disrupt it and you could have problems. If your schedule varies too much for a routine, consider a litter box.

Housebreaking

If you have a fenced yard for your pig, you’ll notice that she relieves herself in the same place, as far as possible from her favorite place to sleep or hang out. When housebreaking a pig, take her outside regularly to eliminate, praising her when she does it. Pigs won’t necessarily let you know if they need to go outside of their usual schedule. While they’ll hold their bowels for longer periods, that’s not true for their bladders. When you start housebreaking training, keep your pig confined in a relatively small area. Pigs don’t like to eliminate in their personal spaces, so they’ll be eager to go outside rather than do their business near the bed and food and water bowls.

Litter Boxes

Many pig owners chose to train the pets to litter boxes, much like cats. If your pig successfully uses a litter box, she won’t need to indicate to you that she needs to eliminate. You’ll have to clean out the litter box every day or your pig will decide to pee and poop elsewhere. They are clean animals who don’t like dirty litter boxes. At maturity, your pig might weigh 150 pounds or more; that means you need a huge litter box. Plastic wading pools serve the purpose. Don’t use cat litter in the box. Pine shavings, the type used for bedding horse stalls, do the trick. Place the litter box away from the pig’s eating and sleeping areas.

Temperature Extremes

Even if your potbellied pig reliably lets you know when she must go outdoors to relieve herself, it’s a good idea to have a litter box in place as a backup. Potbellied pigs are sensitive to extreme cold and heat. In hot weather, you can let your pet outdoors briefly to do her business and return inside to your air-conditioned home, but cold and snow are a different story. She might hate going outside so much that she starts having accidents in the house. Use the litter box as a backup for your precious porcine when the temperature dips severely.

Accidents

If your pig begins inappropriately eliminating, there’s a reason. If she’s peeing all over the house, she could have a urinary tract infection. If the vet rules that out, consider any recent changes in the household. If you moved your pig’s litter box or replaced it with a new one, that could be the root of the issue. If your schedule changed and you’re letting your pet out at a different time, getting used to the new routine could a while.

HOW TO FEED POTBELLY PIGS

Items you will need

  • Pig chow
  • Water
  • Pig treats

Potbelly pigs are very clean and can be housebroken. They make great pets as long as they are cared for properly. Incorrectly feeding your potbelly pig can create many health problems such as weight issues and nutrition deficiencies.

Purchase pig chow from the pet store. Pig chow is a complete food that contains all the nutrients pigs need. Because pigs are omnivores, they don’t make their own protein, and will have to get protein from their food. In the wild they get protein from dead animals and worms. Pigs that only eat vegetables and fruits will have problems later on.

Start potbelly pigs off with two cups of pig chow per day. Once they are one year of age, decrease the amount of feed somewhat. When dealing with piglets, you can also choose to let them eat as often as they want.

Monitor your potbelly pig’s activity level. If you have a very active potbelly pig, you may need to increase the amount of pig chow since the pig will have a fast metabolism. If your pig is not very active, you may need to decrease the amount of pig chow.

Cut down the amount of pig chow you feed your potbelly pig, if it is able to graze outside during the day. In summer, when pigs can graze, you should feed less pig chow. In winter, you can increase the amount of pig chow.

Avoid feeding dog or cat food and most people foods to your pig. These foods don’t have the proper nutrients that potbelly pigs need.

Provide clean water for your potbelly pig. The pig should have access to water all throughout the day. In winter, potbelly pigs tend to drink more water than in warmer weather.

Treat your potbelly pig with special pig treats from time to time. You can purchase potbelly pig treats from the pet store. Grapes, raisins and small pieces of cheese also work well. Don’t treat your pig too often since they easily become beggars.

THE LIFE SPAN OF DOMESTIC PIGS

The domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica) is a subspecies of the wild boar that has more than 500 varieties. Some of the most common breeds include the Yorkshire, the Chester White, the Landrace, the Gloucestershire Old Spot, the Poland China and the Large Black. Adult pigs can reach well over 1,000 pounds.

Health Complications

The typical life span of the domestic pig is six to 10 years, but certain problems can reduce longevity. Farm and yard pigs are much larger than their ancestors and wild pigs. Domestic pigs, bred to gain weight rapidly, can develop leg and joint complications, as well as other health problems associated with excess weight. These complications can reduce a pig’s lifetime by a few years.

THE LIFE SPAN OF THE MICRO-PIG

Bringing a so-called micro-pig into your life is a long-term commitment. “Micro” is just a marketing term. These potbellied porcines are also known as teacup and miniature pigs. If you purchase a piglet, your only guarantee is that the creature won’t stay small for long. Full-grown miniature pigs reach sizes comparable to those of medium or large dogs — and their life spans are about the same.

Piglets

Sows generally give birth to litters of between six and eight piglets — although it can be twice that number. Babies nurse until approximately 6 weeks of age, starting solid food at about the age of 1 month. By 6 weeks of age, they can be weaned and spayed or neutered. That adorable piglet will likely weigh between 50 and 200 pounds when full-grown. Ask the breeder to let you see the parents; ask how old they are. That gives you a reasonable idea of how big your little pig will grow. Finding out the age of the parents is important, because pigs can reproduce before reaching adult size.

Adolescence

Pigs reach adolescence, or sexual maturity, early on. Male pigs can reach puberty as early as 3 months of age, while females are able to reproduce between the ages of 4 months and 5 months. Every three weeks, sows go into estrus, which lasts between two and three days. Have yours spayed or neutered before reaching sexual maturity. Boars not only become aggressive, they also emit a terrible odor. Sows often forget their housebreaking and can become destructive. Intact sows who aren’t bred are prone to uterine cancer in later life.

Maturity

By the age of 3 years, miniature pigs are full-grown. Only then will you know exactly how large your micro-pig will be. If you don’t want any surprises, choose a pig that’s 3 years old.

Senior Pigs

By the age of 10, your pig is a senior citizen. Keep your pet at a healthy weight and give him adequate exercise. Geriatric pigs often suffer from constipation issues, but regular exercise helps keep them regular. Older pigs might develop vision problems, but since pigs don’t possess strong eyesight to begin with, their other senses usually make up for this. Arthritis frequently affects older pigs. Ask your vet about joint supplements that might ease discomfort. With good care and luck, a pet pig might live to age 15 or older.

Considerations

The supply of miniature pigs available for adoption far outweighs the demand. According to Ohio State University, the most common reason that people surrender their pigs for adoption was that the pigs wound up growing larger than expected. Pigs like the company of other pigs, so if you’re adding them to your household, get at least two. Before adding pigs to your household, make sure that you’re allowed to keep them in your town. Cities and suburban towns usually don’t permit livestock. Zoning restrictions are another major reason pigs end up at shelters.

DO PIGS CATCH COLDS OR FLUS?

Pigs are social creatures, smarter than most dogs and adept at holding our pennies if cast in ceramic. They fall closer to hippopotamuses and giraffes than people on the evolutionary ladder, but humans can transmit viruses to pigs and even catch them back. Pigs are also susceptible to many viruses humans don’t experience. Whether you have one or a full herd in your life, you can find ways to minimize the risk of influenza and colds infecting your swine.

Pigs and People

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in Europe, pigs made their way to Cuba with Christopher Columbus in 1493. Spanish explorers released pigs into the wilds of Florida in 1539. Colonists continued the habit of traveling with their European swine as they settled the New World. Pigs currently inhabit every continent in the world except Antarctica. Valued originally as a food source, their friendly nature and intelligence has also created a craving for pigs as companion animals in the United States. Unfortunately, rescue shelters abound with pigs who outgrew their welcome in households not equipped to handle a farm animal as a pet.

Pigs and Viruses

Influenza A, also known as swine flu, is likely the most familiar virus associated with pigs. It’s a respiratory illness the Merck Veterinary Manual notes is most common to swine herds in the Midwestern U.S. A pandemic strain of the H1N1 influenza A virus infected swine, poultry and humans in 2009. Pigs also fall victim to several respiratory viruses that do not transmit to humans, including other strains of the influenza virus. Pseudorabies is another virus deadly for piglets and transferrable to dogs and cats but not humans. Classic swine fever is highly contagious virus among pigs but thought to be eradicated from the U.S. and developing countries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More Than a Sniffle

Symptoms of respiratory viruses in pigs are remarkably similar to what humans experience when coming down with a “bug,” including fever, loss of appetite, cough and drainage from the eyes and nose. In the case of swine influenza, the Merck Veterinary Manual notes the illness lasts three to seven days and is spread through the herd by pig-to-pig contact. Mortality rate amongst pigs for swine influenza is 1 to 4 percent. As with humans, pigs in the U.S. tend to come down with flus and colds during the colder months.

Prevention the Best Treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that flu vaccines for pigs help but, as with humans, the annual vaccine may be for a different strain of virus than the one affecting pigs in your area. Housing your pigs in a clean, well-ventilated environment, protecting them from extremes in weather and ensuring their diet is healthy may help your pig fight off infection. Vaccinating yourself against the flu may also prevent you from spreading human influenza to your pigs. Washing your hands carefully after contact with an infected pig and isolating a sick herd member may help prevent spreading the virus as well.