When most of us think of barnyard animals and livestock that eat grass, we usually imagine cows, goats, sheep, and the like.
But other animals are omnivores, meaning they can eat both plant and animal matter in their diet, and that means that they should be able to eat grass too, at least on paper.
How about pigs? Can pigs eat grass safely?
Yes, pigs may eat grass safely, including the roots. Grass is nutritious and generally good for pigs and they have an easier time handling cellulose than other omnivorous animals. However, keep in mind grass is not nutritionally complete.
Believe it or not, it is possible for pigs to get quite a lot of nutrition from grass, although they have to eat a lot of it.
In any case, you can use grass to supplement the diet of your pigs in a variety of ways. Keep reading to learn what you need to know.
Nutritional Benefits of Grass for Pigs
Grass is not a particularly nutritious food for most animals, but it is a viable source of energy and some nutrients all the same.
Most animals that sustain themselves primarily on grass are ruminants, animals that have four-chambered stomachs specifically for breaking down cellulose and other plant matter over time.
Pigs don’t have this type of stomach, but they are able to handle cellulose better than most animals and still extract a fair amount of energy and some nutrients from grass all the same.
According to the National Swine Nutrition Guide, a typical pig can convert 2-4% of the energy in grass, while cows can convert up to 12%.
This difference is due largely to the fact that pigs lack certain digestive enzymes that help break down cellulose.
However, they more than make up for this with their ability to ferment food in their large cecum, a part of the intestine where bacteria helps break down food.
This means that pigs are able to get more energy and some nutrients from grass than you might think.
In fact, according to the National Swine Nutrition Guide, grass can provide up to 15% of the crude protein needs of pigs and around 25-30% of their energy needs.
Of course, this is assuming that the pigs have access to a large amount of grass and are eating it constantly.
In reality, most breeds of pigs will only eat small amounts of grass as part of their diet, and so they won’t get all of their nutrients from it.
Can Pigs Eat Raw Grass?
Yes, and they will pretty readily, including the roots. Fresh, raw grass also offers maximum nutrition and calories for pigs.
Can Pigs Eat Fresh-Cut Grass?
Yes, although it won’t be as nutritious as raw grass. The process of cutting grass actually depletes some of its nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
Can Pigs Eat Hay?
Yes, and this is another way to supplement your pigs’ diet with grass. Hay is basically just dried grass, so it contains most of the same nutrients, albeit in lower amounts.
That said, hay can be a good source of fiber for pigs and can help keep their digestive system healthy.
Hay may also contain some other benefits depending on what kind of grass it is made from. For example, alfalfa hay is a good source of calcium.
Is it Possible to Raise Pigs on Grass?
Yes, but in a limited manner. Grass is not nutritionally complete, meaning it doesn’t contain all of the nutrients pigs need to stay healthy.
For this reason, pigs that are raised on grass will need to be supplemented with other foods, such as grains or legumes, to make sure they get all of the nutrients they need.
Pigs that are raised on pasture will need additional dietary supplementation, especially if they are not getting enough fresh grass.
This is because the nutrients in grass decrease the longer it is stored, so hay and other dried grasses will not be as nutritious as fresh grass.
In any case, if you want to raise pigs on pasture, it is important to make sure they have access to plenty of fresh grass in addition to other food sources.
What Kinds of Grasses Can Pigs Eat?
Pigs can eat all sorts of grasses, including common pasture grasses like Bermuda grass, bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass. They can also eat weeds, such as dandelions, clover, and plantain.
Be Mindful of Pesticides and Other Chemicals on Grass
One thing you must be aware of is the possibility of chemical contamination on grass, and especially grass clippings, in the form of pesticide or herbicide.
If you are going to feed your pigs grass, make sure it is from an area that has not been sprayed with any kind of chemical.
It is also a good idea to inquire about such chemicals if you are receiving bagged clippings or silage from anyone.
Pigs are also susceptible to parasites, such as stomach worms, that can be found in grass. For this reason, it is important to deworm your pigs regularly, especially if they are eating a lot of grass.
How Much Grass Can Pigs Have?
Pigs can eat a lot of grass, but they shouldn’t live on it. As we’ve mentioned, grass is not nutritionally complete, so pigs need other food sources to stay healthy.
That said most pigs will only eat relatively small amounts of grass as part of their diet even when provided with ample pasturage, so long as they have other sources of food to eat.
They usually only eat grass when they are first let out into pasture or when provided with hay or clippings.
When your pigs know they have other, better food to choose from, they will often hold off on filling up on grass to save room for the better fare.
How to Give Grass to Your Pigs
You have several options for incorporating grass into your pigs’ diet.
The easiest way is simply to let them out into pasture. If you have enough land, this is by far the best option, as it allows your pigs to roam freely and eat grass to their heart’s content.
Just make sure they also have access to fresh water and other food sources.
Another way is to serve them grass clippings or hay. Grass clippings can be fed fresh, but they will start to lose their nutritional value relatively quickly, so it is best to feed them within a day or two of mowing.
Hay is a more shelf-stable option, but it is also less nutritious than fresh grass. Either way, your pigs should only receive a small amount of grass clippings or hay in addition to their regular diet, as it is not nutritionally complete.
Just remember to be mindful of chemical contamination and parasites, and to supplement their diet with other foods if they are eating a lot of grass.
Can Baby Pigs Have Grass, Too?
Yes, piglets can also have grass. In fact, it is often recommended that piglets be given access to pasture as soon as they are eating solid food regularly, as it can help them develop a healthy appetite and digestive system.
However, be especially careful that piglets are getting a complete diet, as they are growing quickly. And as always, be wary of parasites and chemical contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, and they generally like them. In fact, many “weeds” are actually highly nutritious plants! Take dandelions, for instance. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
So, if your pigs are munching on some weeds, don’t worry; they’re probably doing themselves a favor.
In fact, many such feeds found in pasturage are actually better for your pigs than the grass around them is!
Yes, pigs can eat your lawn clippings so long as they are not treated with any chemicals.
You should also take some time to ascertain whether or not the clippings are being exposed to anything harmful as they make their way through your lawnmower.
If the clippings have a “gassy” smell, you may want to hold off.
No! Grass is generally good for pigs, and they do derive both nutrients and calories from it, but it won’t keep them alive and thriving on its own.
Pigs need a well-rounded diet that includes both grass and other sources of nutrients to stay healthy.
If pigs eat too much grass, they may fill up on it and not have enough room in their stomachs for other, more nutritious food. This can lead to malnutrition and health problems.
In addition, if the grass is contaminated with chemicals or parasites, it can make the pigs sick. So, while a little grass is good for pigs, too much can be harmful.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.