Hay is a regular fixture found on farms and homesteads alike. Used as a versatile animal feed or sometimes even as bedding, this is one thing you’ll always need more of.
But, is this something that our pigs can eat? Is it safe for our pigs to eat hay?
Yes, it is completely safe for pigs to eat hay. A reasonable source of nutrition and calories for pigs, hay can be used as a nutritional supplement or snack. Keep in mind that hay is not nutritionally complete, and pigs will require other sources of food to thrive.
When it’s fed to pigs in moderation, hey is a fine and affordable way to give them extra calories and a few minerals and nutrients that they need.
Considering it is something you’re probably going to have around one way or the other, you might as well learn everything you can about feeding hay to your pigs because they’ll probably eat it when given a chance.
What is Hay?
Hay is simply dried grass. It is the same stuff that grows in your lawn, except it has been cut down and then left out to dry in the sun or in a barn.
Once the grass is dry, it is baled up and can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.
While most hay is made from grasses, there are some types of hay that are made from other herbaceous plants like alfalfa or clover.
These alternative hays can offer different nutrients and calories than grass hay, so keep that in mind when you’re shopping around.
Can Pigs Digest Hay?
Yes, they can. In fact, their digestive system is specifically designed to digest grasses and other plant-based material.
The reason pigs can digest hay so well is that a part of their digestive tract allows them to ferment food and extract all of the nutrients and calories that they need to survive.
While ruminant animals like cows have a four-chamber stomach to deal with the meager nutrition hay affords, pigs are still able to extract nutrients from hay and other plant matter because of that extra fermentation chamber.
This is one of the reasons why pigs are often used as “cleanup crew” eaters on farms – they can eat just about anything and still digest it with ease.
Nutritional Benefits of Hay for Pigs
Hay offers some real benefits to pigs, namely a boost to their digestion. However, it also provides some calories and nutrients.
One of the benefits of feeding pigs hay is that it provides them with fiber. This is important because it helps to regulate their digestive system and keeps things moving along smoothly.
The other main benefit of hay is that it provides pigs with essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.
While these might not be nutrients that your pigs are deficient in, they can still help to round out their diet and make sure they’re getting everything they need.
Lastly, hay can also provide a source of energy for pigs in the form of calories.
This is important because, while pigs are able to extract calories from other sources like plants and roots, hay can offer a more concentrated form of energy that can help them put on weight or maintain their current weight.
Compared to wild foraged sources, hay is one they won’t have to work hard in order to eat.
What is Feed-to-Gain Ratio?
The feed-to-gain ratio is the amount of feed required to produce a unit of gain in weight. This number will vary depending on the type of animal, as well as the quality and type of feed.
For pigs, the average feed-to-gain ratio is about 3:1 for smaller animals, and 5:1 for bigger ones.
This means that for every 3 or 5 pounds of feed that a pig eats, it will gain 1 pound in weight.
This number can be higher or lower depending on the quality of the hay and other factors, but it is a good general rule of thumb to go by.
This metric will vary depending on the calorie content of their food, naturally, and since hay is a low-calorie food it must be factored into the FTG ratio accordingly.
Can Pigs Eat Raw Hay?
Yes, pigs can eat raw hay or hay grass. This is the preferred method of feeding, as it provides them with the most nutrients and fiber.
Can Pigs Eat Dry Hay?
Yes, they can, and this is the typical form that you’ll find hay in, assuming you don’t make it yourself.
Can Pigs Eat Alfalfa Hay?
Yes, and alfalfa hay is one of the more nutritious types of hay around.
Alfalfa hay is a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins, and it can be a good addition to any pig’s diet.
Can Pigs Eat Fermented Hay?
Fermented hay, or silage, is also okay for pigs. This is a type of hay that has been fermented and compressed to preserve it for long storage, and it can be a good source of nutrients for pigs.
However, it’s important to note that fermented hay can contain more sugar than other types of hay, so it should be fed in moderation.
Be Mindful of Pesticide and Debris in Hay
One major hazard for all types of livestock that eat hay, not just pigs, is the presence of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
These can be present in both conventional and organic hay, so it’s important to do your diligence and make sure that the hay you’re feeding is safe.
The other thing to watch out for is debris like broken glass, metal, wire, or plastic that can be mixed in with the hay as it is baled.
This is more of a danger if you’re feeding hay that you’ve purchased from an unknown source but it’s still something to be aware of.
If you are unsure about the quality of your hay, it’s always best to inspect it carefully or have it tested by a professional before feeding it to your pigs.
How Much Hay Can Pigs Have?
Hay is definitely wholesome and safe for pigs, and even fairly nutritious, but that does not mean they should have it whenever they want. Just like with any other food, moderation is key.
As a general rule of thumb, pigs should have 1-2% of their body weight in hay per day. So, if you have a 250 lb pig, it should have 2.5-5 lbs of hay per day.
Of course, this number will vary depending on the type of hay, the quality of the hay, and the pig’s other diet.
For example, if the pig is eating a lot of other high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables, it may not need as much hay.
On the other hand, if the pig is eating mostly grain or processed foods, they may need more hay to help balance out their diet.
As always, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian or other animal expert if you have any specific questions about how much hay your pig should be eating.
How to Give Hay to Your Pigs
It really won’t get much easier than this! You can simply put the hay in their feeder, or if you don’t have a feeder you can just scatter it on the ground.
Pigs are not particularly picky eaters on presentation; if they can reach it, they will eat it, so they will likely eat hay without any problem.
Can Baby Pigs Have Hay, Too?
Yes, piglets can also eat hay like adult pigs, but with a few reservations.
First of all, baby pigs have delicate digestive systems and they may not be able to handle hay as well as adults.
If you’re going to give hay to piglets, it’s best to start with a small amount and see how they do before giving them too much.
Second, baby pigs’ teeth are not fully developed yet so they may not be able to eat hay as easily as adults.
If you’re giving hay to piglets, make sure it’s cut up into small pieces so they can eat it more easily.
And finally, piglets should only be eating hay when they have grown up enough to eat solid food all the time. If they are still drinking milk from mom then you should hold off on giving them hay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally yes. Hay is a “bulky” food, filling. When given hay, pigs will often eat less of their normal food.
This is good and bad, as it can thereby reduce costs, but also means they are missing out on the calories and nutrition in other, better foods.
No. Hay that is moldy should not be fed to pigs as it can cause illness.
Yes. Hay, especially old hay, is a fine bedding for pigs.
The best hay for pigs is fresh, clean, and nutritious. Quality will vary depending on the type of hay, but in general timothy hay, orchard grass hay, and brome hay are good options.
Alfalfa hay is also a possibility but it is higher in calories so it should be given in moderation.
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.