Pigs – food and water


Nutritional information for pigs.

Pigs must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.

Automatic waterers are the preferred and most efficient method of providing water to pigs in piggeries. Nipple drinkers are commonly used, however these must always be fitted with a failsafe mechanism. If automatic drinkers are not used then adequately sized containers must be provided to ensure adequate quantity and quality is available for the number, age, production level, bodyweight and type of stock, dry matter content of the feed provided and the weather conditions (air temperature, available shelter and humidity).

In general pigs require 9-23 litres of water per day depending on production stage. Lactating sows can drink up to 23 litres per day while weaners only consume about 3 litres.

Daily Water Requirements

Water availability is particularly important for recently weaned piglets.

Water medications should be introduced gradually and closely monitored to ensure correct dosage and consumption of adequate water quantity.


Pigs must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.

Pigs must not be fed swill. Swill is food waste containing meat or any other mammalian products or by-products (apart from milk itself, or Australian milk product or by-products from a factory or milk processing premises licensed under the Dairy Industry Act 1992).

Quantity and quality of feed should be based on:

  • Bodyweight and/or fat/body condition score
  • Extra demands based on growth, pregnancy, lactation and exercise
  • Prevailing/predicted weather conditions.

Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the pigs in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing pigs and using a condition scoring system regularly.

Sow condition scoring

Pigs are naturally foraging animals, and for optimum digestion and health should be able to forage around in the dirt outside eating a vast range of vegetation as well as small grubs.

Sunlight is extremely beneficial to pig health however when pigs are housed inside they often do not get sufficient exposure to UV light. Vitamin D can be supplemented through feeding pellets suitable to the pigs’ growth stage. There are a vast variety of different pig specialised feeds available. Different pellet types include Pig Grower, Pig Finisher, Sow Pellets and Piglet Creep Feed.

Image: Growers require particular pellets fed ad lib in order to meet market specifications.

Supplementary feeds must be carefully measured out and fed according to the pigs individual dietary requirements. The pigs age, size, breed, sex, breeding stage and environmental factors, will influence dietary requirements. Feed ad lib to piglets, growers, finishers and pregnant and lactating sows. Dry sows and boars should be fed daily in amounts sufficient to maintain condition.

Feeding pigs food scraps, known as swill is illegal. Fact sheet – Swill feeding

When changing feeds, the rule is to introduce the new food types slowly and carefully.

Nutritional Requirements

A diet fit for a pig: seven basic rules

Regular monitoring should be carried out to help identify shy feeders and allow for their management before they drop condition.

Piglets and weaners

In cases where piglets cannot be raised by their mothers (due to illness or death of the sow), they will need to be hand raised. This takes considerable time and effort. Within the first 24 hours of birth the piglets must receive colostrum which is the first milk produced by the mother containing nutrients and antibodies vital for the piglets survival. Appropriate milk replacer must be used with a suitable feeding schedule. It is very important to keep the piglet warm, as without its mother and other piglets to gain warmth from it will become cold very quickly. A heat lamp or heat pack can be used. A high level of hygiene is vital particularly involving bottles and teats to avoid contamination. The piglets weight gain must be closely monitored and if scouring occurs, seek veterinary advice.

Image: Lactating sows require ad lib feeding to sustain the extra nutritional demands.

Particular attention needs to be given to weaned piglets to ensure appropriate nutrition is provided. When piglets are weaned, it is still very important to ensure that they are kept warm. Providing a heat lamp or using pens with underfloor heating is recommended for weaned piglets.

Hand Rearing Piglets


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