Weight Matters: A Guide To Feeding Mini Pigs
For humans and mini pigs alike, enjoying tasty food is one of life’s great pleasures. However, you can certainly have too much of a good thing when it comes to mini pig nutrition. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for keeping mini pigs healthy and happy.
What’s the harm in a chubby mini pig? While it may look cute and endearing, overweight mini pigs are at increased risk for arthritis, diabetes, mobility issues and even heart and liver disease.
Dr. Nichole Huntley, Ph.D. nutritionist and mini pig expert, says the foundation for maintaining a healthy weight starts with the right nutrition for the right stage of life. From there, it’s important to establish a feeding routine with the right portions, sprinkle in some snacks and promote activity.
THE RIGHT TYPE
Mazuri Mini Pig diets are formulated specifically for mini pigs and potbelly pigs to provide them all the nutrients they need while helping to keep them feeling full and maintaining a healthy weight. Commercial pig feeds you may find at the farm or feed store are intended for very different purposes, such as fast growth and weight gain or to support the high nutrient requirements a large sow needs during pregnancy and nursing. This means that commercial pig feed has many more calories and causes excessive weight gain in mini and potbelly pigs.
Pigs raised on farms for market have access to feed at all times and eat much more than mini pigs, so their diets have lower concentrations of vitamins and minerals. Mazuri mini pig diets are designed for the lifestyle of a pet pig, containing higher fiber, vitamin and mineral concentrations, and are formulated with high-quality ingredients to promote health and longevity.
Diets specifically made for mini pigs may have a higher price tag compared to commercial feeds next to it on the shelf, but it’s important to consider the indirect costs of obesity and poor nutrition in terms of health issues, vet bills or additional supplements that may be required.
THE RIGHT AMOUNT
While every pig is different, Dr. Huntley recommends basing the amount you feed your mini pig on their body weight. This should include pellets as well as vegetables, hay, treats and any other snacks. Mini pigs only need the Mazuri Youth Diet starting out, but as they get older, they benefit from more variety.
Here are two examples of different mini pigs’ daily feeding recommendations:
Sasha is an active, 2-year-old mini pig who is in healthy body condition and weighs 75 pounds. If you look at the chart above, that means she should be fed 1-2% of her body weight total. Because she gets plenty of exercise, let’s choose 1.5%, which equates to 1.1 lb. food per day. A healthy balance for Sasha would be 75% Mazuri Active Adult pellets, 15% vegetables and 10% fruits and treats. This means she should be eating about 0.8 lb. or 2.3 cups of pellets each day.
Sampson is a sedentary, 6-year-old mini pig who weighs 175 pounds. If you look at the chart above, that means he should be fed 1-2% of his healthy body weight goal, which is 145 pounds. Because he does not get much exercise, let’s choose 1%, which equates to 1.45 lbs. of food per day. Since this amount of food is significantly less than what Sampson is used to eating, his daily intake should decrease by 10% weekly until his total food per day is 1.45 lbs. A healthy balance for Sampson would be 60% Mazuri Mature Maintenance pellets, 15% vegetables and 5% fruits and treats. This means he should eventually be eating about 0.8 lb. or 2.3 cups of pellets each day.
Since we know this can be confusing for pet parents, Mazuri Mini Pig feed bags have recommended feeding charts on the back to help guide your efforts. These charts include a range to allow for adjustments to feed rates based on your pig’s body condition, activity level and other foods that make up their diets.
Dr. Huntley notes that if your pig is overweight, it's important to calculate daily food allotment based on its estimated healthy weight instead of what it weighs now.
THE RIGHT STAGE OF LIFE
Make sure to match your mini pig with feed that meets its nutritional needs. Mazuri offers three options that promote health and longevity across life stages and activity levels: Mini Pig Youth Diet, Active Adult Diet and Mature Maintenance Diet.
Each of these diets provide complete nutrition with probiotics to help support their immune and digestive health. They contain a high concentration of vitamins and minerals, including biotin, niacin, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids to support improved skin and hoof health.
Mini Pig Youth Diet is ideal for providing energy, nutrition and weaning for mini pigs 0-4 months of age. At about 4 months, growth starts to slow. It’s time to transition to the Active Adult Diet, which continues to provide everything your pet needs to thrive in a moderate energy formula.
Around 1 ½ years of age, growth really slows down, so mini pigs living indoors that are less active should be fed a maintenance diet that still provides all the nutrients needed but is much higher in fiber and lower in protein. This helps keep pigs feeling full while managing weight gain. According to Dr. Huntley, you can continue to feed Mature Maintenance Diet to any pig at this life stage or beyond, unless they are breeding or highly active and living outdoors.
In addition to pellets, mini pigs can graze on good-quality grass hay and snack on non-starchy vegetables. Dr. Huntley recommends limiting fruit as much as possible, especially for overweight pigs, because of the high sugar content. However small amounts of fruit can be useful for training or activity encouragement.
BE ACTIVE AND HAVE FUN
Families looking for more ways to set up healthy habits may consider outdoor activities to make feeding more fun. To encourage grazing, provide your mini pig with plenty of space to stretch their legs and explore outside.
It’s also a good idea to encourage your mini to work for its food. Try spreading it out so they have to use their natural feeding behaviors to eat it. You can hide it under hay, use rooting boxes or even put it in a puzzle feeder. It’s best to avoid pouring their pellets and vegetables in a bowl or trough where they can eat it quickly without thinking about it.
If you like to train your mini pig and offer rewards throughout the day, it’s important to factor those calories into their overall consumption. Try setting aside the complete day’s ration of pellets, produce and treats in a bowl, away from the pig. Then, use this food to train or reward them as the day progresses. Be prudent and don’t let your pig train you to feed them at their every whim. Pigs are natural grazers so a little bit at a time goes a long way throughout the day.
Managing body weight is just one aspect of raising a happy, healthy mini pig. Learn the other signs to know if your pet is on the right track.