Piggy Spines & Weight

At some point, most pet piggy owners are going to wonder whether they’re feeding their pet too much or too little.

It’s hard to find good information on that.  (Don’t worry – we’re going to give you a simple solution.)  If you google how much to feed pigs, you’re going to come up with all sorts of ways to get your commercial piglets up to over 200 lbs in only six months.  That’s not helpful.

It is hard to believe that full-sized pigs grow that fast when the piglets start out at about the same size as ours.  When those pigs are sent to slaughter at over 200 lbs., they’re not even full grown.  If they were allowed to grow to their full potential, they could reach 600 to 800 lbs. Maybe more.  That’s exactly why a 150 lb. potbelly pig could be considered mini – because in comparison to their larger cousins, they’re very small. When we’re talking about small pet pigs, a 60 lb. adult pig is only 10% or less the weight of  a commercial pig!

From the information in the paragraph above, it’s clear that pigs have the potential to gain a lot of weight quite quickly if you let them.  That’s why you want to slow the weight gain of your piggy so that the pig’s weight is appropriate for its skeletal frame.  This is another reason why good feeding guidelines are so hard to find for pet pigs; they can come in a variety of sizes. Therefore it’s really not a good idea to say that a piggy should weigh a certain weight at a certain age.

Even if someone suggests that you feed them an appropriate amount, that’s still not helpful!  What exactly is appropriate?

You can’t go by a pig’s waistline because piggies are shaped very differently from runway models.  This is particularly so if a piggy has any potbelly pig genetics coming through.   If we saw a horse with a swayed back and a really round belly, we would say that we would need to cut down on the horse’s food rations and do some serious exercising to build up its back muscles again.  But a pig is not a horse, and that round-bellied, sway-back shape is natural to many pigs.

So, now we’re going to make it all a little easier for you.  Here’s what you can do.
You can observe your piggy’s spine.  The spine is a very good indicator of whether or not your piggy is at a healthy weight.

If you can look at your piggy’s back and see every vertebrae in the spine clearly (at which point the ribs are probably starting to show), then your piggy is underweight and you need to increase its rations.  At this point, if you were to observe the spine from in front or behind, it would be shaped like an inverted letter “V” and be very noticeable.

If, on the other hand, not only can you not see your piggy’s spine, but you can’t even feel it at all when you examine his or her back with your hands, then you’ve definitely got an overweight piggy. At this point your pig’s belly may be very close to the ground, and it may even have rolls of fat on the top of its head and hanging down towards its eyes. You will not be able to feel the ribs at all on an overweight piggy.  At this point, your pig will probably not have a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for moving around. Very obese pigs may even have their vision obscured by fat rolls pressing down over its eyes. All that fat on the pig’s back will also give you the impression that your pig has grown taller than it actually has.

The ideal weight for a piggy is when you can easily find the spine, but it’s not too prominent.  At an ideal weight, the piggy belly is not too large to impede its movement, and your piggy will have lots of energy and enjoy moving around.

 You’ll want to check your little pet pig on a regular basis.  We would suggest weekly in the first year of life while they’re doing the most growing.  After that, checking monthly should be enough.  Besides, if you check your pig weekly in the first year, then you’ll be very comfortable at recognizing easily when the piggy is gaining too quickly or too slowly.

In terms of what to feed your pet pig, of course we use our own pig food.  It’s designed to be fed at a rate of one-half cup per day for each 15 lbs. of body weight,  divided into two meals.  Of course, that’s the guideline to start with.  Most piggies will probably do very well on that, but adjust the amount up or down according to your regular observance of your piggy’s spine. By the time our pigs get to one year of age, they’re being fed one cup of food for breakfast and one for dinner.

If your pig is getting a lot of outdoor time to root around and eat grass, etc., then you’ll probably want to cut down a little on  the food rations.  Believe it or not, pigs can gain weight from too much grass eating, especially in the spring.   But once again, just keep an eye (and a hand!) on the spine and you’ll know if adjustments are needed or not.

As for treats, if you’ve got any concerns about your pet’s weight, then limit its treats to green veggies such as giving him or her a leaf or two of lettuce.