Units of Hay and Dairy Per Pig

Growers and Shoats on Hay in Winter Paddocks of South Field Shed

Beth asked:
  You have said it somewhere, but I can’t find it easily. How much hay do you get for how many animals? Or I have 2 sows, 1 boar, and 18 piglets. How much hay would I need for a winter or a day or some period of time that makes sense to you? (I can do the math for 6 months.) We usually plan for 6 months of hay, though we try to extend the pasture or hope that it will start early. :)
  And it is probably also somewhere, but how much milk would my herd drink in a day? And yes I realize that there are many variables! :)
Thanks for your help!

We find that the pigs eat about 0.8 lbs of hay per day per hundred weight of pig over the course of the winter. Our bales are 800 lbs. (Recently bales have tended toward heavier weights.) I figure about one half bale eaten per pig per winter so that is about 400 lbs per pig per winter. I also figure one full bale per farrowing per winter.

Thus for 1 boar + 2 sows I would figure:
3 x 400 lbs + 2 x 800 lbs =
2,800 lbs =
3.5 bales (round up to 4 bales) for the winter.

Keep in mind that this is a herd average over many sizes of animals over a long period. In reality the bigger pigs eat a bit more hay per 100 lbs of body weight than the smaller pigs. Bigger pigs have bigger jaws, longer digestive tracts and are better able to digest the hay. That said, even piglets munch down on the hay within a week or so of birth just as they do on grasses and herbs in the pasture during the warmer season. Of course, fresh pastures in the warm months are better than winter hay just as our fresh summer garden veggies and fruit are better than what we can for our own table to keep us eating over the winter.

For the piglets, realize they will only be nibbling at the hay for a while. Assuming they were just born today I would add 18 x 400×4/6 = 4,800 lbs = 6 bales more hay to get the piglets to pasture. That is going to be too much but it is better to have too much than too little. The 6 is the number of winter months. The 4 is the number of winter months left to go. This is based on our six month long winter hay season of Nov to April.

On top of all of that I would add several more bales to allow for error. Hay is cheap compared with losing pigs. Thus I would buy 13 to 15 of the 800 lb bales for your situation. More is better. Wrapped hay bales keep well in the shade. Unwrapped bales keep well under cover of a shed or tarp.

I would also suggest using cheaper materials such as wood chips or much hay to build up the bottom of a deep bed pack. Then put the feed hay on top of that. The pigs will eat mulch hay which makes it advantageous over wood chips. They will also eat wood chips of brush. The tender bark of twigs is good eating, so they tell me.

Over the winter the pigs eat the bedding so we have very little left the next spring. What is left we push into a compost pile which then becomes fertilizer for gardens and orchards. Nothing is wasted. With poor mountain soil like ours you appreciate the amendment of every bit of organic matter you can bring into the farm. Speaking of which, plant legumes such as clover and alfalfa in your fields. In the summer the winter paddocks with their nutrient rich soils become gardens which grow food for us and the livestock for the following fall and winter.

See Winter Hay Feeding and see this Google Search on Hay Feeding

Beware of mineral deficiencies in your soils and in the incoming hay. Our mountain soils are rich in minerals. We have enough selenium but that is lacking in the winter hay we buy from down valley. Thus in the winter I must supplement our hay with either kelp or simply dirt from our own farm to provide the pigs with sufficient minerals. Watch out for mineral blocks made for sheep and cattle that contain salt since pigs have a hard time eliminating salt. If there is added salt in their diet then freely available water becomes critical to prevent salt sickness which can kill pigs. I recommend two sources of water for backup.

As to milk, we find that the pigs will drink up to 3.6 gallons of milk per hundred weight of pig when free fed milk and hay. See Big Whey Tank and this Google Search on Dairy Feeding.

Assumed adult weights of 400 lbs each and ignoring the nursing piglets:

3.6 x 3 x 400/100 = 43 gallons of milk per day for the adults

As the piglets start drinking the milk this will go up dramatically. When they’re 100 lbs each it would like like this:

3.6 x ( 18 x 100/100 + 3 x 400/100) =
108 gallons per day for the herd

And when they’re finishing off you’ll be looking at:

3.6 x ( 18 x 200/100 + 3 x 400/100) =
173 gallons per day for the herd

Except that by then the sows and boar should be bigger and the sows may well be with the next round of piglets. Note that this 3.6 gallons/day/hundredweight is what they like when free fed with free fed hay. It doesn’t mean you have to give them that much. A quarter of that is sufficient to get good growth over the winter.

Also there is a world of difference between whole milk and whey. We mostly feed whey with occasional milk, cream, butter and cheese. They’ll eat the same number of gallon either of whey or whole milk either way but get a lot more calories from the whole milk. The limitation is how much they can put through their gut. One does with what one has.

If you want really fat pigs for the lard then feed them whole Jersey milk (8% fat) and pen them so they don’t get enough exercise. A fellow who buys gilts from us does this and gets 4″ of back fat. Contrast that with the 0.75″ to 1″ that we get. Feed them for what you want to eat.

If you’re short on dairy, the pigs eat less hay. If you’re short on hay the pigs drink less dairy. There is a balance. They also need about 20% water compared with the dairy they are drinking.

See the Pig Page for more about the diet we feed our pigs and see the Feeding topic in the Tag Cloud in the right column of that page.

Outdoors: 26°F/7°F Overcast, 2″ Snow, Windy
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/61°F

Daily Spark: “We cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” Japanese Admiral Yamanoto, 1941

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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21 Responses to Units of Hay and Dairy Per Pig

  1. Kristin says:

    Great info, Walter. Thank you! An aside: how are you planting the alfalfa? Broadcasting? I know you frost seed other things but wasn’t sure on this. Thanks!

    • Yes, we simply broadcast seed with the rain storms, frosts and mob grazing. Our hills are too steep for tractor work and the soil is too rocky for drilling or tilling. The hand broadcasting works well. We’ve done as much as 120 acres that way over a few weeks time.

  2. Karen Ostello says:

    I always love seeing pictures of your pigs. They look so clean, happy and content on pasture and even in the winter. It amazes me because I’m used to pictures of pigs being in stalls or pens and dirty. You do well.

  3. Anna says:

    Walter and Holly and kids too! You have one of the most beautiful farms. Your animals and your land looks so healthy. I live my farming dream vicariously through your blog while I eek out my living here in the city. Thank you for sharing all that you do. It makes my dull life here in the urban canyons more bearable to be able to log on and see green grass, happy pigs and chickens, snow and country life. Articles like this are fascinating for me although I have no practical use for the information. It is just a little bit of rural life for me to enjoy. To dream a little. Perchance to live a little.

  4. David lloyd Sutton says:

    On your spark: Yamamoto San had it right. Then. I don’t think enough people here have realized the level of violence and incursion potential in our world today. It may be time to reintroduce a reasonable level of paranoia vie-a-vie the potential for invasion and enslavement. Old saying: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

    Still getting garlic chives and mint from my singular bed, watching the local turkeys happily grazing in emergent oats, and seeing baby Anna’s Hummingbirds at my feeder. (They hatch out in December.) Fearless little critters allow approach to within a fooot or two!

  5. Some one emailed a question:

    Curious on above reply about units of hay & dairy per pig. Next to last comment by you reads ” If you’re short on dairy the pigs eat less hay. If you’re short on hay the pigs drink less dairy ” Sounds contradictory shouldn’t it be more of one to compensate the other?

    It isn’t that they are balancing a teeter totter but rather that they need each to help digest the other. When they have freely available hay and freely available dairy they maximize their consumption but if either is limited then they eat less of the other as well. It is a bit counter intuitive but something that we’ve observed over the years.

    Additionally, when the spring flush of pasture comes the pigs greatly reduce their consumption of both hay (no surprise) and whey. My guess there is that because fresh forages contain more water the pigs drink less whey. And of course, fresh forages are far more delicious than old hay.

  6. Beth says:

    Thanks, Walter, for putting this all together in one place for me. I really appreciate the work that went into this post! Thanks a lot!

    My husband has been on forums that you have been on over the years and we like the way you do things, what you choose to fight for and against, and how you think. And thank you for now regularly sharing how you do things through this blog. Perhaps we can learn from you and improve with less trial and error!

    Now to find an inexpensive source of milk/dairy!

  7. Dave says:

    I find it fascinating that your pigs choose to hang out in that area in the top photo which has no roof, no walls. I always thought that pigs and any animal had to be kept in barns especially in the winter. But after reading your blog for years and seeing the different spaces and where animals are sleeping I see that isn’t so. Some of them do hang out in the roofed areas but even those spaces are open.

    • The biggest thing they seek is protection from the wind. After that they like dry bedding, composting bedding is even better. Then they like being in the sun. The various structures we’ve experimented with that had translucent roofs are highly favored for this last reason.

  8. justine says:

    Hi not sure if you can answer my question but I’ll give it a go anyways. We have a sow who has farrowed 3 litters and we only AI since we hadn’t had a boar. We did keep her son so we can’t breed to him with that said her heats are very hard to detect and we tried the whole walking him next to her pen which seemed to work. Well she squatted and peed along with a white discharge unlike anything she has every had before. what could this be. we also have a young gilt never breed who I now have also noticed a white thicker cottage cheese like discharge which I know cant be good. Could it be a urinary yeast or something bacterial and if so what can we do?? We do have a vet but he is not very knowledgeable about swine. Thanks Justine

  9. Tristan says:


    I began researching raising pigs a couple weeks ago. It is an idea we have tossed around a couple times, but have never “pulled the trigger” on. But, I think we are ready!! We are going to be purchasing 2 weaner pigs, as I have read that it is better to raise 2 than one. We are raising them to butcher, as we have been working toward a more sustainable lifestyle. I have done a lot of reading, and have found nothing as comprehesive and wonderful as you blog! That said, I want to ensure I have a solid grasp before bringing my little piggies to their new home. We already have a “pig pen” constructed, as our previous garden (before building raised beds this year) is built from hog panel (16’x32′). From what I have read, it seems this will be big enough. I would like to raise our pigs primarily from crops we have available (a diet similar to your pigs). Unfortunately, our pasture is not fenced for pigs, so we will be using baled hay (primarily rye grass). I am going to look into sources to obtined expired dairy products and produce. What I am curious about, is how I determine a balance for 2 pigs. I read your post above, however, tha lady’s heard is a bit bigger than mine ;). I live in very warm climate and thus am not worried about additional calories to sustain them in cold weather. Can you give me an idea of how much hay, milk, produce I should feed them as they grow? For example: At 3 months of age x lbs of hay, x gallons of milk/x lbs of cheese products, x lbs of produce per day. I am a first time pig rasier (if I didn’t mention that) and just want to ensure that I give them all they need and end up with tasty meat. It seems, from what I have read, that they are typically butchered around 8 months of age, and or 250 lbs? Is this standard/correct in your experience?
    Thank you so much for your help!!

    • Many people raise just a single pig but they will typically grow a little faster if raised in groups because pigs are competitive feeders. They see someone else eating and want to get in on the action which makes them eat more often. They also are herd animals and do best with company. The company doesn’t have to be another pig.

      I would suggest putting a hot wire inside the pen so the pigs don’t push it out. Put it up about 12″ initially and later raise it to around 18″. Otherwise they may root under the hog panel. This will also train them to electric fencing which is good if you decide later to pasture them.

      The 16’x32′ is pretty minimal. I would suggest adding a lot of carbon to that over the course of the period they are there. This could be wood chips, wood shavings, saw dust, hay, straw, etc. The carbon will help soak up the urine and fecal nitrogen. Let it build into a deep pack. That will decompose in time to form a wonderful soil amendment. Once the pigs are gone, if you can pile the carbon laced bedding up into a compost pile of at least 4’x4’x4′ in size to get the best results.

      I figure on about 3.6 gallons of dairy per hundred weight of pig being an ideal target. When free feeding I have found that to be their maximum consumption. They will thrive and grow on a quarter of that balanced with pasture/hay. Thus it could be on a mere 0.8 gallons a day of dairy.

      Watch their condition. If they’re thin they may need de-worming or may not be getting enough calories. If the are not growing well again check their fecal count for parasites and consider that their protein levels might be too low. If they are overly fat – check the jowls and roundedness of the back – then they’re getting too many concentrated calories. Whole milk has a lot more calories than whey.

      Ours typically get to market weight around six to eight months depending on the sex and season. They boars grow faster and the pigs all grow faster in the warm months than in the cold winter months. This will also vary with the breed. Some breeds don’t get as large nor grow as quickly.

  10. Max says:

    Hi Walter,
    I have a question,
    We have 3 hogs that I would like to pasture, but we don’t have a source of whey like you do. right now we are feeding them whole oats but like I said I would like to pasture them more.
    Is it possible to supplement them with oats instead of whey? (I’m guessing it is)
    if so how much should we feed them… I know this depends on their pasture…
    we have about five acres that could be fenced for them and it’s a mix of brushy overgrown fields and woods.


    • You don’t have to have whey. It is merely what we use because it is a local resource we have. We have raised four sets of pigs on just pasture quite successfully and that was before we had our pastures improved with better forages. On only pasture they simply take longer to get to market size and are leaner. Use the resources at hand. If you have oats, that’s one good way to go. I don’t have oats so I don’t know about feeding them. I would guess that you would want to soak them or otherwise prepare them to make them more digestible. You don’t want them simply passing through the animals which would be a waste of your money and their digestive effort. See Feeding Barley.

  11. Max says:

    Hi Walter,
    We don’t have a free source of oats we just buy them because we don’t want to feed the GMO hog feed.
    That is part of the reason we are trying to learn about pasturing them, the oats cost about $15 a 50# bag….. :(
    We have a local farm who sells heirloom corn for 100# for $15 but we haven’t gotten there yet. (it’s an hour drive) ( are corn or oats better to feed? )
    But my main concern about pasturing them is 1. the gilt is pregnant (and we can’t afford to lose the piglets) 2. they are used to eating grain.


    • Definitely go slowly on transitioning your pigs to pasture. They must learn how to graze, what is good and there may be some intestinal adjustments their body must make to wean away from commercial feed / grain to a more natural pasture diet. Being able to graze and thrive on pasture is partially genetic, partially age, partially how good the pastures are and partially learned.

      I would suggest looking into what you can grow in your pastures yourself. This will take years but it will reward you in the long term. You’ll need to figure out what does well in your climate and soils, how to plant and manage the grazing. It’s a journey.

      There are many non-GMO sources of seeds. Get catalogs now for next year and read over the winter. Johnny’s Selected Seeds (http://www.johnnyseeds.com/) is a good source if you are looking for non-GMO and Organic. Hancock is another good source (http://www.hancockseed.com/) of non-GMO seed. To find essex kale for example, Google with something like this:


      and then adjust the search pattern for your needs, other seed types like oats, etc.

      I would suggest planting a mix of legumes, grasses, kale, chicory, millets and other things. Variety is good. Research what does well in your local and soil.

  12. Max says:

    Are we better off feeding them oats or corn? (as a grain)
    and should we let them run on the whole area at once or should we make 2 or more areas?

    • Realize that I don’t feed either as a bought feed so I don’t have a very informed opinion and basically no experience with either. My understanding is that corn is an energy food. It is put in the mix because it is cheaper than soy for example and provides calories. Soy on the other hand is a protein food. On Wiki it says that oats are nearly equivelant to soy for protein. We have oats, barley, millet and other things wild growing in our pastures but I don’t cultivate them like you would need to do if you were harvesting them to bag up for storage so I don’t have that experience.

      As to grazing, setup a managed rotational grazing system so that you can have many plots that are staggered in growth and then move the livestock through these. That is how we do it using many different types of forages rather than mono-crops.

      Have you gotten a soil test? If not I would suggest doing that and then talking with the people at your local agricultural extension who will know your climate and soils. If you’re interested in growing grains for your pigs there is a book that recently came out which I have heard good things about but have not yet read called “Small Scale Grain” by Gene Logsdon (an excellent author) that you may want to check out. Do some web searches on growing grains too. Then visit Johnny’s seeds, Hancock seeds and other sites to select what will grow well in your soils and climates.

  13. Greg Landucci says:

    Thanks for all your great advice. Your blogs are amazing. If given the choice would you feed buttermilk or whey to your pigs. We are currently getting whey from a local cheese maker but could possibly get buttermilk from a creamery that’s a little farther away. Would you make the switch? Thanks again.

    • Butter milk is what is left after making butter and is a form of whey. There are several different types of whey such as left over from making butter vs hard cheese vs soft cheese vs yogurt vs ricotta. Each is different. How rich it will be depends on the dairy’s ability to extract nutrients as well as the type. To know for sure, get a feed analysis done of each source.

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