Feeding Pigs: Methods to the Madness

by Sherrie Kelly

by Olivia Downs

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of feeding pigs on a farm, you may know that it’s not always a walk in the park. One of our daily chores here at the farm house is getting those gilts their grub, and as I learned this past week—they don’t always make it easy.

Every morning and evening, we fill the slop bucket an inch or two full of water and carry that out to the Quonset hut. Then we pour in four scoops of dry pig feed and let that sit until it becomes nice and gloopy. Then we haul that bucket-o-slop out to the pig pens. That’s the easy part. The tough part is getting the food from the bucket to the pigs’ mouths. Even though they’re hungry, they like to make it very difficult to feed them. They snort. They stand in between you and their food dishes and gnaw at your hands when you try to grab them. They butt their heads against the fence. They even move their dishes farther away. This may sound discouraging, but worry not. Here are some tried and true tricks of the trade that will make it easier to feed those pesky pigs.

  1. The Basic: If the dishes are next to the fence, count yourself lucky. The only thing you have to do is grab it before your pigs get in the way. Here’s what you do: stand at the corner of the pen, away from the location of the dish. Wait for the pig to come inspect you and the status of her food. When she’s away from her dish, run over and snatch it out!
  2. The Reach: If the dishes are not near the fence, grab a long object—a board or stick will do. (I stole—I mean borrowed—a board that would presumably have gone on or in Ben’s cabin. It’ll probably need to be washed off first. Sorry, Ben!) Reach in and use the board to pull the dishes close so that you can grab them. Be careful, because your pigs WILL try to eat the board.
  3. The Grab and Go: If the pigs really want to make your life difficult, the dishes may be sitting in the middle of their pens, completely out of reach. Now you’re going to have to get dirty. If you have electric fencing, make sure it is assuredly off. You’ll also have to move quickly, before your pigs have a chance to nudge you, bite your shoes, and do all they can to knock you off balance. If you are able to step over the fence, do so now. If you’re vertically challenged, as I am, it’ll take some tricky maneuvering to get into the pen. We have wire fencing, so I would use the rungs to step over. Note that this method requires balance, patience, and a sense of calm.
    Once you’re in the pen, grab the food dish as quickly as you can and get back out the way you came. You might want to make sure not to wear any fancy work pants—the pigs will nudge you with their muddy noses and try to lick inside your pockets.
  4. The Spy*: Dress up in a pig costume, taking care not to show the food bucket when approaching the pens, as it would give away your disguise. Spend several hours romping in the pig pen, gaining the pigs’ trust. Once they have accepted you as one of their own, forget your worldly woes and remain a pig. Wait for someone else to come and feed you. Get used to eating pig slop.
    *This method has not been tested. Proceed with caution.

Feeding pigs is clearly not as easy as it sounds, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and we do it with lots of love. I hope these methods help you as much as they’ve helped me in your own pig-feeding experiences!