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Articles by Troy > Supplemental Feeding Free Range Swine

3 Mar 2007


“Howdy folks”, let’s talk about corn piles. Not just corn piles but bait, feed, chum, slop, whatever you wish to call it. Ok, Mack daddy munchies it is! Mack daddy means “tusker city baby” in English.

    Due to your letters, yes we read them; I need to “touch on” the subjects of feeding and nutrition as they pertain to free ranging swine. Assuming you have hogs roaming your hunting land and would like to improve the quality of the hogs you see there. Supplemental feeding will have a positive impact on your hog herd and should be a part of your overall herd and habitat management program. 

    The size and health of a hog herd and the availability of natural feedstuff will vary from place to place and from month to month. These variables, along with the age, sex and condition of any hog, affect the nutritional needs of a hog or hog herd. To put it another way, it’s difficult to know what to feed them if you don’t know exactly what you are feeding and what they are already eating. Understand that a hog herd living under even the best conditions will benefit from supplemental feed, so despite all the unknown variables, feed’em!  Keeping hogs fed will decrease the negative impact they have on the natural habitat. An adequate supplemental feeding program combined with persistent herd management is the key to having quality hog hunting without destroying all other progress you’ve made improving your deer and turkey population. Understand that anything you gain something will be lost. Any amount of hog presence on your property will decrease the habitat’s offerings available to other wildlife. There are some things you can do to minimize this effect and keeping the hogs fed is one of them.

     Complete mixed feed is the most common source of hog feed. Land managers who have access to an economical source of cereal grains can save money mixing the feed on the farm. Commercially mixed feed is available in all fifty states and beyond. Complete mixed swine feed is processed in pelletized and ground form. Ground feed is digested faster than pelletized feed. It is ground fine or coarse. The finer ground feed is more subject to “bridging problems” in feeders and wind losses when filling the feeders. Medium or coarse ground feed, passing thru a ¼” to 3/8” screen, is the more palatable of the two and eliminates the above problems associated with finer ground feeds.

    Pelletized feed is widely used for commercial rations. The feed is ground then steamed and formed into a pellet by extrusion true a die. Few consumption differences are noticed when feeding hogs pelleted or ground feed. “Over the counter” complete mixed feeds offer a proper balance of nutrients. Be careful substituting other animal feeds for hog feed. Hogs will consume most any kind of feed, just because they consume it doesn’t mean it contains the nutrients they need in a form they can process. For this reason it is good to have some general knowledge of what goes into hog feed and why.

     Cereal grains are the main ingredient in complete rations and the main source of dietary energy in all feeds. For this reason energy level in hog feed is not a particular problem. Corn, sorghum grain, wheat and barley can be used for this purpose, the most common being corn. All grains are deficient in protein quality and quantity as well as vitamins and minerals. What was that? All grains are deficient in protein quality and quantity as well as vitamins and minerals.

Soybean meal is the primary source of protein in most hog rations. The protein source provides hogs with needed essential amino acids. Protein sources other than soybean meal may be high in protein yet deficient in essential amino acids. Hogs don’t have a protein requirement but rather an amino acid requirement provided by a protein source. There are ten essential amino acids provided true feed and ten non essential amino acids synthesized by the body. Only balanced feed that satisfies the necessary dietary requirements for the essential amino acids will enable the body to synthesize the non-essential amino acids. If one of the “essentials” are deficient the “non-essentials” will also be. A good example would be to compare three sixteen percent protein hog rations. Corn-soybean meal, corn-meat and bone meal, and corn-peanut meal. The above three rations all are sixteen percent protein but the latter two are deficient in amino acids. Rations deficient in amino acids will not enable hogs to maintain optimum weight gain and feed efficiency. To understand this is to understand why the nutritional quality of hog feed cannot be determined by protein content alone. Lysine is the amino acid most commonly deficient in hog rations. A fourteen-twenty percent protein, corn-soybean meal complete ration, satisfies the amino acid requirements of a breeding herd. (Based on the protein level of corn at 9.0% and soybean meal at 44.0%). Feeding free range hogs I try to use at least 18% feed. Knowing a good part of a hogs diet consist of natural feedstuff, how much depends on its availability, I tend to “over-kill” on the feed content to maximize the benefits of what feed they do consume.

I don’t see the need to go into the process of formulating mixed complete rations. The majority of hunters and land managers don’t have the resources to mix their own hog rations. Those that do can find a wealth of information on the subject by contacting Clemson University Co-op Extension or the U.S.D.A..

There is an alternative to feeding mixed complete rations that will produce similar results. Whole shelled corn and a complete protein vitamin mineral supplement can be fed free-choice in separate feeders side by side. Unlike a balanced pre-mix, it would be the hogs job to balance his diet by eating the corn and the supplement separately. The supplement must be complete, providing vitamins, minerals and protein of 38-40%. How well hogs do at balancing their own diet has been studied by experimenting on domestic hogs. The hogs do just fine on their own averaging a diet of 14% protein. As you now know if the supplement contained soybean meal for the protein source then a 14% protein diet meets the amino acid requirement. Land managers who have been supplemental feeding with corn and have a good contact to buy corn direct from a farmer or other discount source can start feeding separate rations with ease.  The complete supplement can be found in ground or palletized form at most feed mills. Complete supplement ingredients are shown in figure-1.  

I have found complete mixed rations produce the best results as opposed to other methods of supplemental feeding swine. The high cost of these rations may outweigh their advantages. Ground feed is the least expensive pre-mix feed but will not flow properly in most commercial wildlife feeders. Managers who plan on using game feeders designed for corn (witch I don’t recommend) may find pelletized rations to be their only choice. Most free choice“deer” feeders are not built to stand up to the constant abuse of a herd of hungry hogs. Spin-cast feeders have their place, they are useful at drawing hogs into a hunters ambush site, but don’t dispense the volume of feed needed to properly supplement a herds diet. Avoid hanging these feeders from free standing tripods. Hogs will scratch themselves by rubbing the legs and quickly learn this makes feed fall from the feeder. The destruction will begin as soon as the feeder is empty. Their persistence at shaking the empty feeder will be its demise. Hogs don’t like empty feeders. The cheapest free choice deer feeder will appear to be doing a good job until it runs dry, then the hogs are going in! 

When selecting a feeder to supplemental feed your herd (not bait your stand), your best bet is to look at commercial feeders manufactured for the  hog farming industry. You will need an all-weather free choice feeder with a 40-80 bu. capacity (less if you got time to keep fillin‘em). When feeding separate rations each feed station will require two feeders or a single feeder with a divided bin. The trough offering corn should account for 80% of the total feeder space leaving 20% for the supplement. Used feeders are often offered at farm auctions and in sale papers for a fraction of the original cost. 

I use a home made feeder that works like a champ and cost very little in material. To build one first make a form 4’x4’ square with 2”x4”’s. Lay the form on flat ground where the feeder is to be located. Drive three pieces of metal pipe in the ground leaving about 32” sticking straight up above ground. The pipes should be spaced so a metal 55gal. drum will just fit over them with the drum being centered in the form. See fig-2. With the pipes spaced correctly pour the form with concrete. Take the drum (both ends cut out) slide it over the pipes and drill and bolt securely so that the bottom of the drum is 1”-1-½” above cement slab. Fill the drum with feed and cover with tin to keep out the rain. 

When deciding on the number and location of feed stations it is important to know the layout of the land and understand how the hogs use it. As a general rule there should be one feed station for every 150-200 acres.

No supplemental feed program would be complete without creep feeders. A creep feeder is a free choice feeder designed to let only small piglets access the feed.  Young pigs that accompany sows to the feeders will get trampled, bitten and banged around trying to compete with grown hogs for feed. The importance of getting young pigs off to a good start cannot be overstated. This can easily be done by locating a creep feeder at each feeding station. 

You can build your own creep feeder with a 16’ utility panel(4”x4”squares), and a gravity feeder made with 6” pvc pipe fastened to a 4’x4’ piece of plywood the same way many people make deer feeders. Bend the utility panel to form a 4’x4’ square, secure each corner with t-post. Put the pipe feeder inside and cover with tin. Cut an access hole in each side of the panel (using bolt cutters) to allow young pigs access to the feed. Fill with mixed complete ration and your done. See figure-3. 

Supplemental feeding wild hogs to improve the quality of harvested boar and to minimize the herds impact on the habitat is only worth the effort when its supported by a year around herd management program. It will be like burning money without reducing the herd population. Trapping hogs to barr the boars and remove sows along with continuous hunting pressure on the sows are management practices that work with supplemental feeding to achieve a common goal.

Implementing and maintaining this type of management program requires a large commitment of time and finances. It is not for everyone. One must weigh the cost compared to the gains. Then decide if it’s that much of an important part of your overall management goals. There is nothing wrong with being content banging nuisance pigs off your deer lease. But for those tired of just popping pigs, there is another level of wild boar hunting out there. Where the hogs are not unwanted inhabitants but a valuable resource. Hunting is selective to aid in herd improvement not eradication. Deer are passed-up to keep from ruining the hunt. The intelligence of a mature boar is no longer underestimated. Never having bagged a mature boar means you can’t. Trophy status of wild boar equal that of any antlered game. Its all about improving the quality of your hog hunting experience, and producing bigger, better, bad-to-the-bone Wild Boar Hogs. Americas soon to be most sought after big game animal!            ………………………………...... See you in Tusker City Baby!



                                                                                   TROY AYER

                                                                               “THE HOG SLAYER”


Troy Ayer