If you prefer to stick with conventional pig feed, how can you make sure you are saving money wherever you can?
• Shop around. You will be surprised at the variation in price between different suppliers – whether you’re dealing with shops or buying direct from the manufacturers. Find out what your friends are paying and don’t be afraid to haggle, playing off one feed rep against another.
• Buy in bulk. A tonne of pig feed is just 40 x 25kg bags or 50 x 20kg bags. Delivered stacked on a wooden pallet, it takes up just a small bit of space – or, if you buy from your local feed merchant, you may be able to arrange to pay up front and take a few bags at a time. Another alternative is to get together with other pig keepers in your area – maybe through a local smallholding club – and share a load.
• Buy loose feed. If you have suitable storage facilities and you are using large amounts of feed, it might be worth you getting your feed delivered loose and ‘blown in’. A lorry turns up, unfurls a massive hose, and literally blows the pellets into your hopper. This can mean significant savings – normally a discount of around £50 a tonne – but there is usually a minimum delivery of three tonnes. Another difficulty is keeping your feed secure from vermin. Also, depending on the construction of your hopper, cleanliness, ventilation, seasonal fluctuations in temperature, and cooling time allowed at the manufacturing plant after the feed is made, mould can be a problem.
• Consider mixing your own feed. It is possible to buy in cereals, along with essential vitamins and minerals, and create your own feed, but getting the nutritional balance right is not easy. Furthermore, you will need to apply to your local authority for a mixing licence and you will be expected to satisfy a whole lot of conditions to ensure your feed is safe. Mixing your own can be tricky, time- consuming, and you need to have excellent storage facilities to do it properly. If you are feeding outdoors, there can also be lots of food wasted.
• Measure how much you are feeding! This may seem a ridiculously simplistic thing to suggest, but how many of you can honestly say you know exactly how much each of your pigs really needs at various stages of life? Also, do you know how much your feed scoop actually holds? Feeding your pigs too much every day, week in, week out, is like throwing money down the drain. Firstly, excess protein is just excreted – remember that, next time you’re mucking out. Secondly, when you get your meat back from the butcher, that 5cm band of fat on your chops that you probably cut off and toss in the bin will have been paid for by you. If you have breeding stock, over-feeding does them no favours. Gilts and sows with too fat on them can have more trouble conceiving, as well as difficulty farrowing.