6 commentslast update:Jul 25, 2011

Pigs love beer

Ioannis Mavromichalis
We all know humans love beer! Apparently, pigs too

I recall an old farm hand telling me during my stay at Kansas the following method of preventing restless sows from attacking their newborns or refusing them their first milk.
He would pour a six-pack (I think it was Bud Light) in the sow's trough around the time of farrowing (or as soon as they detected the problem). Now, that's about half a gallon of good beer, and many would object seeing so much beer wasted, but he said there had been not a single failure to his method.
No personal experiences here, apart from drinking beer myself, but I would love to hear from you all if you have had similar experiences with farrowing sows (with any brand of beer, or course!)


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    John Gadd

    No experience with beer, Ioannis, but I once got my employer`s growing pigs dead drunk on distiilers draff, when working as a novice pig stockman in Scotland, where all the famous whisky distillerys were.
    I wea sent to collect a load of `spent washings`(draff) from one of them to feed to my pigs, being told not to load any that was `hot` ie. still fermenting slightly.
    Of course I did, didn`t I, not knowing tepid from `hot`, and duly fed it to my charges.

    An hour later I was summoned to the pens lined with hysterically laughing farm children looking at pigs showing drunken behaviour exactly similar to us humans! Some were morose, swaying from side to side and gently `girning`(Scottish expression for complaining). Some were dashing about and cannoning into the pen walls. Some looked at me stupidly and fell over.
    Later they all slept for 10 hours, missed a feed, then became irritable and started tailbiting.

    I got into terrible trouble and had a weeks wages stopped. Quite right too!

    PS. I became hugely popular in the village who had never seen such a thing before, and got invited everywhere for - you`ve guessed it - a free tot of whisky!

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    Randall Ellis

    I am a pig farmer in Thailand. Many of the smaller farms around me make their own feed for pigs. They take a bamboo tree and cut it into pieces, add sugar and put it in a tub for a length of time. The pigs are happy - they eat, get drunk and sleep. Bamboo Beer. I suppose I should try it and maybe bottle up some......

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    Been feeding the cheap beer for years. Just a small operation with some sows on pasture, using the Port-a-hut farrowing system. Always offer a gallon of milk\chocolate milk mixed with a 6-pack to sows when finished farrowing. That "first beer buzz" gets them to relax and let down milk.. most are snoring with 10-20 minutes, while piglets nurse happily away.


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    Brent Taylor

    I remember many people talking of giving waste beer to sows around farrowing time in the days before Stresnil. Personally I can't imagine a situation where beer becomes waste beer unless I've pre-filtered it through my own body!
    As for giving them Bud light, I'm not sure it is beer at all, but then I'm a Brit and don't much appreciate US "beers".
    Adnams brewery in the UK used to keep pigs and feed them on brewery waste including beer, they had a lovely cartoon on the side of their trucks with the wording "Adnams pigs are happy pigs". I'm told that the finishing pigs would sleep a lot...

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    No doubt about it, pigs do love beer. I often share the remains of a glass of beer with our back yard pigs (just to be sociable!) and they enthusiastically slurp it up. I'm sure the pigs in our main production unit would react similarly.

    Pigs also enjoy alcohol as part of their food. We feed our pigs a mix of dry feed with fresh greens such as banana tree trunks / stems or wild Chinese lettuce. These fresh greens end up with a degree of alcohol in it because they are chopped up, compressed with layers of sugar and salt added and left to ferment in tubs for 3 days before mixing with the dried powered feed. There's a definite whiff of alcohol in the air once the fermenting process has been completed. Not only does the process make the feed more appetizing for the pigs (it also helps retain the nutritive value), I'm sure it helps their temperament - they do seem very contented and happy. The deep bed pig farming system and sympathetic welfare philosophy we have undoubtedly plays a part in that too.

    The serving of beer to farrowing pigs with aggression problems is definitely a proven remedy. I've recently finished reading the excellent series of James Herriot books recounting his memories of vet practice in the 1930's-1950's - in one of the reminisces this approach was successfully used by a hill farmer. What's more, I'm sure I've read from in some of the older pig raising books circa 1880's -1920's of this being a recommended action for calming a sow down sufficiently for her to accept her offspring. So this is an age old remedy.

    Just one final comment re pigs and alcohol. The smell of alcohol can be used to reduce aggression when mixing pigs. That's the belief over here in Thailand anyway where the low cost high alcohol white whisky is sprayed over pigs prior to mixing. I guess the smell of the alcohol reduces the pigs ability to identify each other through body odor long enough for a natural hierarchy to be sorted out without a high level of aggression. I personally can't vouch if this works or not - we keep all our pigs in staple family groups from birth thereby ensuring tranquility and peace reigns in our sties without the need of this aid.

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    Beer is good for settling sows before farrowing. If she is a bit upset and obnoxious before she starts to farrow a couple of cans or so makes all the difference to her attitude when she starts to farrow. You need a nice quiet sow that is happy to lay and have her piglets and then let them suck...... not one that wants to get up after every one. So beer in a free range setting is a great idea. Don't think the hubby's like the idea but tough!!

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