Over the last 25 years or so the number of people who have pigs as pets has soared. It used to be that pigs were for basically one purpose, and that was as a food source. Now, people are looking for healthier food sources for those sweet little oinkers that have become just as much a part of their family as their dogs and cats. Recently, French researchers have begun studying algae material as a basis for enrichment materials for piglets, with growing success.
Algae as a Food Material
Between January 31, 2016, and February 1, 2017, French scientist and lead author Françoise Pol presented her findings for the food material study at the 49th French Swine Research Days, held in Paris, France. The research is said to have involved some 444 pigs from two successive batches with the trial being set up at experimental pig facilities in Crécom, France, which is where the effect of enrichment material made of compressed algae was assessed.
Suitable Enrichment Materials for Pigs
Key to the research is that, ideally, enrichment material for swine should be of a type that pigs can manipulate or destroy and at the same time chew on without endangering their health. While straw is often used for this purpose, it can easily disappear through slats. Wood is unsuitable, because it is known to be able to harm pigs. As it turns out, algae fit the criteria they were looking for in an enrichment material. In what are called farrowing rooms, controlled testing was conducted with compressed algae and different available materials. As it turned out, the algae material was a hit more often than not with the pigs.
So, what does all this mean? Algae can be substituted for other sources and become a new pig enrichment material. In case you’re wondering, weaners, growers and finisher pigs were used in the study. If you’re not familiar with pigs beyond owning one as a pet, this probably means nothing to you, but farmers and those that raise the animals for the pork industry might find this interesting. But if you are a pet pig owner, this subject may be something you want to learn more about to see if the material might possibly be something you want to introduce into your little piggy’s life.
Dietary Requirements for Pigs
A lot of people tend to allow their pet pigs to act as garbage disposals for food wastes. This isn’t really a good idea. Sure, you’re not fattening them up to consume one day, so it’s not like you have to worry about eating the byproduct of an animal that’s been raised on an unhealthy diet. But, like with all animals that are kept in the care of a human, it would be far kinder and certainly more responsible to ensure that they receive the kinds of foods that are best for them and their health. After all, your little piggy is not going to market; he or she is your pet.