Swine

Be Picky About Your Pig Feed

Traditional : Nutritional

Mariela Lachmann, Ph.D.

Senior Nutritionist, Swine Technical Solutions

Scraps or grain-only diets are not the best pig feed. 
 
Choosing the right feed is an important part of raising pigs. Like humans, pigs’ bodies and health are highly influenced by what they eat. Providing a quality pig feed can support your pigs’ well-being, as well as your goal of producing nutritious pork for your family.
 
A well-balanced diet for pigs includes energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients to support your pigs’ growth, health and development. How much of these nutrients your pigs need depends on several factors, including life stage, weight, breed and environment. Many pig owners depend on a complete feed as a convenient way to provide a balanced diet for pigs in any life stage or environment.
 
Energy for pigs
Pigs need energy to grow and be active. Common sources of energy in pig feed include cereal grains, grain byproducts and fats such as corn oil or soybean oil. The amount of energy pigs need can vary by age or environment. For example, pigs raised in locations with extreme weather might need extra energy to maintain their body temperatures.
 
Protein for pigs
Proteins are made of combinations of amino acids, and they are not all the same. Pigs have specific amino acid needs to help support everyday body function, such as digestion, muscle development and growth.
 
One amino acid, lysine, plays a bigger role than others. Lysine is an amino acid commonly limited in grains, but essential for body function. Without enough lysine, your pigs can’t efficiently use the other essential amino acids in their feed for optimal development. Diets of only corn and soybeans might provide limited lysine – less than needed to support optimal pig nutrition – while other non-essential amino acids may exceed the amount needed. 
 
Think of amino acids as bricks and mortar working together to build a wall. Imagine the supplier delivered too many bricks and not enough mortar. Even if the bricks were in perfect condition, they would go to waste because you can’t build a wall without cementing the bricks together.
 
In a grain-only diet, the “mortar” would be the lysine, and the “bricks” represent the other amino acids. Your pig can only use the other essential amino acids if he is consuming enough lysine. Excess amino acids would go to waste if you weren’t feeding enough lysine.
 
Vitamins, minerals, botanicals and other functional components
Botanical, or plant-based, ingredients in a complete feed can be beneficial for pigs. Botanicals can enhance flavor and support digestion.
 
Vitamins and minerals help with skeletal and immune system development and help your pigs feel active. Fiber helps support pigs’ gut development and maintenance of the digestive function. Finally, pigs must have access to as much fresh, clean water as they want to drink.
 
While corn and soybean meal are common in pig diets, they alone will not provide optimal nutrition throughout all life stages. However, as part of a complete feed, these key ingredients combined with other sources of protein, energy, fiber, botanicals, vitamins and minerals will help you enjoy a successful pig-raising experience.
 
An easy way to help ensure your pigs are getting what they need at any phase in their lives is to feed a complete, pelleted feed made with quality sources of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
 
How do you know you’ve picked the right feed for your pigs? Watch them! Healthy, comfortable pigs are alert and curious. They have bright eyes, and consistent appetites. When you are providing quality nutrition, your pigs’ actions will tell you.