Monday, January 12, 2015

The Truth about #RealPigFarming - Real Feed Content

Lately there has been a lot of misinformation available about production agriculture, and particularly in the swine segment, so I want to try and clear up some issues.  Welcome to my new mini-series, "The Truth about #RealPigFarming"! I'm happy to have you along.

One thing we do is keep a lot of pigs happy.  This picture was taken two summers ago on one of our breeding lots.  You heard that correctly - some of our pigs do live outside for periods of time.  Also, before you ask, that pink stripe on their backs is from when we were sorting them from a bigger  group.  It is a washable spray paint.  It is called livestock marking spray.  All it takes is a good dew or a light rain to start washing it off. 

Now to the feed.  There is a misconception that since pigs today look more fit, and gain weight faster than in ages past, that we must use hormones in their feed. 

THIS COULD NOT BE MORE FALSE.  On a side note, pork in the United States is grown without the use of growth promoting hormones.  The same goes for all poultry.

What on earth makes up this fluffy stuff we feed pigs?

Our rations vary a little.  Whether it is feed for piglets learning to eat ground feed, nursery pigs, finishing hogs, or any of the breeding herd, all of our groups of animals have different dietary needs, so we address them accordingly. 

 Morning trip to pick up feed ingredients - it does take a while to use all of that.

On the farm we keep a supply of certain things that go into feed.  The most important of these the are the amino acids, Threonine, Methionine, and Lysine.  After that, we have Vitamin E.  We also have the various things that change, or are only in some of the rations, such as Mecadox, which is a medicated feed that helps against a sickness and is part of our vaccination program, Selenium, BMD, and Pennchlor 50G are all used on and off for specific purposes.  These help to assure that our hogs are in the best health possible.  These all go in a feed mixture at often less than a pound per ton of feed (depending on the feed additive).

The next step in our feed ration is a base mix.  On our farm we use a few different feed base mixtures.  For our pigs, we use Land O'Lakes' Eco Care series base mixes.  We begin with what is called a 250 base, then shortly after we go to a 350 (these are just different levels of a mix for a growing pig).  The next step is the regular EcoCare Base Mix.  I'm not sure what the official name/classification of it is, but we have a mini-bulk bin of it for loading into the feed grinder.  Again, this does not make up much of the feed ration.  On a 4 ton feed mixture, we may be looking at 250 pounds of base mix at the higher end (I do not have the feed cards in front of me to be for sure, but it is not a large amount at all).  We have a separate bin market SWIBB (Southwest Indiana Breeders Base), and is the base mix used on all breeding stock feed.

The final two ingredients are soybean meal, which is where the pigs get most of the protein content in their feed rations, and corn.  The amount of soybean meal is proportionate to the pig's size and how fast it is growing.  For example, nursery pigs have a higher amount of soybean meal compared to hogs that are closer to being sold.  They get grow at a decreasing level - their size increases at a decreasing level (I am an ag economist by education, so I hope that makes sense to you).

The last, and largest part of hog feed is corn.  There isn't much explaining for that.  It helps dilute the vitamins and minerals. 
 Last fall's corn harvest

In the end, a feed ration for a hog is comparable to humans eating a plate of food that was carefully planned to have a well rounded diversity of foods that have a combined total health benefit to them. 

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I'm going to do a mini series called, "The Truth about #RealPigFarming," so stay tuned!

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