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Introduction to Feeding Swine

Right now there is about 86,000 pork operations, compared to a little over 3,000,000 in 1950. What we’re seeing in the pork industry is pretty much typical of what we are seeing in all other agricultural industries, people are getting bigger and the small guy is going away. Eighty percent of the hogs that are grown, are grown on farms that produce 5,000 or more hogs a year. And then I just reiterate, that feed represents about 75% of the cost of production.

Smithfield Foods is a big, multi-country corporation. It is the world’s largest vertically integrated hog operation in the world. Vertically integrated means they have their hands on control of every aspect of production, from the breeding stock, to the starter, grower, finisher phases, to the packer and even in some cases, to the butcher, the guy at the meat counter that’s selling you the product. They have over 700,000 sows. The number I’d like to have stick in your mind is they produce 12,000,000 market hogs annually.

Why does all of this matter? Why am I talking about this in a ration formulating class? Basically, because these market influences have driven the industry to become an all confinement, high-intensity rearing type of a production system. Most of these pigs don’t even see the outside environment at all, they just go from one brick building to the next brick building and in a very concentrated fashion. Why is this important? It really dictates how we are going to feed these animals and how we feed these animals are going to be important for management concerns. For example, what is Smithfield going to do with the manure from 12,000,000 hogs? It has to go somewhere and it’s a huge problem. A lot of people are starting to develop negative opinions of the animal industry because they live near these growing operations and they see what’s happening to their water quality, they have odor issues, etc. Also, what’s Smithfield do with all that unwanted fat? You've got to trim it off the meat cuts because people don’t want pay for it at the meat counter. Where is it going to go? It costs you money to pay someone to trim it and it costs you money to get rid of it.

Finally, how can ration formulation actually relate these management issues and that’s kind of the whole reason for studying what we are going to study today and Wednesday. I threw this cartoon of a pig up here just because it is monogastric, it’s got a simple stomach. We have been talking about ruminants, so I just wanted to kind of remind you guys of the subtle differences, I guess they are not really subtle.

Simple stomach, it goes into the small intestine where you have kind of the triumpherate of digestive organs. You have the small intestine and then you’ll have a liver and a gall bladder. They will work together to do about 90 to 95% of the digestion and absorption that is going to occur in these animals. You can get some hindgut fermentation back here in the cecum and colon. However, absorption is very minimal from the hindgut, so it really contributes very little to bioavailability.

The main things I would like to highlight are you really can’t feed high fiber diets to a pig. They don’t handle it very well. You have to have highly digestible carbohydrate sources for energy. And also you have to have a high quality protein ration. They cannot synthesize the essential amino acids from either a poor quality protein or from non-protein nitrogen sources.

This table, I included it just because it is a great summary of all the nutrients that are required for growing pigs.

Nutrients Needed by the Pig
Essential Amino Acids
Essential Fatty Acids
Arginine Linoleic Calcium Iron Vitamin A Thiamine
Histidine Linolenic Phosphorus Zinc Vitamin D Riboflavin
Isoleucine   Magnesium Copper Vitamin E Niacin
Lysine   Sodium Selenium Vitamin K Pyridoxine (B6
Methionine   Potassium Iodine   Biotin
Phenylalanine   Chloride Manganese   Vitamin B12
Threonine   Sulfur Molybdenum   Folic Acid
Tryptophan         Pantothenic Acid
Valine         Choline
          Vitamin Ca
aAlthough vitamin C can be synthesized by the pig, research evidence suggests that the early-weaned pig may require a supplemental source in the diet for a short period postweaning.


We have our ten essential amino acids. You wouldn’t have to memorize all these for the exam. There is going to be a couple I will highlight in our talk and those would probably be the ones that you would want to remember. Essential fatty acids. And then your macro/micro minerals and your vitamins. The point is, when you are feeding a pig, you want to satisfy these requirements by feeding concentrates and you are probably going to be a little more concerned or diligent about making sure these are appropriate compared to feeding a ruminant animal.

I put this slide up basically just to make sure that we are all on the same page in case you are not familiar with pork production systems.

The various production phases, I didn’t put farrowing or nursing stage on here and probably won’t talk about it at all. Basically, starter pigs, growing pigs, etc. they’re from phases that are defined by body weights. This is kind of important because what the industry does is what is called phase feeding. We’re going to match our diet to the stage of growth. Hopefully, you will gain a better appreciation for why their requirements actually do change. That is why I put this graph up. If you could ignore the dotted lines and just concentrate on the solid ones. Basically, we have pig weight, down on the bottom axis, and this is our relative rate of tissue accretion and it is for three of the most economically important tissues, muscles, fat and bone. Bone, you are obviously not going to eat it but if you have poor skeletal system you are not going to end up with a pig that you can actually sell at market.

I just want to highlight that if you look at the growth stages again as a function of weight. Down here we have nutrient requirements and they’re basically going to change for each weight class. Why are they going to change? I am trying to relate it back to what is going on with the carcass of the pig. Young pigs, you have rapid bone growth and rapid muscle growth and really kind of relatively minor amounts of fat being put on. The components of the gain for the young pig versus a market weight pig, you almost have the reverse. When you are talking about gain and a market weight pig, what you’re seeing is it’s mostly going to be fat with muscle and bone becoming less and less of a contributor to gain. Why is this important? We don’t want the fat, it is an unwanted commodity. We really would like to not have it there. And the commodity that we are actually going to sell is decreasing as the pig gets older relative to the rest of the body.

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