My pigs have a nutritionist

I had an appointment with my chiropractor today, I’ll call her Kate. Kate has been treating me for whiplash I received in a car accident a few months ago right before we left for vacation in Arizona.

After car accident

the car didn’t fair so well

During our visits I have gotten to know my chiropractor a little bit and when we first met we did some general chit chatting about what I do for a living and what my husband does.  Visit after visit we always end up on the subject of  farming and food; I would say Kate is very health conscious and does a lot of research to determine what foods are best for the body. During my visits and conversations I found out she actually doesn’t eat pork, except bacon, and would like to limit her dairy intake. Even through we both have different ideas on what healthy is we both have agreed that what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for the next and its great that we have so many different options in our food choices.

Today Kate asked me how my day was going and I stated today I was going out to meet with a client and that this visit was a little unique in that we were also meeting with the producers veterinarian and nutritionist. This brought on a great conversation about raising livestock that I would like to share with you.

Every day thousands of livestock farmers get up early to feed their animals, trust me on the early part my father-in-law was up before 4:00 AM today so he could get ingredients so he could make feed. There is a lot that goes into making food for the hogs (or feed as we call it), we don’t just guess what the pigs need or feed them any old thing but actually work with a nutritionist.

Yup, a nutritionist very similar to that which a person would work with but instead these individuals have a Masters degree or PhD in Swine Nutrition and each species has a different nutritionist: beef, swine, dairy, etc. A Swine Nutritionist has studied in-depth about the growth and development of pigs and what specifically their body needs to grow and develops/formulates rations for the animal. For example, lysine is a very important part of a diet for pigs and is not as important in other livestock diets, so lysine is added in the correct levels to their diets. As pigs grow they require different diets/rations to help meet their nutritional needs, most pigs will eat anywhere between 6-12 different rations!

Ground swine feed

sow (mama pig) feed is high in protein and energy so they can make milk to feed their babies

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband works on the farm for his family where they raise pigs. Our farm works with a nutritionist to formulate rations and we are also unique in that we have a research farm where we test different types of diets and have developed rations that are specific to the genetics of our pigs. Why? Well, because different types, or breeds, grow and develop differently then others.

I can’t tell you exactly what percentage of producers work with a nutritionist but I would be inclined to say 95% of producers in the U.S. work with one. I won’t say 100% because there are still a few people raising a handful of pigs in their backyard and feeding them table scraps.

What questions do you have about feeding pigs, leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer them.

Planting and Pigs

The farm has been busy for the last week. Why? Because its planting season! I wrote about planting my garden last week and about tillage work. My husband has been helping with tillage work at the farm and here is his view from the cab.

tillage

This piece of equipment we refer to as a ripper.

In addition to tillage work happening at the farm, we are busy planting!

Filling up with seed

Filling up with seed

Behind the pickup is a seed tender, its pretty much a trailer that they can put big plastic bins of seed on and an auger puts seed  into the boxes. The other option is to get your seed in 50lb bags and load each box bag-by-bag.

Just like different varieties of plants in a garden, there are different varieties of corn all with different traits and maturity dates (days until harvest).  The farm plants a handful of varieties and will use the corn raised to help feed the pigs.

Today it was 100°F at the farm and that means extra work. Kyle got up this morning at 5:00AM so he could get to the farm early for a few different reasons. One reason was so the sows would be done eating and digesting food long before it got too warm. The second reason was to make sure all of the cool cells were working, since this is the first hot day since last fall you never know if things are still going to work the way they should and its vital to keep the pigs cool.

A cool cell is like air conditioning for the barns, they utilize evaporative cooling to reduce the temperature in the barns by 8+ degrees. Unlike the expression “sweat like a pig”, pigs can’t actually sweat so they rely on their environment to help regulate their body temperature. Pigs, just like people, can have heat related problems like heat stress. Pork producers really don’t like really hot days, they worry about the pigs but certainly are glad they have the pigs in barns and not out in the sun (pigs get sunburns like people) where they have more problems with overheating.

Stay cool, I know the pigs are!