by Jason Lackey, Sure Champ Pig Specialist and Lackey Livestock
Feeding pigs can become a complicated, often frustrating, process with all of the feed and supplement options available – but it shouldn’t be. One of the things I was taught at a young age was that when feeding livestock of any specie, you should keep it simple. The nutritionists who formulate these products are intelligent and have created rations and supplements designed to help you obtain specific results. All you have to do is understand HOW to use these products to maximize the potential of your project.
Begin with a goal in mind for each animal in your barn. That goal should include the target show and desired weight. Desired weight should be determined by age and individual growth pattern. Knowing this will allow you to calculate how much gain is required to achieve that goal. Keep in mind, that once a pig reaches approximately 180 lbs., they should gain 2 lbs. per day.
In my experience, hand-feeding pigs has worked better compared to putting them on a self-feeder. This enables us to know exactly how much they are consuming each day and monitor the aggressiveness of their appetite.
During their growing phase (70-180 lbs.), a base diet is really all a pig needs to perform. Many supplements sound tempting at times, but much like humans, additional or unnecessary energy too early in a pig’s diet can create more detriment than benefit.
While feeders spend much of their time evaluating what they can see (muscle, condition, and soundness) they do not take into consideration what they can’t see and how internal health ultimately affects your goals. If a pig becomes ill or has a setback, time and gain is lost. When you only feed pigs for a few short months and have a goal to reach 260-270 lbs., time and gain is everything.
In order to avoid setbacks, Sure Champ® has been our operation’s secret to proactive digestive health for a long time. It helps pigs stay healthy and endure the stress we elicit throughout the feeding phase. We take comfort in knowing we are providing a supplement that aids in keeping their gut health at peak condition which translates to keeping them healthy and eating aggressively. Again, time and gain is all we have and if they aren’t eating – we aren’t winning.
Closer to show time, there are different ways to alter your pig’s composition. You can either add additional supplements or adjust protein levels to enhance or improve certain areas of your pig. These adjustments need to be made on a case-by-case basis. Always lean on an expert to help you decide when and how those changes should be made. Monitoring your pig’s weight routinely and being able to feed them into a show, rather than hold them to meet weight, is very important. This allows an advantage in freshness and comfort, and typically can only be achieved by planning ahead.
The bottom line is that if you set goals early in the feeding phase and take a proactive approach to keeping your animals healthy, your potential for success will increase greatly. Keep your base feed simple, consider what is going on inside of your pig as much as you consider what’s happening on the outside, use enhancing supplements wisely and pay attention to change as it occurs.