Your swine operation is unique. It's unlikely that any other farm will have the same genetics, equipment, revenue plan and ingredient opportunities that you will. So shouldn’t your swine nutrition plan be just as tailored to your needs?
A diet built around your farm’s needs will help you meet your goals and create the greatest opportunity for success for your operation, leading to less waste and an increased focus on keeping every animal as efficient as possible.
You need to have the right team to make it happen. And just like you can choose the employees who work in your operation, you can also choose the nutritional experts who keep your best interest in mind.
Communication is Vital in Building the Right Swine Nutrition Plan
Producers should have a good working relationship with their swine nutritionists. It should be more than just an occasional contact —it should be an additional set of eyes for your operation. While they may work for or with a particular nutrition company, their motivation should help your farm succeed.
Measurement is important in ensuring that a swine diet is working efficiently, so having someone you can trust with your data is essential. If a nutritionist has information such as nursery and finish closeouts, they can optimize your nutritional formulations. That's why an open line of communication is so vital, and it should be with someone who views the success of your operation as important as meeting their own goals.
Your nutritionist should be easily accessible, and you should be meeting regularly. The more conversations you’re having, the more prepared you’ll be.
A Strong Relationship with Your Nutritionist is the Difference Maker
What are some of the benefits of having a nutritional expert that’s looking out for you? Here are a few real-world examples:
1. An up-to-date nutrition plan
While having the same diet for several years may be convenient, nutritional technologies are always changing. That’s one reason why communication with a swine nutritionist is so essential. Regular diet reviews can keep you up to date with the latest research and technology.
Producers should be analyzing their diets regularly. Even the slightest change in management practices can impact your nutrition plan. And with the regularly evolving demands of the pork market—ranging from higher weights to leaner meat—swine diets must change to keep up.
Accurate feed evaluation is crucial, as it ensures that optimal nutritional requirements are met without waste. Closeouts are a great time to analyze herd performance, growth and overall health.
2. A swine diet built for your genetics
Each genetic line sold today has different nutritional needs and feed intake levels that impact the herd’s performance. If you're buying good genetics, you need to pay the same level of attention to the animal's nutrition.
A high lean gain diet being fed to a moderate lean gain hog is more nutrient-dense than the animal can take advantage of - making it a waste of your feed dollars. Feeding a moderate lean gain diet to high lean gain hogs is a waste of the genetic investment. High-quality genetic lines are bred for better performance—but that only happens if you’re feeding those genetics properly.
If you want a hog to grow optimally, you need to feed it at that same level — the feed density should match the animal’s requirements. A producer and their nutritionist should be monitoring animal performance to see if any adjustments would benefit their high-level potential. Inefficient feed is wasted nutrition and wasted money.
3. A strategy for managing ingredient availability concerns
Swine producers must constantly be watching their ingredients and adjusting diets accordingly. A swine nutritionist should be able to help keep your herd on track when the necessary components are in short supply. They will know the best replacements for products that are unavailable and can help you prepare ahead of a shortage. For example, when high prices are causing a producer to consider purchasing less supplemental fat, a good nutritionist can help find alternative sources for energy.
When helping producers make decisions on swine nutrition, it is easy to look at the cost per pound of gain of a pig, but that metric isn't as accurate as Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC). The price of an additive should not be the sole factor when deciding to use it. A cheaper product may save some money, but if the animal doesn't meet its gain goals, the lower quality product makes for an overall loss. Knowing their IOFC means producers can make the right changes for the financial success of their operation.
4. A diet that addresses the challenges you face
Every farm has its challenges. Behavioral issues, such as tail and ear biting, can often be addressed through nutritional supplements and diet adjustments. Disease concerns—from E. coli to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) or hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS), can often be addressed preemptively and in-season through a good nutrition program that supports the herd’s overall health and stress management.
But variation in animal size is an issue that can limit your operation’s success. Underweight pigs at finish can indicate a nutritional deficit that needs to be addressed. A good nutritionist will suggest you take a holistic look at variation, not just measuring finish closeout, but also nursery closeout. Tailoring diets to the bottom segment of the herd and improving their performance is often a measurable way to work on overall consistency.
5. A nutritional plan your mill can achieve
Your milling capabilities can impact how well you can meet your herd’s nutritional needs. Knowing what your mill can do well makes it easier to create a diet plan that can be properly executed.
If you’re adding vitamins and trace minerals (VTM) by hand to a base mix mill, a complete mix may provide a more accurate blend for your herd, saving on time and labor. Also, if your mill can’t meet the quantity of feed needed for each phase, it might be helpful to see what solutions can be implemented to optimize the herd’s nutrition.
The mill’s ability to manufacture the correctly balanced diet will be vital for feeding your pigs successfully. No amount of research does you any good if you can’t put the plan into your feeders.
6. A program that meets your revenue goals
Understanding how you make your money can help a nutritionist maximize your revenue potential. Many producers look specifically at the cost per pound of gain, but it’s just as important to consider the potential for overall profit. Some buyers provide incentives for certain attributes, such as higher lean. Developing feed budgets with these goals in mind can make a significant difference in your bottom line.
A commodity nutrition program lowers the cost of production but generally means you’ll get basic commodity prices for the animals you produce. A more specialized swine nutrition plan that encourages more desirable carcass traits can lead to opportunities for higher premiums. You can’t achieve those goals when you’re feeding the same program everyone else uses.
Having a slightly higher cost per pound of gain because of a specialized diet can lead to an increase in revenue, thanks to the higher sale value. You may see an increase in production cost, but it can be compensated by selling the pigs at a higher premium price.
The Ralco Difference
At Ralco, our goal is to help swine producers get the most out of every dollar of their nutrition budget. Our team of swine experts knows what it takes to keep your herd performing at peak productivity, no matter what your production goals entail. We aren’t just another name on a list of suppliers—we want to be a partner in your decision-making, taking your operation’s specific needs and opportunities into account.