Dr. Russell Fent, Ralco Swine Technical Team Director
As swine nutritionists like to say, “You can’t monitor what you don’t measure.”
The pork industry is production revenue generated, meaning that measurement matters when getting the most from your operation. An important part of that equation is swine health, most significantly swine nutrition.
Many Producers Aren’t Changing Their Swine Diets Regularly
With improvements in swine genetics, advancements in technology and evolving feed prices, today’s producers should be regularly analyzing and updating their diets to see the greatest success for their operations. But not all producers take advantage of this opportunity. How can you know if your swine diet is up-to-date? Here are a few considerations:
How Often Are You Talking to a Swine Nutritionist?
We recommend touching base with your trusted nutrition professional about your herd regularly. The more conversations you have with a nutritionist, the fewer surprises that unfold in your herd’s health.
What Management Practices Have You Changed Lately—Have You Told Your Nutritionist?
Even the smallest change in management practices can impact your nutrition plan. For example, changing your piglet weaning age from 21 days to 24 days is a big deal, and that three-day gap suggests a change in diet or feed budget to accommodate the periods of growth the pigs are still encountering at their most vulnerable time.
Are You Appropriately Feeding Pigs Based on Changes Over Time?
From improvements in swine genetics to the meat quality of pork products, the swine industry is ever-changing, and swine diets need to keep up. The demand over time for higher weights and leaner tissue growth has been significantly achieved through differences in how we feed our pigs.
Monitor Your Swine Nutrition Inputs: Incoming Ingredients
Accurate feed evaluation is essential, as it ensures that optimal nutritional requirements are met without overfeeding nutrients, which leads to increased cost and waste. Producers should be monitoring their incoming ingredients on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.
PRO-TIP: Have you undergone a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) analysis on your feed ingredients? The nutritive value of grain or soybean meal varies due to factors like genetics, agronomics, harvest, storage and processing. NIR is a valuable assessment of nutrient fractions to confirm that your final diet rations are what the pigs need. Other factors to be aware of include mycotoxins and feed ingredient particle size.
Monitor Your Herd Outputs: Animal Performance
It is a best practice to analyze animal performance continually after sale. During this time, it is vital to ensure your pigs perform as expected for growth and overall animal health.
It is equally beneficial to calculate your Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC) to understand your investment in the animal. These numbers can directly assist in changes to swine diets with guidance from a swine nutritionist.
PRO-TIP: Research and field observations would show that monitoring water use is much more predictable and sensitive than monitoring feed intake, during the life of the pig. Monitoring water also takes little time to implement and maintain.
The moral of the story—don’t let your swine diets stay stagnant for too long. Build a relationship with a swine nutritionist and keep open lines of communication to guarantee your pigs are eating and performing their best.