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Lesson 3: Nutrition

There are several feed mixing strategies and feed processing options available to small-scale swine producers.

On a percentage basis, most of the feed used for a swine production enterprise goes into finishing pigs from 50 pounds (about 10 weeks of age) up to slaughter weight. During this period pigs typically require about 3 pounds of feed per pound of gain. So if the pigs are sold or slaughtered at 275 pounds (about the national average), they will consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 675 pounds of feed each.

One of the largest expenses for livestock operations is feed, so utilizing lower cost forages for swine can result in a great savings in feed costs. Here is some information on how forages can be incorporated into a swine operation.

Gestation is the name given to the period of time after breeding and before farrowing. During gestation, fertilized embryos travel to the sow's uterus, where they attach to the uterine lining. These attachments will eventually form umbilical cords through which the developing piglets get nutrients for growth from the sow. During the 114 days between breeding and farrowing, each of the microscopic embryos (up to 15 or more) grows into a piglet weighing 2.5 or 3 pounds!

The nutritional requirements of weaned pigs change rapidly from the time piglets are three weeks old until they reach 45 or 50 pounds. At three weeks, pigs are accustomed to a milk-based diet. By 10 weeks of age, they can digest the same types of grains fed to older pigs.

Lactation is the process of making milk - in this case for the piglets to eat. Sow’s milk provides the best nutrition there is for young pigs. It is high in protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals that baby pigs need to grow and thrive.

Pigs (and any other animal for that matter) require a balanced mixture of nutrients in order to grow and produce. This fact sheet will discuss nutrients, in what feeds nutrients are found, and ways to mix feed to meet a pig’s nutrient requirements.