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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Methods of Procuring Balanced Swine Diets

Livestock Update, May 1997

Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist - Swine, Virginia Tech

Feed costs make up 55% to 70% of the variable costs associated with swine production. For independent swine producers (yes, they do exist), an important decision that must be addressed is what means should be used to procure and prepare balanced diets for the various classes of swine in the operation. Indeed within the last two weeks, three questions on this subject have come in from Extension Agents and producers. Before accurate cost-benefit evaluations can be done, it is helpful to know what the primary alternatives for feed procurement and preparation are.

Alternative 1 - purchase a complete feed. With this program the producer transfers full responsibility of feed preparation and quality to a commercial feed mill and concentrates management efforts strictly on the swine herd. Purchased complete feeds may be hauled from the mill by the producer, but in most cases are delivered by the commercial mill to the farm. Commercial complete feeds are usually handled in bulk quantities for delivery into hopper-bottom feed tanks for transfer into the swine facilities. However, some specialty complete feeds such as complex pre-starter feeds are usually purchased as bagged product. Because many commercial mills are equipped with pellet mills, many commercial complete feeds are purchased in pellet form.

Alternative 2 - purchase a complete supplement or complete concentrate and prepare feeds on the farm. A complete supplement is a feed product that contains the necessary protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to be mixed with the producers ground grain in specified proportions to prepare a complete feed. For example a commercial 40 % swine supplement could be purchased and mixed with ground corn or milo in a ratio of 1625 lbs. of ground grain and 375 lbs. of complete supplement per ton to make a 14 % crude protein finisher diet. Complete supplement may be purchased in bulk or bags but, because larger operations would utilize significant quantities of supplement, it is typically purchased in bulk.

Alternative 3 - purchase a swine base mix and prepare feeds on the farm. The term base mix refers to a swine feed supplement designed to provide adequate macrominerals (principally Ca, P and salt in the case of swine), trace minerals (Mn, Zn, Fe, Cu, and selenium) and vitamins (vit. A, vit. D, vit. E, vit. K, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, biotin, vit. B12, and maybe folic acid) when added at manufacturer's suggested rates to the producer's mixture of ground grain and protein source (usually soybean meal). Typical, but not universal, addition rates for swine base mixes are 50 to 100 lbs. per ton. For example a formulation may call for 350 lbs. of soybean meal plus 1600 lbs. of ground corn plus 50 lbs. of swine base mix per ton to make a 14% protein hog finisher diet. It should be noted that some base mixes also contain some protein supplying products and (or) synthetic amino acids like lysine. The purpose of the added amino acids would be to increase the density of certain limiting amino acids such as lysine in the finished feed while reducing the need for exceptionally high levels soybean meal.

Alternative 4 - purchase vitamin and trace mineral premixes, either separately or in a combined package, and make feed on the farm. These products are designed to supply the necessary supplemental vitamins and trace minerals when blended with the producer's ground grain, protein supplement (usually soybean meal) and calcium and phosphorus supplements (usually dicalcium phosphate or monocalcium phosphate and feed grade limestone [i.e. calcium carbonate], and salt. Addition rates for vitamin or vitamin plus trace mineral premixes typically range from 3 to 8 lbs. per ton of diet. For example, a ton batch 14% crude protein finisher diet might consist of 1631 lbs. of corn, 321 lbs. of soybean meal, 16 lbs. of limestone, 22 lbs. of dicalcium phosphate, 7 lbs. of salt, and 3 lbs. of vitamin- trace mineral premix. (If the recommendation calls for a few more lbs. of vitamin- trace mineral premix, simply substitute such small quantities for corn in the formulation). To increase amino acid density in such a program, some producers may add synthetic amino acids to the diet. For example synthetic lysine could be added at a rate of 1 to 3 lbs. per ton and the soybean meal addition rate could be reduced by about 40 to 80 lbs. per ton depending on the target protein and amino acid levels for the finished feed.

For obvious reasons the use of purchased complete feeds is the most convenient and requires the least amount of time and management of any alternative. Certainly some cost must be associated with transfer of responsibility for feed manufacturing to a commercial mill. Progressively more of the feed manufacturing responsibility and quality risk is assumed by the producer with the complete supplement system followed by the base mix system and the premix system. With the premix system, the producer must maintain a substantial inventory and greater variety of ingredients. The ability to accurately weigh and thoroughly mix feed ingredients also becomes increasingly important as producers assume a greater share of feed manufacturing responsibility.

In general, making feed on the farm for young (2 to 4 weeks of age), light starter pigs should be discouraged. Proper diets for the young starter pig are typically more complex (containing whey, fish meal, dried skim milk, blood meal, blood plasma, synthetic amino acids, etc.) and usually give the best results when fed in pellet form. However, the amount of these expensive complex starter feeds fed should be carefully budgeted and controlled to avoid excessive feed costs.

Also, producers should be aware that when making sow feeds on the farm with commercial complete supplements, base mixes, or premixes, the manufacturer directions may indicate that a separate "sow add pack" be included to meet all the nutrient needs of gestating or lactating sows or a special "lean hog pack" for market hogs known to be of a high lean growth genotype.

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