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Basic Swine Nutrition For Ukrainian Farmers Who Mix Rations at Home and Want High Performance.

The purpose of this article on formulating swine rations is to address the apparently standard practice followed by too many Ukrainian hog raisers of feeding only grain to their pigs during all stages of the animal's life cycle without the necessary added supplements. I want to show (1) what this costs in lost production and (2) present some basic swine nutrition principles that can be used to, at least partially, balance the rations and increase animal performance and profitability. I will also (3) present some sample rations for growth, finishing, gestation and lactation. The emphasis will be on (4) using mostly local readily available ingredients and (5) feeding for a profit. It will take some active involvement from the reader in order to learn and to use the following information.

To formulate a ration you need to know and do three things:

  1. Determine the nutrient requirements of the animals you are feeding. Remember that an animal's nutrient requirements change during different stages of its life-cycle, such as during gestation, lactation and the various stages of growth. Different rations containing different concentrations of nutrients are therefore required for each stage. With swine, seven to 13 different rations are suggested. The main nutrient changes needed in the diet are in the required level of protein (specifically the amino acids) and the levels of calcium and phosphorus. The requirement for the other major minerals (such as salt), trace minerals and vitamins when expressed as a percentage of the diet remains about the same for growing and finishing pigs. The requirement for protein, calcium and phosphorus decreases as the animal grows in body weight. The economic reason to formulate and feed different rations as the animal matures is that the rations for older pigs cost less to produce than those formulated to meet the higher nutrient requirements of younger pigs. Feeding a ration formulated for a starter pig doesn't harm a finishing pig but it usually costs too much and isn't economical.
  2. Determine the nutrient content of the available ingredients that you will be using. This can usually be determined from a table showing the nutrient composition of various feedstuffs. I include one later. Since feedstuffs may vary in nutrient content from one year to the next, from region to region and due to different agronomic practices (fertilizers), it is a good idea to analyze the major ingredients, particularly any whose nutrient content you question. I have shown average figures found in the USA. Be sure of the accuracy of the feedstuffs you use as all our calculations depend on using correct figures. Good animal performance from the rations we calculate of course depends upon these nutrient values being correct. Be particularly suspicious of prepared rations, including concentrates and vitamin-mineral supplements. You can't tell what a ration contains by looking at it but your animals will tell you whether or not the ration is adequate by their performance. The buyer of the nutrient deficient feed may be fooled until the feed is fed to the pig but then the truth will become obvious. You can't fool a pig into thinking it is being nutritionally well fed when it isn't. Be sure you are feeding nutritionally adequate rations to your animals.
  3. Combine the ingredients in such a way as to satisfy the nutrient requirements for each stage of the life-cycle of the animals you are feeding. This should be done on a least-cost basis. It is done best (and a lot easier) on a computer with a feed formulation program run by an experienced animal nutritionist. We will show how the Ukrainian farmer can approximate the formulation of a balanced ration by using nutrition tables (nutrient requirements and sources), a small calculator, a sharp pencil and lots of paper, just like it was done before the widespread availability of computers. It seems like I grew up formulating rations this way. Thank God for computers. The rations presented have been formulated by hand. They won't be perfect but they will be much better than feeding grain with supplements. Learning to formulate rations by hand is recommended before doing it on a computer.

To begin our study first we need to determine the nutrient requirements for the various stages of the pig's life that we're going to feed. We'll work with the major nutrients (except for energy) but be very aware that there are many micro-nutrients, such as trace minerals, vitamins and individual amino acids (instead of total protein), to consider.

Suggested Dietary Nutrient Allowances for Swine
[As-Fed (90% Dry Matter) Basis]

NutrientBody Weight of Market Pigs in KilogramsBreeding Herd
Crude Protein2220181614131217
  There are other amino acids that are required.
Phosphorus, total0.650.600.500.470.450.400.600.60
Phosph., available0.400.320.
Trace Minerals, Parts Per Million
It is recommended that the sulfate form of the trace minerals be fed, except for iodine. Manganese oxide and zinc oxide can also be used as they are available sources of these two trace minerals for the animal. I prefer to use the sulfate forms of the trace minerals.
Vitamin A, IU/kg22001800130013001300130044002200
Vitamin D, IU/kg220220150150150150330330
Vitamin E, mg/kg1611111111114444
Vitamin K, mg/kg0.500.500.500.500.500.500.500.50
Riboflavin, mg/kg4.
Niacin, mg/kg1614141410101111
Pantothenic Acid, mg/kg111198771111
Vitamin B12, mcg/kg1816119661616
Choline, mg/kg55044033033033033013201000

A word of caution: There is a temptation when you don't understand something to dismiss it as not being important. When dealing with nutrition, this is a big mistake. You don't have to understand nutrition yourself but if you expect your animals to grow at their optimum potential, you need to have someone working with you who does understand it.

Ukrainians pride themselves on their patience and ability to survive on very little and under considerable adversity. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this philosophy carries over to the way most of their livestock is fed in Ukraine where the necessary supplements are not mixed into the feed. Pigs fed rations deficient in nutrients "can be tough" and may survive but they probably go to market at one year of age with a high percentage of fat and a low percentage of lean rather than reaching market in less than six months and producing a lean-type carcass. Either feed a complete ration or buy prepared concen-trates to mix with grain. The concentrate can contain protein or you can add it yourself.

If profits are expected to be made from raising livestock, they should be fed the proper rations. That is up to the feeder, so don't dismiss nutrition as not being important just because you don't understand it and are too lazy to learn it. Ignoring what the pig needs in order to grow optimally is a bad economic move that could land you in the poor house. Feeding them properly should be profitable. Hopefully, after reading and studying this report you'll understand nutrition better, understand why balancing rations is important if you expect to earn a profit and will be sure that the nutritional quality of the rations you feed is adequate. You'll have to work at it but it will pay big dividends. This is not a passive article but one that will require your active involvement. Let's work together!

Please study the above table that shows the nutrient requirements of pigs at various weights and for different production objectives. In practice, baby pigs should receive a "creep" ration available while nursing the sow. A creep ration is one that is not available to the sow and to which the baby pigs can "creep" away from her to eat. It should be in the pellet form and be manufactured by a feed company that specializes in creep rations, as they are complicated to formulate and to manufacture. Creep rations should contain special ingredients, such as porcine plasma, lactose, fishmeal, antibiotics, etc.

It is best if pre-starter rations (formulated for pigs 10 to 20 kg in body weight) are prepared by a feed company in the pellet form, but the expense of these rations may make that unfeasible. For the other stages in the life of the pig, the swine raiser or local feed company can manufacture rations in the meal form on which the pig should do well. As the ration fiber increases (barley, oats, etc.), pelleting becomes increasingly beneficial to the rate and efficiency of gain. Including five percent ground oats in the ration of young pigs may help them firm their manure (less scouring) but oats aren't recommended as the primary grain in growing and fattening hog rations because of their low energy content. Oats are O.K. and are actually recommended for use in gestation rations.

It isn't practical to use a separate vitamin and trace mineral premix for each of the various stages of the pig's life. Commonly, one vitamin-mineral premix is formulated that meets the nutrient requirements for younger pigs, with lesser amounts often added to the rations fed to older pigs. The breeding herd should have a separate vitamin-mineral premix from the growing pigs, as their dietary requirements are higher for some of the nutrients.

The trace minerals are fairly inexpensive. The above levels are minimums recommended. I would suggest supplementing the rations for growing and breeding pigs with 100 parts per million (ppm) of iron (depending upon the amount of iron supplied in the drinking water as too much iron is detrimental), 100 ppm of zinc, 20 ppm of copper, 25 ppm of manganese, 0.20 ppm of iodine and 0.3 ppm of selenium. It is now legal in the USA to add chromium to pig rations and I would recommend that it be added. Chromium is important for maintaining the blood sugar level and has been shown to increase the production of muscle in pigs. I take 200 mcg myself each day and feel it has helped in the maintenance of my blood sugar level. Some premixes contain cobalt, but this is considered unnecessary as the only known metabolic function for cobalt is as a part of the vitamin B12 molecule (cobalt makes up 4.4% of cyanocobalamine - vitamin B12) which the pig (a monogastric) cannot synthesize and therefore must be fed as vitamin B12. Ruminants can synthesize vitamin B12 from cobalt supplied in the diet, thanks to microbial action in their rumen.

If you can recover your money from the meat packer from doing so, you will want to add high levels of vitamin E to the rations fed to market hogs as this increases the shelf life of the meat. Since animal performance is not improved, the cost must be recovered from those who benefit, which means the seller and/or consumer of the meat.

Unless the premix is to be fed soon after mixing, the vitamin premix should be mixed and packaged separately from the trace mineral premix. When stored together, trace minerals can cause destruction of the vitamins, particularly if the premix gets wet or draws moisture. Vitamin-mineral premixes should be purchased from a trustworthy supplier. It isn't realistic to buy these micro-ingredients separately and mix them yourself.

Grain rations fed to pigs require added salt. It is best to add salt to the ration separately and not include it in the premix. Salt can draw moisture and destroy vitamins mixed with it. Mixing salt into the premix is just an extra mixing, sacking and distribution cost as salt is cheap, readily available and can be added easily to the final ration during mixing.

The recommended energy level of the diet is one that is similar to that of a corn-soybean meal ration. Fat can be added but if it is, all the other nutrients should be concentrated to offset this increase in energy density as nutrients need to be fed in relation to the energy level, not the weight of the feed. This is because the animal eats to fulfill its energy needs irregardless of volume. As the energy density of the ration goes up, the animal eats less feed. Therefore the other nutrients must be increased as a percentage of the ration so that the animal receives enough of them. Generally, adding fat is not economical.

Wheat and corn are about equal in metabolizable energy (ME). Giving them an index value for pigs of 100, barley would be rated 85, oats 80, beet pulp 70, wheat bran 70, soybean meal 84, canola meal 78, dehulled expeller sunflower meal 82, partially dehulled solvent sunflower meal 77% and sunflower meal with hulls probably less than 70.

Now that we know the nutrient requirements for various stages of the pig's life (step one), we need to take step two and look for sources of the required nutrients.

Selected Nutrient Levels in Various Feedstuffs on As-Fed (90% Dry Matter) Basis

Percent of Nutrient
Crude ProteinLysineMethionine + CystineTryptophanCalciumPhosphorus
Barley, grain 11 0.500.400.150.060.400.13
Barley, grain, Western100.370.380.140.040.350.12
Beet Pulp*, dried80.
Canola meal 352.21.100.400.601.100.27
Corn, grain80.250.360.
Fishmeal, average605.22.300.675.503.303.30
Linseed meal, expeller321.11.060.470.350.750.25
Milk, whole, dried252.21.000.400.900.720.72
Meat & Bone meal452.20.800.1811.005.905.90
Oats, grain110.40.400.180.100.350.14
Soybean meal, expeller422.71.000.580.200.600.20
Sunflower meal, dehulled421.72.200.500.401.000.25
   Partially dehulled**341.41.200.350.301.250.27
Wheat, grain, hard130.40.530.180.050.410.12
Wheat, grain, soft10.50.30.340.120.050.300.11
Wheat bran *

* Beet pulp and wheat bran are low in energy for pigs, containing about 70% of the energy value of corn. I've shown the nutrient values so we could look at the mineral levels.
** Sunflower meal containing all the hulls has about 80% to 85% of the values shown for partially de-hulled sunflower meal.

Sunflower meal that contains the sunflower seed hull should not be used for pigs, as it is too low in energy and too low in the amino acid lysine. Canola meal would be a better source and is usually about the same price as sunflower meal that contains the hulls. If there are sources of sunflower meal made from seeds that have been dehulled, sunflower meal can be considered for use as a protein supplement for pigs.

Now we're ready for the final step of combining the above feedstuffs to satisfy the nutrient requirements of the pig. Before we start formulating, to convince yourself that grain alone is not adequate for raising pigs during any stage of their life-cycle, please take time to look at the nutrient requirements for pigs of various ages and compare these requirements to the nutrients supplied by barley, corn and wheat. You can see that the cereal grains are deficient in almost all nutrients required by the pig except for energy.

We haven't shown energy. Assume that the energy level of the ration will approximate that found in a corn-soybean ration. The energy density of the ration is to swine performance what the octane level in fuel is to the performance of your car. Because of their low energy, we don't want to feed beet pulp, wheat bran or sunflower meal with hulls to pigs. Grains are low in most vitamins. Niacin in grain is unavailable to pigs.

Grain rations without supplements are particularly deficient in protein (more specifically lysine and other amino acids), calcium and available phosphorus. Animals will grow muscle only up to the amount supported by the available lysine and the other essential amino acids. Without adequate amino acids, any excess energy consumed will be used to produce fat while muscle growth is impaired. This results in a reduced loin eye area and increased back fat. This is not a desirable combination, particularly for Western tastes, and isn't good if you want to make money from raising pigs. Without the intake of adequate amino acids, the animal will reduce the amount of feed that it eats. It may take a year for the pig to get to market rather than six months. Sound familiar? There are no substitutes for amino acids. They're either in the ration (naturally or synthetically) or the animal doesn't perform well. Don't try to get by without them. Lysine and methionine can be commercially synthesized and added directly to rations, as we'll demonstrate later.

Grains are deficient in calcium. Without adequate calcium, bone growth is impaired. Ninety-nine percent of the body's calcium is stored in the skeleton. Phosphorus is present in every cell and required for energy transformations [high-energy phosphate bonds in adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) and adenosine di-phosphate (ADP)]. A deficiency of phosphorus reduces bone strength and limits animal gain. When the dietary intake of phosphorus consumed is greater than the intake of calcium (which is the situation when only grains are consumed), serious demineralization of bones will occur or they may not be adequately mineralized in the first place.

Humans that don't drink milk can easily be deficient in calcium. Since cereals and meat contain phosphorus but little calcium, humans that don't drink milk or consume other dairy products gradually de-mineralize their bones unless they obtain calcium from other sources. Older people, particularly post-menopausal women, are susceptible to low dietary calcium. Because of a long-term calcium deficiency, they often develop osteoporosis, have bent-over backs and walk and move with difficulty with a much lower quality of life. This is diet induced. Exercise also plays a role, as we'll discuss later.

Calcium intake should be high during early teenage growth so that bone density is optimized. Adults need adequate dietary calcium to retain the calcium in their skeleton. If inadequate calcium is consumed, particularly if the dietary phosphorus intake is too high, the body withdraws calcium from the calcium "bank" in the bones and uses it as a source of metabolic calcium to maintain the levels needed in the blood and soft tissues. We'll describe this condition, called "secondary hyper-parathyroidism," later.

Inactivity of the skeleton will also cause a loss of bone. Fortunately, when a limb is put into a cast, the muscles atrophy along with the bone so that both the bone and the muscles have to be rebuilt after the cast is removed. If the muscles remained strong while the bone is demineralized and grows weak, the muscles could break the bones. Bones are dynamic organs and strengthen according to how they are used and where the pressure is applied. Football and basketball players get their bones in shape as well as their muscles.

Astronauts in conditions of weightlessness lose bone because there isn't the normal stress applied to the bones such as occurs in walking and running on planet earth. If in space for very long, it is necessary for astronauts to do exercises inside (or outside) their space capsule that simulate the type of beneficial stress that bones receive while a person is being active and operating in a normal gravity situation. When I was in the U.S. Air Force responsible for space nutrition research, I worked on formulating rations for astronauts and testing them on human volunteers prior to the rations being fed by NASA to astronauts living in space. We were particularly concerned about bone loss. Consuming adequate calcium and phosphorus was only part of the problem. The skeleton needs hard work in order to stay mineralized. Get out of your chair and go for a run or lift some weights or do some push-ups! Or better yet, feed your pigs some nutritionally balanced rations and get your exercise carrying your money to the bank.

When you look at beet pulp, you discover that it contains no available phosphorus. In contrast, a look at wheat bran shows that it is much higher in phosphorus than calcium. Feeding an animal only wheat mill run (bran, middlings and screenings) will not allow bone growth or even survival of growing animals unless enough calcium is fed to balance the phosphorus level. If wheat bran is fed, be sure that limestone is added for calcium.

Part of my research at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) for my doctoral thesis was studying the effects of feeding only wheat mill run to growing rabbits with graduated levels of calcium carbonate (limestone or chalk) added to successive groups of experimental animals. Without added calcium, the rabbits didn't survive, mainly due to broken bones. With each increase in the dietary calcium level from added limestone, the animals did better until the calcium to phosphorus level reached a ratio of one to one, after which, there was no benefit to animal growth from adding more calcium to the diet. Increasing the dietary calcium level to a ratio greater than 1:1 to phosphorus, increased bone density. The wheat bran ration supplied over one percent total phosphorus while the requirement for good growth in rabbits is only about 0.25%. Rabbits can utilize more of the total phosphorus in grains than can pigs, as rabbits do a better job of breaking the phytate phosphorus linkages that make much of the total phosphorus in grains unavailable to monogastrics. Ruminants can also use most of the phytate phosphorus.

The importance of the calcium to phosphorus ratio should be taken seriously for man (as mentioned above) and his animals. Feeding only meat, particularly liver and kidney, to cats including lions and tigers in a zoo, without supplemental calcium will demineralize them. They don't usually eat much of the bone if meat is fed on the bone, so they need to get calcium someplace. Wild animals eat other animals, including the digesta in the gut, which in herbivores is mostly of grazing plant origin, which is usually high in calcium.

Feeding only wheat mill run to horses will demineralize them. This is sometimes called "bran disease" or "miller's disease" as the wheat miller sells the wheat flour but often feeds the bran to his horses. Adding limestone or ground seashells to the diet solves the problem. Horses fed only bran will die from broken bones if the calcium level of the diet is not increased to equal the dietary phosphorus level. The problem is also called "big head" in horses because the horse's head is demineralized and bone is replaced with fiber, making it much softer.

The problem from feeding too much phosphorus in relation to calcium is called "secondary hyper parathyroidism." The parathyroidism is "secondary" rather than "primary" because it is induced by diet rather than by the parathyroids malfunctioning on their own and secreting too much parathormone, which would be a "primary" cause. Secondary hyperparathyroidism occurs when the blood phosphorus level (diet induced when more phosphorus is consumed than calcium) becomes elevated while the blood calcium level drops below normal. The body doesn't like this situation and causes the parathyroid glands (located adjacent to the thyroid glands in the neck) to secrete parathormone. This mobilizes bone in order to obtain calcium to raise blood calcium while causing phosphorus to be excreted from the body. If continued, this results in the demineralization of the skeleton and the animal becomes a "jelly fish." Drink your milk!

Calcium from limestone (38% calcium depending on purity) is one of the cheapest ingredients God ever made, so there is no reason not to add calcium to swine rations when it is needed. When feeding limestone it is important to know the percentage of calcium in the limestone as the calcium level can vary substantially. Dolomitic limestones contain up to 10% magnesium and as little as 20% calcium. They're OK to feed but you obviously need to feed more of a dolomitic limestone than a limestone containing 38% calcium in order to obtain adequate dietary calcium.

In contrast to calcium, phosphorus is an expensive nutrient. Typical sources of phosphate are mono-dicalcium phosphate (16% calcium and 21% phosphorus) and dicalcium phosphate (20% calcium and 18.5% phosphorus). These must be feed grade sources that have been defluorinated, as fluorine is a poison when fed to animals except at very low levels. DO NOT use fertilizer grades of phosphate, as they may be high in fluorine.

Now the hard work begins. After studying the above tables, it is obvious that grains alone do not meet the nutrient needs at any stage of the pig's life-cycle. Therefore, for swine rations, grains need to be supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals! We also know that that is a true statement from practical experience that we can observe every day in Ukraine. How do we calculate the proper combinations of feedstuffs to meet the animal's needs? It is best if we use a computer but we can approximate some rations by doing hand calculations. This will require some concentration and hard work.

To determine ration costs, take your costs per ingredient times the amount of the ingredient used plus the mixing and delivery charges. This will be helpful in making budgets and business plans. Figure on a weight gain of 800 grams to hopefully 1000 grams per head per day with these rations. The amount of canola meal used in the sample rations is higher than usually recommended but since canola is so much cheaper than soybean meal in Ukraine, most feeders will use it at the higher levels shown. Replacing some canola meal with soybean meal may be advisable. Canola meal should not be fed to pigs weighing less than 20 to 30 kg. To receive a report on feeding canola meal to dairy, beef, swine and poultry, contact me at: E-mail: [email protected].

There is a helpful method for determining how to combine two ingredients to meet one nutrient level called a "Pearson Square." Here is how it works:

The two feedstuffs you choose to mixLevel of nutrientNutrient level wanted in mixSubtract diagonallyPercent of ingredientTest solution for chosen nutrient
Barley-Protein for example11% 42-16 = 2626/31 = 84%x 11% = 9 %
Soybean Meal, expeller42% 16-11 = 55/31 = 16%x 42% = 7%
 Totals= 31= 100%= 16%

The above equation shows that if we want to mix a ration containing 16% protein using barley and soybean meal, we must mix 84 parts of barley with 16 parts of soybean meal.

Next, we need to see if the above ration with 16% protein gives us enough lysine. The lysine content of barley is 0.5%. The lysine level in soybean meal is 2.7%, so:

Multiplying: 84% barley, grain x 0.5% lysine = 0.42 percent lysine from barley
16% soybean meal x 2.7% lysine = 0.43 percent lysine from soybean meal
Ration lysine content = 0.85 percent

A look at the requirements for protein and lysine for a 35 to 55 kg growing pig are 16% protein and 0.82% lysine, so the above ration meets the requirement for lysine. We prefer to be a little above the nutrient requirement levels, so in the later tables I have added a little extra for insurance.

How about the amino acids, methionine plus cystine?

Multiplying: 84% barley, grain x 0.40 = 0.34 percent methionine + cystine from barley
16% soybean meal x 1.00 = 0.16 percent methionine + cystine from SBM
Ration methionine + cystine content = 0.50 percent

The requirement for a growing pig weighing between 35 and 55 kg is 0.53% methionine plus cystine. If we increase the amount of soybean meal to 20% and decrease the barley to 80% of the ration, we will have 0.52% methionine +cystine in the ration. This will give us 0.94% lysine and 17.2 percent protein. It may be cheaper to add about 0.05% synthetic methionine to the ration and leave the barley at 84% and the soybean meal at 16% of the ration as soybean meal is very expensive in relation to barley.

Doing the same calculations for tryptophan shows that the above ration supplies 0.22% tryptophan in comparison to the requirement of 0.16%, so we're OK for tryptophan.

It is time to look at the calcium and available phosphorus levels. From the chart showing the nutrient analysis for various feedstuffs, we learn that barley contains 0.06% calcium and 0.13% available phosphorus and soybean meal contains 0.2% calcium and 0.2% available phosphorus. Taking these values times 84% barley and 16% soybean meal, we find that this ration would supply only 0.08 % calcium and 0.14% available phosphorus. The requirements for a 35 to 55 kg pig are 0.55% calcium and 0.21% phosphorus.

In this ration we need 0.42% more calcium and 0.07% more phosphorus. First we add dicalcium phosphate (18% phosphorus) to the ration to balance the phosphorus level. Dividing 0.07% by 0.18% shows that we need to add almost 0.40% dicalcium phosphate to the ration. With this addition, we also get 0.08% more calcium, leaving us still needing 0.34% calcium. We get this from limestone (38% Ca) by dividing 0.34 by 0.38, showing that adding 0.90% limestone to the ration will supply enough calcium.

Don't forget to add 0.35% salt to swine rations. We also need to add vitamins and trace minerals. We don't know how much space this premix package will take as it depends on its nutrient formulation and how much carrier is used. Let's guess at it being added at 1% of the ration. All these additions are done at the expense of grain, so the final ration for pigs between 35 and 55 kg in body weight using barley and soybean meal becomes:

81.30% Barley, groundPlease note: This ration is modified a little in the table of grower rations to take into account the loss of protein by removing grain for the premix. I also put in a little bit of extra supplements to give a margin of safety. I've left the ration as shown at left without changing it to avoid confusion with the above ration calculations.
16.00% Soybean meal, expeller
0.00% Lysine
0.05% Methionine
0.40% Dicalcium phosphate
0.90% Limestone (38% Ca)
0.35% Salt
1.00% Premix (vitamins and minerals).

If the vitamin-mineral premix, which should be purchased, contains what the pig needs, the above ration fed to pigs between 35 and 55 kg in weight should support gain at 800 and hopefully 1000 grams gain/day/pig until they reach market weight at 115 to 125 kg.

Ration ingredients should be weighed out on an accurate scale and mixed thoroughly so that the ration is homogeneous. Grains should be ground as fine as is practical as the rate and efficiency of gain improves as the fineness of the grain increases. It is not cost effective to cook grains or to feed rations wet. Feed and water should be fed separately and always available free choice. Pigs without water reduce their feed intake and this of course slows growth. Growing pigs should never run out of feed as they may take up nasty habits like cannibalism of the weakest pig by biting its tail and ears, sometimes enough to kill it. Once blood is available, cannibalism gets worse.

You can make the above calculations for each nutrient and multiply ingredients in a trial and error method. It of course gets really complicated, particularly since if you change the level of one ingredient in the ration you will also change the level of all the nutrients, making it necessary to start over with your calculations. When you throw in least cost considerations where the cost of each ingredient is used, it gets much more complicated. A computer is required for speed and accuracy of ration formulations.

From the nutrient table of feedstuffs shown we can determine that barley contains 11% protein and 0.5% lysine. Compare this to corn, which contains only 8% crude protein and 0.25% lysine. If we solve Pearson's Square for a 16% swine ration using corn and soybean meal, we find that it takes 76% corn and 24% soybean meal. When we multiply the amount of corn times 0.25 % lysine and soybean meal times 2.7% lysine we find we have a ration with 0.84 lysine, which meets the lysine requirement of 0.82%.

Depending upon the use of ingredients, the lysine requirement may not be met. For example, soft, white wheat has a low lysine content, with the lysine content being 2.85% of the protein in wheat. In comparison, barley contains 0.5% lysine with the lysine being 4.5% of the protein in barley. When barley is used to balance the protein level of a ration, more of the lysine requirement is met than when soft, white wheat is used. We know that if we don't supply enough lysine, the animal won't grow like it should. To achieve maximum gain, we know that we must find some more lysine. We can add it synthetically but perhaps we can find other ingredients that will supply adequate lysine.

The ingredient list shows that fishmeal contains 60% protein and 5.2% lysine. By trial and error we can determine how much fishmeal we need to add to meet the ration lysine requirement. This isn't quite as easy as it seems, as while fishmeal is high in lysine at 5.2%, it is also high in protein at 60%. Soybean meal is 42% protein with 2.7% lysine. Thus, when soybean meal is replaced by fishmeal to keep a constant percentage of protein in the ration, there is more soybean meal removed than fishmeal added (added grain makes up the difference). Since the lysine level expressed as a percentage of the total protein is not that much different for fishmeal (8.7%) than for soybean meal (6.4%), it takes a substantial replacement of soybean meal with fishmeal to meet the lysine requirement. It may be cheaper to add synthetic lysine. As a matter of comparison for later use, expeller canola meal is 35% protein with 2.2% lysine, making the lysine 6.3% of the protein. This percentage is similar to that found in soybean meal.

When soft, white wheat is used as the grain source in a 16% growing ration using soybean meal as the protein supplement, the lysine level is 0.74% versus a requirement of 0.82% lysine. The methionine plus cystine level (amino acids) is 0.45% versus a requirement of 0.53%. It takes about 0.15% synthetic lysine and 0.15% synthetic methionine to meet the requirement for these two amino acids, as is shown later in the table for possible rations for growing pigs. (The synthetic amino acid sources are not pure so I've allowed for this by suggesting the addition of a little more than the actual amount needed to meet the calculated amino acid requirement.)

From personal experience at Oregon State University (where I did research on swine nutrition as part of my work for earning a Masters Degree in animal nutrition), growing pigs fed rations with fishmeal added to rations using Western malting barley showed significant improvements in weight gain. Supplying adequate amino acids (particularly tryptophan) via fishmeal was thought responsible for the favorable improvement in weight gain as the tryptophan level in Pacific Northwest malting barley was considered to be low. There may have also been some other "unidentified growth factors" involved.

There are other feedstuffs that appear to contain a "growth factor" for pigs. Adding one percent dried whey to swine rations usually gives a boost to rate and efficiency of gain. Some yeast products and some "probiotics" may also have growth stimulating benefits.

We won't discuss adding antibiotics to swine feeds to stimulate growth and to reduce the incidence of diseases, but that is usually done and should be considered, particularly in large operations. Antibiotics should not be used to replace good sanitation procedures in the swine barn. Pigs need good ventilation without drafts to remove ammonia and other air-borne contaminants. Pigs should be wormed at weaning. At three days of age the baby pigs should receive an iron shot and they should be castrated.

The above examples show that a different formulation is needed depending upon whether the main grain is corn or barley. Barley is higher in protein and contains a better amino acid balance than corn, however barley is significantly lower in energy than corn. Depending on relative costs, it may be more profitable to feed corn and add the protein and/or amino acids needed to balance the ration. The energy value of barley is correlated with its density, which goes down as the percentage of hulls in relation to starch goes up. Plump barley will supply more energy than thin barley. Pay suppliers on quality to encourage them to supply quality ingredients that will help you to maximize your profits.

For rations of 18 and 16 percent protein fed to pigs weighing 20 to 35 kg and 35 to 55 kg respectively, it is best if the protein supplement is soybean meal. Soybean mean is available but it is expensive. In Western Ukraine, canola meal, when fed as directed, is an economically attractive alternative for soybean meal. The word "canola" is made from the contraction of "CANadian Oil Low Acid" - canola. This is a special variety of rapeseed developed by Canadian plant breeders, which is low in erucic acid and glucosinolates. Erucic acid is found in the oil and, while desirable for some industrial purposes, is toxic to animals. Glucosinolates remain in the meal and give it a "mustard -like" taste that depresses animal feed intake. It is also toxic to animals. With the erucic acid and glucosinolates bred out of the plant, rapeseed becomes canola. New pure seed needs to be obtained from a plant breeder and planted regularly (yearly?) as seed from commercially grown canola reverts to rapeseed and becomes undesirable for feed.

Canola oil has a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, which has been shown to be desirable for the reduction of heart problems and cancers in humans. Canola oil is used for human consumption and is thought to be more beneficial for one's health than is soybean oil, which has an unfavorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. (It is presently thought that typical diets for humans and animals are too high in omega-6 fatty acids in relation to omega-3 fatty acids than is desirable for good health. Oil from cold water fish and from flaxseed - linseed oil - is high in omega-3 fatty acids.)

Canola meal is a desirable protein supplement for animals when used as directed. It is not recommended for young pigs under 20 to 30 kg bodyweight. It should not be fed at levels as high as you would feed soybean meal. I used soybean meal to formulate the 18% and 16% swine starter and early grower rations but used canola meal in the 14% and 13% finisher rations and in the breeding rations - gestation and lactation. I am using it at levels a little higher than I would use if soybean meal were cheaper in relation to canola meal. For pigs weighing more than 55 kg, using canola meal in place of soybean meal will reduce feed costs and allow good results. The digestibility of the amino acids in canola meal are about 10% less than those in soybean meal so add more accordingly.

Since I'm using canola meal a little above the recommended levels, be sure it is very low in glucosinolates if fed at the higher levels that I show. If there isn't a big economic benefit (canola is pretty cheap in relation to grain), you may want to simplify your operation and feed the 14% protein ration right through to market. Pigs raised on the higher level of protein will produce a leaner carcass. I calculated rations using different grains for growing and finishing hogs and for gestating and lactating sows.

Hogs should be marketed when they begin to significantly reduce muscle growth and to increase fat deposition. Some simple caloric arithmetic tells us why. Pure fat contains nine kilocalories/gram, while protein contains four kcal/gram (as do carbohydrates). In addition, pork fat is about 75% dry matter while pork muscle is only about 25% dry matter, so when a pig is gaining weight because it is growing muscle, it is putting on a lot more weight from water accumulation than when it begins to fatten. Therefore, a pig depositing fat takes a considerably greater amount of feed to put on a unit of gain than if it is gaining weight because of muscle growth. A fattening pig becomes costly to feed.

Pigs switch from growing to fattening at different weights based upon their genotype and the nutritional adequacy of the ration. Therefore, pigs should be marketed based on their appearance rather than by their weight. When a pig begins to finish (put on fat and get "chuffy"), send it to market if you want to maximize profits. In the USA, a fatter pig will be discounted in price in relation to a leaner one. There may not be a dockage for overly fat pigs in Ukraine but the increased feed that it takes for them to gain a unit of weight is too expensive to feed them when they begin to deposit fat rather than to grow muscle.

I have hand-calculated rations of 18% and 16% protein using barley or corn and soybean meal. I formulated one 15% ration using soft, white wheat to show the need for supplemental synthetic lysine. I have also calculated rations containing 14 and 13% protein using either barley or corn and canola meal. In the table below I show these rations. If soft or hard wheat replaces barley (which would raise the energy level of the rations), I have suggested the amino acid additions needed to balance the rations.

The nutrient levels shown are compromised a little for a pen of both barrows and gilts. If the operation is large enough, gilts should be fed separately from barrows with the barrows fed a little less protein than the gilts and the gilts fed a little more protein during the growing-finishing phase than is shown in the accompany rations. In the following table I have "rounded up" the level of addition of feedstuffs supplying critical nutrients, so if your calculations don't quite match these, including the sample 16% barley ration given above, that may be the reason.

Rations that Meet Nutrient Requirements for Rapid Gain of Growing-Finishing Pigs

Ingredient Percent18% Protein16% Protein 14% Protein13% Protein
Barley72.85-0- 79.0-0- 82.3-0- 86.5-0-
Corn-0- 66.75-0-71.8 -0-74.25-0-77.5
Wheat, soft-0--0--0--0-77.75-0--0--0--0-
Soybean Meal2430182519-0--0--0--0-
Canola Meal-0--0--0--0--0-15231120
Limestone (38%)
Premix, Vit-Min111111111
Ration totals100100100100100100100100100
If soft wheat replaces barley in ration, add following levels of lysine and methionine
Lysine0.15 0.15  0.25 0.30 
Methionine0.15 0.10  0.10 0.05 
If hard wheat replaces barley, add following levels of lysine. No added Methionine
Lysine0.00 0.05*  0.15 0.15 
* Adding one percent more soybean meal will satisfy the lysine requirement without adding additional synthetic lysine.

In the above rations, when hard wheat replaces barley, the ration protein levels will go up over the recommended level but that is necessary to meet the amino acid requirements.

If anyone made it this far, good luck in formulating your own nutritionally complete swine rations that will support weight gains of 800 and perhaps 1000 grams per day. A simpler approach is to buy a concentrate from a reputable source and mix it with grain.

In the following rations for gestation, the rations are formulated at more than 12% crude protein in order to meet the amino acid requirements. I recommend that only the gestation ration that contains barley be fed for reasons given later. Oats can also be fed.

Rations That Meet The Nutrient Requirements For Gestating And Lactating Sows

Ingredient PercentGestation - >12% ProteinLactation - >17% Protein
BarleyCornWheat HardWheat SoftBarleyCornWheat HardWheat Soft
Barley86.2   68.2   
Corn 76.2   61.2  
Wheat, hard  86.2   75.9 
Wheat, soft   82.2   68.05
Canola meal1020101428352028
Lysine      0.250.15
Dical Phosph.1.351.351.351.351.351.351.351.35
Limestone (38%)
Vit-Min premix1.

Some comments about gestation and lactation rations.

Gestation rations should be control fed to keep the sow from getting fat. If the sow is gaining weight before breeding, which is normal after nursing pigs, she will ovulate more eggs. After conceiving, more embryos will become live pigs if she isn't fed too much energy. Since she is being limit fed, the ration fiber level may need to be raised to keep the digestive system working. Fiber could be added with oats or wheat bran. Adding some alfalfa hay is a good idea and is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Adding extra bran for a few days before and after farrowing will reduce the problems of constipation. Pregnant sows should get exercise right up to farrowing. In order to meet the lysine requirements, more canola meal was fed in the above rations than is required to meet the 12% protein requirement for gestation and compensate for lower amino acid digestibility. I would use the gestation ration above formulated with barley as it takes less canola meal to meet the protein and lysine requirements and supplies more fiber.

Lactation is a high nutrient requirement time for the sow. Feeding the wheat ration, as long as lysine is added, keeps the energy level up. The barley ration is fine except that the energy level is a little lower. Lactation rations should be fed ad-libitum (free choice) except for the first week after farrowing. Limiting feed intake the first week will keep the sow from producing so much milk that she scours the baby pigs before they can consume all the milk that she produces. Free choice water should always be available.

Roy E. Chapin, Ph.D. Animal Nutritionist

Home Address: 11145 Chapin Lane, Amity, Oregon 97101 USA
Home Telephone: 503-835-7317/
Home Telefax: 503-835-333.
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© Roy Chapin, 2024
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