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Source: Purina Animal Nutrition LLC news release

Shoreview, Minnesota - Raising pigs for pork as a fun family project or a small business is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Today, raising pigs doesn't just happen in remote rural areas or on large farms. Families around the United States are finding satisfaction in raising pigs on their small farms or even in their backyards and producing meat for their own consumption or to share with others.

Are you raising feeder pigs this summer? Or are you thinking about trying it next year? One of the most important decisions you will need to make is what to feed your pigs. This decision can impact your pig's well-being, as well as the quality of the pork you're producing, says Mariela Lachmann, senior nutritionist and member of Purina Animal Nutrition's Swine Technical Solutions team.

"When we go to the grocery store, we try to make good choices because we know a balanced diet is a key to our well-being," she says. "The same goes for pigs. Those of us raising pigs - whether for our own consumption or to sell - want to take great care of them. One part of that is feeding our pigs a well-balanced diet."

Many pig owners today look to a complete feed as the most convenient way to provide a healthy diet for their pigs. A quality complete feed can provide the nutrients pigs need to support optimal growth, health and development.

Here are four of Lachmann's top tips to help choose a complete feed for your pigs:

Provide energy to support growth and activity

"One of the most important components of a healthy pig diet is a quality energy source," Lachmann says. "Energy provides the fuel your pigs need to grow and be active."
Common sources of energy in pig feed include cereal grains, grain byproducts and fats such as corn oil or soybean oil. The amount of energy pigs need can vary by age or environment. For example, pigs raised in locations with extreme weather might need extra energy to maintain their body temperatures. Complete feeds are designed to support the energy needs of pigs at all stages of life and varieties of environment.

Pigs have specific protein needs.

Proteins are made of combinations of amino acids, and they are not all the same. Pigs have specific amino acid needs to help support everyday body function, such as digestion, muscle development and growth.

One amino acid, lysine, plays a bigger role than others. Lysine is an amino acid commonly limited in grains, but essential for body function. Without enough lysine, your pigs can't efficiently use the other essential amino acids in their feed for optimal development. Diets of only corn and soybeans might provide limited lysine - less than needed to support optimal pig nutrition - while other non-essential amino acids may exceed the amount needed.
"Think of it like using bricks and mortar to build a wall," Lachmann says. "You measure your project correctly, but the supplier delivers too many bricks and not enough mortar. The perfectly good bricks would go to waste because you can't build a wall without cementing the bricks together."

In a grain-only diet, the "mortar" would be the lysine, and the "bricks" would represent the other amino acids. Your pig can only use the essential amino acids for growth if he is consuming enough lysine. Excess amino acids would go to waste if lysine was lacking.

Remember vitamins, minerals, fiber and other functional components.

"Vitamins, minerals and fiber contribute to many of your pigs' functions," Lachmann says. "For example, vitamins and minerals help with skeletal and immune system development and help your pigs feel active. The fiber helps support pigs' gut development and maintenance of the digestive function."

Botanical, or plant-based, ingredients in a complete feed can be beneficial for pigs. Botanicals can enhance flavor, support digestion, encourage nutrient utilization, help reduce waste odors, and more. Last, but not least, pigs must always have access to as much fresh, clean water as they want to drink.

Keep it simple with a complete feed.

While corn and soybean meal are common in pig diets, they alone will not provide optimal nutrition throughout all life stages. However, as part of a complete feed, these key ingredients combined with other sources of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals will help you enjoy a successful pig-raising experience.

An easy way to help ensure your pigs are getting what they need at any phase in their lives is to feed a complete, pelleted feed made with quality sources of protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Bagged feed is easy to store and handle and can eliminate the hassle of sourcing and mixing individual ingredients.

"One thing we have in common with our animals is that our bodies and health are highly influenced by what we eat," Lachmann says. "Feeding only table scraps or grain is a less-than-ideal diet for pigs. Feeding a well-balanced, complete feed helps us care for our pigs' well-being while raising quality pork for our families."

Find more information about feeding and caring for your pigs at purinamills.com/natures-match or visit your local Purina retailer.