Suckling Pigs courtesy of wikipedia.orgDomesticated Pig courtesy of Pig behind fence courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The nutritional needs of pigs can be divided into six separate categories -- water, carbohydrates (starches, sugars and digestible fibers), fats, amino acids (for building proteins), vitamins and minerals.


Water is the most important need because it is the solvent or carrier for all other nutrients, as well as an important factor in heat exchange. There is nothing too difficult about the water requirement for Sus scrofa domestica. If water is provided, or it can find all the water it needs in a day, the pig will be fine. The water to food ratio should be approximately  3:1 by weight. Requirements are the highest for lactating sows (females), which can be as high as 10 gallons a day.  Water Consuption Adapted from Van Loon (1978)

 Pigs being fed moistened feed, will require less water. In fact, hogs  being fed slops may be getting all of the required daily liquid needed to maintain a healthy nutrition.  However, even these hogs should be able find or be given fresh water from time to time. Hot temperatures increase the amount of water needed daily.


Carbohydrates and Fats

Carbohydrates, which include starches, sugars and digestible fibers, and fats  can be looked at as the fuel for the pig. Fats are 2.25 times higher in energy value than carbohydrates. Fats and carbohydrates are not completely interchangeable as a source of energy in the diet of  Sus scrofa domestica.

Fats are much more difficult to digest when compared to carbohydrates. Fats are very important however. A diet with zero fat, would be nearly impossible and not provide the pig with the essential amino acids and vitamins for proper growth. A pig with insufficient amounts of fat may develop dry skin and a rough and curly coat. These may be the only signs of worse internal issues associated with a poor amount of essential fats. Some of these fats may be used for essential processes or simply be stored as fats. Again, if pigs are denied these essential fats, it way result in a low fat and weight pig. The cuts of meat may be more lean and dry, which is not considered favorable. Feed Consuption Adapted from Van Loon (1978)

The main fuel in pig nutrition however is carbohydrates, specifically starches.  This can be found primarily in plant seeds and roots. A kernel of corn is nearly 70 percent starch grains packed together beneath a protective fiber skin and surrounding a high-protein and high-fat germ.  Other carbohydrates are the sugars in the saps or roots, stems, leaves and fruits that are found throughout the plant kingdom.


Amino Acids

Amino acids are often referred to as "the building blocks of protein" -- so we can imagine how essential these are to the healthy growth of most living organisms. Amino acids build proteins and proteins build the cells of plants and animals. In animals even the cell walls are made of protein. In plants the cell walls are made of cellulose. This is why generally  animal tissue is higher in protein then that of a plant tissue. There are many different amino acids. Being provided most of the amino acids through diet is favorable, however Sus scrofa domestica  can manage with only some. There are certain amino acids -- about ten in this specific area of nutrition -- that are extremely essential because no others can be used in their place. A "complete" protein contains all 10 of these important amino acids, however many of these amino acids can be supplemented with amino acid rich feed.

Usually a balance of the amino acids is supplemented by distributing feed that contains both animal and plant protein. Young growing plants, especially those in the legume family (beans, peas, alfalfa, clover) are excellent sources of important proteins. Plants in the Legume family contain some or all of the 10 essential amino acids.


Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals became increasingly used in live stock feed when amino acids were failing on their own. There were unknown benefits obtained when life stock were allowed to freely graze. These unknown benefits happened to be vitamins and minerals. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies become rapidly apparent because Sus scrofa domestica grows at such a fast rate. Phosphorous and Calcium Consuption Adapted from Van Loon (1978)

Cereal grains supply phosphorous but are severely lacking in Calcium. Much of the leafy plants provide a good source of calcium - which can be a benefit of free grazing.

Pigs not fed enough phosphorous and calcium develop a limp, swollen joints, bent legs, and/or an enlarged head. The pig can also become paralyzed and die shortly after. This horrible process commonly happens when pigs are fed only grain diets.

The same process can also happen when pigs are fed plenty phosphorous and calcium but do not receive enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is provided by the sun or supplements. Pigs should be exposed to the sun for an hour or two every day to receive  healthy amounts of vitamin D. Indoor pigs should be fed supplements.


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