Make sure all nutritional requirements are met while keeping costs as low as possible.
Make sure all nutritional requirements are met while keeping costs as low as possible.

Feed is the most costly input in pig production, so it’s important to make sure all nutritional requirements are met while keeping costs as low as possible. It’s a balancing act, because some lower cost ingredients that may also be of lower quality.

“Studying the effects of different types of mineral supplementation on animal growth can be helpful in developing a feed program that yields desirable gains while lessening detrimental effects associated with excretion of excess nutrients,” Marcia Carlson, state Extension swine nutrition specialist at the University of Missouri said. She and Missouri graduate research assistant Heather Hellman studied trace minerals in their paper, “Feeding Organic and Inorganic Sources of Trace Minerals for Swine Production.”

Copper, zinc and manganese are the three trace minerals most demanded by sows. Feeding the right amounts of these minerals is essential to the longevity and reproductive success of sows.

“Zinc and copper are known as ‘gut conditioners,’ which alter intestinal morphology and improve absorptive capacity, reduce scours and enhance growth performance,” write Carlson and Hellman. “However, copper and zinc together do not have an additive effect on growth performance. These minerals should be supplemented separately at recommended concentrations for the desired growth performance.”

Zinc is important to protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and is also a required component in the synthesis of greater than 200 enzymes, according to Carlson and Hellman. Copper is needed for the synthesis of hemoglobin and for the synthesis of enzymes needed for normal metabolism.

“Copper and zinc function as antioxidants, which destroy free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the cells,” they said. “Selenium helps maintain the integrity of cellular membranes. There is a narrow range between nutrient requirements and toxicity of selenium. The concentration of selenium added to swine diets is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at 0.3 ppm.”

Minimize Lameness
Sow lameness is second only to reproductive failure as the primary reason sows are culled from herds. It is estimated that 30% to 35% of sows in any given herd experience lameness. Producers should strive to lower that number to 10% of their herd or less, especially with the present price outlook.

Mike Hemann, a swine account manager at Zinpro Corporation, agrees on the importance of decreasing turnover in the sow herd.

“We know that a sow must reach her fourth parity to realize her economic potential,” he said. “By working to decrease lameness in the sow herd, we can increase the longevity in sows and, in turn, see more sows reach their economic potential.”

Healthy Sows Perform Better
As with any animal, when pigs feel their best they show it through their positive performance.

“Sows that are healthy and not lame are getting up and going to the feeder,” Hemann said. “They are maximizing feed intake, providing the proper nutrients to their gestating litters and piglets throughout the gestation and lactation periods, respectively.”

One indicator of good sow performance is low somatic cell counts. Trials at universities and companies have concluded that sows fed the proper amounts of copper, zinc and manganese trace minerals experience lower somatic cell counts.

“This is tied directly to the white blood cell count in the sows,” Hemann said. “They have less inflammation and are healthier overall. This can lead to improved performance in both the sows and pigs.”