While it is difficult to predict the future, it’s inevitable that it will take the swine industry some time to recover. With more than 6,600 cases of PEDv confirmed in 30 states thus far, March hog inventories were 3.7 percent lower than a year ago, and this drop came despite farrowings that were 2.8 percent higher than last year. The recent USDA report showed April total pork inventories at 584.1 million pounds, up 8.6 million from March but down 116.9 million from April last year. Even though the industry continues to produce larger litters, the number of pigs reaching market weight has been severely impacted by the disease outbreak.
With the goal of getting more piglets per sow, piglet quality is often sacrificed. More often, producers must contend with piglets that have lower birth weights, and as a direct result, require extra care and effort to reach full value in the market. Pushing piglets along quickly can also leave them with lower immune strength and greater susceptibility to health challenges. Lower quality pigs stay in production longer, adding to the cost of producing meat.
“We have to stay focused on producing pigs of higher value if we are to maintain optimum sow productivity,” said Russell Gilliam, U.S. swine business manager for Alltech. “We need to be careful not to produce pigs that require additional feed, care and costs.”
Starting with a quality piglet can make a vast difference in health care costs, additional feed, and the increased cost of extra days before market. As the saying goes “you are what your mother ate,” piglet quality begins with sow nutrition. One of the staples in proper sow nutrition is mineral management. The fundamental objective of mineral nutrition is to build optimum reserves that will support the pig in times of stress, prevent inadequacies and maximize health and performance (Mahan, 2006).
While inorganic minerals are poorly absorbed, stored and utilized in the animal, organic minerals offer a more natural form for the animal and can perform even when supplemented at lower levels. Recent studies on the inclusion of organic trace minerals in sow diets showed considerable gain in performance and profitability for both sows and piglets. Data has shown that pigs with enhanced mineral status at birth and weaning, have reduced pre-wean mortality, higher piglet performance and weaning weight, and increased immune status. The trial work also showed a response in a mineral enhanced sow improves productivity and reduces mating intervals (Pickard and Close, 2010).
“When efficiency and value matter most, it is good to know that less can equal more, and it can be done the natural way,” Gilliam said.