Nutrition (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a Professor Emeritus with Delaware State University.)
Raising any animal, regardless of the species comes with the responsibility of making sure that those animals received the proper daily care. In addition to housing and medical care, animal keepers are also charged with providing the proper feed to insure animal well-being.
Most commercial producers have procedures in place to ensure that their livestock is properly fed and cared for, however oftentimes, folks who are new to keeping animals may not have a system in place and the background knowledge to make sure this happens.
One area where shortfalls often occur is with feeding and nutrition.
Recently, in one of the forums I frequent on social media, it has become obvious to me that most hobby keepers of poultry and livestock get in to the bad habit of feeding treats, as opposed to a properly formulated diet.
Then, over the course of time, these animals will begin to exhibit health issues, often related to an inadequate diet.
For some reason, there is a tendency for folks (who are not educated in nutrition), to come to the conclusion that they can adjust nutritional rations and come up with a better way to feed their stock.
I get it. Feed is expensive and finding alternative feeds may offer some way to save money. Additionally, the animals seem to “like” the treats better.
I liken this to a child who when given the choice to eat ice cream or broccoli will choose the ice cream every time.
While it might taste better, it is definitely not the best way to eat!
The field of nutrition is backed by decades of research and over that time, specific nutrient requirements have been developed for each species. It even goes further than that.
Specific nutritional needs have been determined for various stages of growth, reproductive status and productivity.
In addition, the chemical analysis of various feedstuffs has been researched and if in doubt, it is possible to have a feed sample analyzed to specifically evaluate the nutritional content of that feed. It is an exact science.
Each class and species of animal has a predetermined need for certain nutrients.
Be it water, carbohydrate, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.
It is important to realize that these six classes of nutrients can be further broken down into their component parts based on the animal being fed.
For example, there are different vitamins, different minerals, different sugars and fiber components of carbohydrates, different amino acids (components of protein) and different fatty acids (components of fat).
All have been well researched and for the most part, it is documented how much of each of these nutritional components an animal needs to be healthy and productive.
Some of these components are essential in the diet, and some are not, but the determination of these requirements has been made by thousands of scientific studies. It does not need to be second guessed.
Altering a ration with “treats” does nothing but throw off the balance of a properly formulated diet that was specifically made to meet the needs of the animal being fed.
Now I must admit that times can occur where alternative feedstuffs can be incorporated into a diet when a more economical ingredient is available, in sufficient quantity to warrant a change, and nutritionally worth dietary inclusion.
However, those inclusions need to be made in such a way that it takes into consideration all the other feedstuffs included in the ration and the nutrient composition of those feedstuffs.
It is not an easy adjustment for most hobby animal keepers.
So, what do you do when you are feeding your animals? The simple solution is to feed a properly formulated commercial diet.
Most available diets have recommendations on how it should be fed and most are formulated to be the sole source feed.
In addition, all animals also require a good source of clean fresh water in addition to their feed.
If your ultimate goal is to feed your poultry or livestock to maintain their health, well-being and productive capabilities, all you need to feed is a properly formulated commercial diet and that diet alone.
It is a simple as that.