When choosing your pigs diet, these essential vitamins and minerals that also need to be factored in and/or considered. Because most average pig owners do not have a nutrition degree, we recommend that a manufactured pig feed be the main part of the diet so that vitamin or mineral deficiencies aren’t an issue for you and your pig. Can your pig have an all-natural diet? Sure…but you will need to be sure the diet is balanced and includes all the essentials being represented in the right amounts. Some of the deficiencies take some time to show up, some will show up right away, but this is something that will be ever changing and you can’t take part of an all-natural diet and apply it when you want. This must be done with consistency or the diet will not be balanced and you will be risking the health of your pig. If you are feeding a pelleted diet, this will likely not affect you, but if you are feeding an all natural diet, these are things you need to consider when deciding what you will feed your pig.
Pigs are mostly omnivores, which means they eat meat as well as plants and they have a high requirement for minerals, which is not surprising considering the time, spent digging and the amount of earth that may get swallowed. Because omnivores do not eat much herbage, they do not need ruminants like cattle and sheep. The main type of digestion in the pig is enzymatic and takes place in the stomach and small intestines, The salvia of omnivores contain an amylase enzyme so digestion begins as soon as food enters the mouth. Because bacteria only plays small role in a pigs digestion, its food must always consist largely od starch, sugar, fat and protein of a high biological standard that can be rendered soluble by the enzymes secreted in the stomach and intestines. Because of the small amount of vitamin synthesis that takes place in omnivores, it s essential to receive most of the vitamins required in the food. With animal vitamin and mineral supplementation, the golden rule is to have your soil tested to see what the deficiencies are in the soil. If your animals are living on what you are producing on your land, they will have the same deficiencies as the land.
If you notice that your pig is standing there looking at you and licking their lips, they could have a protein deficiency, you may want to think about supplementing with fish or meat meal, whey or cod liver oil, etc.
In a book I am reading, Farming naturally and organic animal care by Pat Colby, she says soybean meal can deplete iodine. She goes on to say that after 20 years of conventional farming, large amounts of seaweed meal, extra copper and zinc as well as dolomite are needed to keep pigs healthy. She went on further to say that whatever diet was fed to pigs, they would benefit from the following additives:
Dolomite: Teaspoon per head daily.
Seaweed: seaweed products of some kind.
Sulphur: A teaspoon per head daily.
Cod Liver Oil: A teaspoon at least once a week. If the pigs are totally free range, she suggested a salt lick similar to those given to cattle. (This would need to be used with the strictest of supervision) Sulphur in the diet should stop skin problems or it could be sued externally as a paste mixed with cooking oil.
Fat deficiency: Signs are hair loss and scaly flaky skin, dermatitis, areas of skin necrosis on the neck and shoulders and an unthrifty appearance in growing pigs. A level of 1-1.5% of fat seems ample to supply the essential fatty acids.
The rest of this blog will address the vitamins and minerals pigs’ need and what these vitamins and minerals are responsible for in the body.
Function: Assists in the contraction of the muscles. Required for blood clotting. Assists in the production of hormones and enzymes. Works with phosphorus and Vitamin D to produce bone, bone is 35% calcium.
Sources for calcium: green leafy forage, limestone oyster shell flour, fishmeal, and bone meal
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, chamomile, cleavers, coltsfoot, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, mistletoe, meadowsweet, nettles, parsley, plantain, raspberry, rose hips, shepherds purse, yarrow and yellow dock.
Deficiencies: Rickets in young, developmental orthopedic disease, poor muscle function, impaired blood clotting, joint problems and bone weakness and posterior paralysis.
Function: Works with calcium for bone growth. Assists in energy metabolism. Makes up 15% of the bones. Too much phosphorous will reduce the absorption of calcium during digestion.
Sources: Cereals, lucerne, fish and meat meals
Herb sources: Alfalfa, anise, asparagus, blue cohosh, caraway, cayenne, chickweed, calamus, dandelion, fenugreek, garlic, golden rod, kelp, licorice, linseed, marigold, meadowsweet, parsley, raspberry, rose hips, sunflower and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Overfeeding of phosphorous can lead to lameness, fragile bones, enlargement of the jawbone and hyperparathyroidism.
Function: Required for hemoglobin formation in the blood. Assists in bone formation and assists in enzyme functions of the body.
Sources: Alfalfa, clover, bran, linseed, milk
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, broom, carrot leaves, cayenne, dandelion, hops, marshmallow, meadowsweet, mistletoe, mullein, peppermint, raspberry, slippery elm.
Deficiencies: Nervousness and excitability. Increased respiratory rates, muscle tremor, aggressiveness and ill temper.
Function: Contains amino acids and methionine and cysteine. Assists in enzyme and hormone production.
Sources: Protein feeds and green forage
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, broom, calamus, coltsfoot, cayenne, daisy, eyebright, fennel garlic, kelp, marigold, meadowsweet, mullein, nettle, parsley, plantain, raspberry, sage, shepherds purse, thyme and yarrow.
Deficiencies: None noted, but overdosing can lead to loss of weight and appetite, colic and yellow, frothy discharge from the nose and labored breathing.
Function: Maintains the balance of fluids in the cells. Assists in muscle contractions, removes waste products from the cells. required in the production of bile. Maintains the health of the nervous system.
Sources: Salt or salt licks. green forages, especially alfalfa.
Deficiencies: Dehydration, poor growth, muscle cramps, reduced appetite, poor hair and skin condition. Pigs will often be seen drinking the urine of other pigs when they have a sodium chloride deficiency. Overfeeding of this can lead to salt toxicity or water deprivation poisoning as well as hypertension (high blood pressure).
Function: Works with sodium to assist in correct nerve function and muscle contractions. Assists in maintaining the correct fluid balance in the body. May reduce heart rate.
Sources: Green forage, maize and molasses
Herb sources: Alfalfa, blue cohosh, borage, carrot leaves, chamomile, coltsfoot, comfrey, couch, grass, centaury, dandelion, elder, eyebright, fennel, kelp, ladies mantle, mistletoe, meadowsweet, mullein, nettles, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry, shepherds purse, skullcap, wormwood and yarrow.
Deficiencies: Weight loss, diarrhea and muscle weakness
Function: Assists in the metabolism of nutrients. Required for the immune system to function correctly. needed for healthy skin, hair and hooves. Assists in blood formation.
Sources: Yeast, bran, cereal germ, and zinc sulphate
Herb sources: Kelp and marshmallow
Deficiencies: Can lead to dry flaky skin, hair loss and poor overall growth in addition to smaller and fewer piglets. It can also lead to a lowered immune system.
Function: Essential in the formation of hemoglobin, cartilage and bone. Required for the correct utilization of iron in the body.
Sources: Grassland, copper, sulphate, copper carbonate
Herbal sources: Burdock, chickweed, chicory, dandelion, fennel, garlic, horseradish, kelp, parsley and yarrow
Deficiencies: Brittle weak bones, anemia, faded/dull coat, poor iron metabolism, bowing of the legs, cardiac and vascular disorders.
Function: Required for the utilization of fats and carbohydrates. essential for the formation of cartilage, assists in the formation of bones and enzymes. Some benefits in pigs can be higher total litter and piglet weight at birth.
Sources: Wheat bran, most grains and grasslands
Herb sources; Kelp
Deficiencies: Deformed piglets whose bones are not correctly developed. Irregular or absent estrous cycles, weak piglets at birth and reduced milk production.
Function: Essential for the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells
Sources: Grasslands and cereals
Herb sources: Alfalfa, asparagus, bilberry, burdock, blue cohosh, cayenne, chicory, comfrey, dandelion, gentian, hawthorn, hops, mullein, nettles, parsley, raspberry, skullcap, vervain, yellow dock
Deficiencies: Anemia, poor performance, poor growth in young pigs, can be contributed to labored breathing.
Function: Essential for the formation of healthy teeth and bones, helps prevent tooth decay. Combines with calcium in the body and gives strength to the bones.
Sources: Pasture, hay, water and limestone based supplements
Herb sources; Alfalfa, beet leaves, garlic, watercress
Deficiencies: Deficiencies are rare but overdosing can occur especially where soils are rich in this mineral and the water has been treated with it as well. Signs of overdosing are discolored, mottled teeth, poor condition and rough coat and lameness in joints, usually all of them.
Function: Needed for correct functioning of the thyroid gland. required for reproductive cycle to function correctly.
Sources; Kelp, pasture and mineral licks
Herb sources: Asparagus, cleavers, garlic, kelp, speedwell and sarsaparilla.
Deficiencies: Abnormal estrous cycle. Piglet can be stillborn while others may be hairless and exhibit weakness and/or deformed joints. Overdosing can lead to enlarged thyroid glands.
Function: Works with vitamin E. Essential part of antioxidant enzymes that help to remove toxins from the system. A component of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Assists in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Sources: Pastures, alfalfa, fishmeal, rapeseed meal and linseed.
Deficiencies: Can be labored breathing and white muscle disease. Overfeeding can cause poisoning, impaired reproduction, reduced milk and mulberry heart disease.
Function: Needed for hormone synthesis, bone growth and used in most of the mucous membranes of the body. Essential for vision and reproduction.
Sources: Carrots, carotene in green leaf plants and cod liver oil
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, marshmallow, papaya, parsley, raspberry, red clover, watercress, and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Night blindness, excessive tears lack of appetite, infections of the reproductive tract, poor growth and weak bones and tendons, incoordination and posterior paralysis.
Function: Assists in the metabolizing of carbohydrates. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Assists in energy metabolism. This vitamin is made by micro flora in the intestines.
Sources: Good forage, good hay, cereal grains, millet, rice bran and brewers yeast
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, comfrey, dandelion, kelp, marshmallow, papaya, parsley, raspberry, red clover, watercress and yellow dock
Deficiencies: Weigh loss, muscular incoordination and missed heartbeats. Deficiencies are fairly rare due to this vitamin being made in the intestines.
Function: Maintains a healthy nervous system. Assists in energy metabolism. this vitamin is also made in the intestines.
Source: Green forage, peanut meal, whey, brewer's yeast, good hay and milk.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, fenugreek, kelp, parsley and watercress.
Deficiencies: Rough coat and dry skin, conjunctivitis, excessive tearing and may be connected with moon blindness. Hair loss. Deficiencies are rare.
Function: Helps in the metabolism of nutrients and also with hormone and lipid syntheses. This vitamin is also made in the intestines.
Sources: Green forage especially lucerne
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, fenugreek, kelp, parsley and sage
Deficiencies: Inflammatory lesions of the GI tract and diarrhea, weight loss, rough skin and coat and dermatitis on the ears. Overdosing may cause dilation of the blood vessels, sickness and itching of the skin.
B5 Pantothenic Acid
Function: Assists in energy metabolism and the formation of antibodies.
Sources: Green forage, cereals and peas
Deficiencies: Deficiency is rare as this vitamin is made in the intestines
Function: Assists in energy metabolism, maintains health of the nervous system. Assists in the formation of hemoglobin in the blood. Maintains the overall health of the immune system. May increase litter size. This vitamin is made in the bowel.
Sources: Green forage and cereal grains
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll
Deficiencies: Reduced appetite and growth rate, eye secretions, convulsions, unsteadiness in use of the legs.
Function: Assists in the production of red blood cells. Assists in energy metabolism. Good for stress. Can assist in putting on condition and correcting anemia. Improved reproduction performance, This vitamin is made in the bowel.
Source: Green forages
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, dong quai, and kelp
Deficiencies: Reduced weight gain, lack of appetite, rough skin and coat, irritability, voice failure and pain and incoordination in the hindquarters.
Function: Assists in the metabolism of energy. Maintains sebaceous glands in the skin. maintains bone marrow, may improve litter number and birth weight.
Sources: Yeast, green forage and cereals.
Deficiencies: Excessive hair loss, skin ulceration and dermatitis, eye exudate, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth.
Function: Assists in the transport of fats stored in the liver to other areas of the body for use as energy. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Structural component of the cell membrane. May increase live piglets born and weaned and improve conception rates.
Sources: natural fats, fish meal, green leafy forage, rapeseed and yeast cereals
Deficiencies: Can lead to poor growth and increased storage of fats in the liver. reduced weight gain, rough hair coat and staggering gait.
Function: Assists in cell metabolism. Required for red blood cell formation. Assists in general metabolism.
Sources: Green leafy forage
Deficiencies: Slow weight gain, fading hair color
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Function: Essential for the formation of collagen tissue which is vital in tendons and cartilage. Essential for the utilization of essential amino acids lysine and proline, Has a role as an antioxidant. Reported to reduce naval bleeding in newborn piglets.
Sources: Made in the liver and other body cells
Herb sources: Alfalfa, burdock, catnip, cayenne, chickweed, dandelion, hawthorn, garlic, horseradish, kelp, parsley, plantain, papaya, raspberry, rosehips, shepherds purse and yellow dock.
Deficiencies: None recorded. Supplementation has been given periods of stress and growth.
Function: Essential for the absorption of calcium and for growth maintenance and repair of bones and teeth.
Sources: Cut and dried plants, fish oils and through the skin after direct contact with sunlight.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, don quai and kelp.
Deficiencies: Reduced growth, weak bones and increased bone problems, rickets.
Function: Helps with the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. Helps stabilize cell membranes and acts on the reproductive system.
Sources; Leafy green forage, good hay, cereals and alfalfa.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, dandelion, dong quai, kelp, raspberry, rose hips and watercress.
Deficiencies: Anemia, swelling of joints, muscular incoordination and reduced stamina. Skeletal and cardiac degeneration.
Function: Helps in the clotting of blood and in calcium assimilation.
Sources: Made in the gut from green leafy forage.
Herb sources: Alfalfa, chlorophyll, plantain and shepherds purse
Deficiencies: Bleeding and longer clotting time.
Enlisting the help of someone with a nutrition degree, someone with years of experience or even one of the pig feed manufacturer's nutritionalists can help you to be sure that your pig is getting what he or she needs to live a long healthy, happy life. Not providing the right amount of feed or the right amount of essential nutrients can lead to serious medical conditions that can claim the life of your pig well before his time. Click here to visit our nutrition section and click here to see what healthy versus unhealthy pigs look like. Don't focus so much on the weight of your pig, but look more towards the shape and size. That should be your biggest factor in determining the amounts of feed and types of foods you are feeding your pig. If you would like to read a vets guide to healthy skin, click here to read the article written by Cathy Zolicani, DVM.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.
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