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When piglets first arrive in their nursery barn, they’re immediately given access to plenty of water, then shortly thereafter, they’re introduced to their first feed ration, usually in the form of small pellets.

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Feed mill companies work with animal nutritionists and feed formulation specialists to determine the right blend, or recipe, for each stage of pig.  Keeping pigs healthy is a top priority for everyone involved in food production – we all like a safe, affordable food supply, and animal health is a key factor.

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Pig feed ingredients include corn, soybean meal, sorghum, wheat or barley, along with the right vitamins, minerals and salt, to make sure the pigs are getting the right nutrient balance.  In the first young nursery stages, extra milk fat or dried milk is added to help with the weaning transition.  The pellets have a slightly sweet smell from the milk, and they look suspiciously like my husband’s high-fiber breakfast cereal.

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After a week or so on the pelleted feed, the nursery pigs transition to their next ration, which at this farm, comes in a loose, dry meal form. Some pigs stay on feed in pelleted form the whole way through – just the owner’s preference.  Either way, corn, soybean meal and other grains are the primary ingredients.  Oats or even blended bakery products are sometimes added.  By the time the pigs mix their feed with water, it ends up like a pan of oatmeal or Malt-o-Meal.

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Antibiotics may be given to the pigs through feed, but only as approved by the FDA and vets, and there’s specific regulated withdrawal times to make sure that there’s never antibiotics in our meat supply.  Healthy animals are really important, and so is a healthy food supply, and that’s a responsibility that all the growers I’ve met take really seriously.

Larger pigs have a similar diet, although the ration of minerals and vitamins are changed to accommodate their growing bodies, and they’re given less protein the older they get.   The pigs seem to enjoy their feed, and in fact, if they get a “bad” batch that may have molded or has too much salt in it, they eat less, play with food more, and generally make a mess in their feeder.

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Eat up, little pigs. You need to grow into tasty bacon.

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Reference articles: 1, 2, 3, 4