Show pig success is dependent on a variety of factors, from daily care to presentation, to quality of project and beyond. Perhaps one of the most challenging factors is nutrition - feeding the project animal through to show day. It’s not an easy task when the desired look for pigs is changing.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen an extreme degree of transition in what judges are looking for when it comes to show pigs,” says Zac Blount, show feed specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition. “We’re finally getting to a point where there’s a happy medium. Judges are starting to look for pigs that are both fresh and fat enough, but also have shape, are not overly full, and are tall and clean-fronted.”
The transition is shifting how exhibitors think about nutrition, according to Blount. Historically, show pig exhibitors have focused on meeting certain weights and feeding a certain product once that weight is achieved, but Blount encourages people to think about show pig nutrition another way.
“I tell people to feed hogs for two different things,” says Blount. “No. 1, we’re feeding for soundness. The majority of pigs today are not sound enough. Secondly, we feed for fat cover.”
“Instead of the old thought process of feeding – ‘when they’re 25 pounds, feed this, and when they’re 100 pounds, feed that’ – we really focus our strategy on feeding for soundness and fat cover,” Blount adds.
Using nutrition to impact soundness
Blount says he’s taken what he has learned in the steer ring and applied it to the show pigs he assists with.
“We’re getting steers that are pretty old, sometimes almost two years, that are winning shows because they’ve been bred to be so extreme,” Blount says. “By growing these cattle slow, it can be possible to actually manipulate structure. We’re taking that same philosophy and applying it to pigs.”
Blount notes that there are different situations, specifically with how animals walk, which can be impacted by nutrition. Similar to steers wanting to bow their legs, getting a little straight in their leg or not quite hitting their stride – the same can be impacted on the pig side.
“By managing diets, we can attempt to control how an animal walks. Then, once they get to a certain size, you can mass them up, and they’ll still walk,” Blount says. “But, the key is to go slow and steady on nutrition.”
Feeding for fat cover
“We want to shoot to be 150 pounds, or pretty close, at 60 days out from the show,” Blount says. “Then, we shoot to be about 200 pounds at 30 days out. From there, every decision you make is related to soundness, fat cover or both.”
For an average to good muscled pig, Blount recommends starting with a bag of 20% protein feed, then transitioning to an 18% protein feed. For a heavy muscled or harder made pig, he recommends a 20% protein feed transitioning to a 16% protein feed.
A variety of show supplements exist to further modify appearance. For more fat cover, high-fat supplements can be added to the diet. For additional shape and expression of muscle, supplements with extra protein can be added, and for extra body and fill a high-fiber supplement can be added.
Blount’s biggest piece of nutritional advice is to start slow.
“The biggest mistake I see people making is feeding too high of protein and too much feed early on. Pigs get too massed up early in life, and end up with structural problems,” Blount says. “Start slow. Don’t feed too hard, too early, and keep an eye on the protein level.”
Show pig exhibitors are invited to share their success stories, using #IFeedWithHonor, with the online community of show enthusiasts at www.facebook.com/HonorShowChow.
For more information on the Purina Honor Show Chow line of show animal feeds and supplements, visit www.purinamills.com.
Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (www.purinamills.com) is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven by a commitment to animal excellence, Purina Animal Nutrition is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Headquartered in Shoreview, Minn., Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes Inc.