The Importance of Minerals in Your Pastured Pigs’ Diet

Reader Contribution by Jodi Cronauer and White Bison Farm
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Have you ever looked out in the field and thought, “Wow – look at how glossy and shiny those animals look?” That is a great indicator of good nutrition in the animal’s diet. You can give animals all of the feed they could ask for, but if there is no nutritional value to it they will not flourish.

We raise Idaho Pasture Pigs and Kunekune pigs, but most of this information applies to all breeds of pasture pigs.

All of our pigs are out on pasture all year round. They get alfalfa/grass/clover hay in the winter months as well as eating grass all summer long. Some people will assume that because they have ample grass or hay that their diet is complete. That is not the case!  If the ground is deficient in minerals or vitamins, then the grass or hay growing on it will also be deficient. The same thing applies to vegetables or fruit grown in that ground.

We have heard people say, “It’s only a trace mineral. How important can it be?” The answer to that is VERY important if you want to have healthy animals. The problems that arise in pigs with a mineral deficiency will be varied depending on the mineral/vitamin with the deficiency as well as the degree of the deficiency.

Some signs are very easy to see and can range from: dull coat appearance, lethargic behavior, lack of appetite, dull look in the animals eyes, or rooting the ground. Some of the signs are more internal and not as quickly visualized, but are just as important to the health and well-being of the animal.  A good example of this is selenium again. 

When we relocated from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin we were told our pig feed had selenium in it. But…. Within 1 to 2 weeks some of our sows, whom we had for three years and had never rooted at all, started to dig in the ground. By the end of the second week they were frantically digging and wouldn’t even stop for feed. We knew something was wrong because these pigs had never behaved like this before.

We contacted the feed mill and were informed they had made a mistake. There was actually NO selenium in the feed at all. We immediately switched feed companies and within a few days the frantic digging had stopped and by the end of two weeks they were back to normal and have been fine since. Now for those of us with pasture pigs who want nice green pastures for our pigs to eat, this is a serious problem. Selenium is a trace mineral, but it is so important to the health of the pigs that they will dig up the ground looking for more.

If we hadn‘t been raising pigs for years and had these specific sows for so long without an issue, we would have thought there was no way these were grazing pigs. Not all mineral/vitamin deficiencies will be so quick to visualize, but all are playing an important part of your animal’s well-being and overall health. The next time your pigs are behaving “odd” consider what has changed in their diet and how it is affecting them.

One of the ways to make sure your animals get the necessary vitamin/minerals is to get your ground tested. Happy, healthy animals live longer, more productive lives, produce larger litter sizes, and can produce good amounts of milk to feed their young and therefore have a lower loss rate.

Whether you are raising a few for your own family and friends or whether you are raising a larger number of pigs, you want the most success possible, so know their requirements and what they need to thrive. Nothing is more important than the overall health of your animals!

Jodi Cronauer is a farmer, livestock breeder and Registrar for the Idaho Pasture Pig Registry.  Find Jodi online atWhite Bison Farmand read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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