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Designing feeding programs for natural and organic pork production

Quick facts 

  • The National Organic Program (NOP) provides guidelines for your ingredients, production protocols and other practices to qualify for organic certification.
  • Keep records of your livestock and feeding operations to prove your animals have been raised according to certified practices.
  • There are many different diets you can use in natural or organic pork production.
  • You can use pasture forage in complete feeds and silage for pork production. 

What does it mean to raise organic pork?


Documentation and records needed

The National Organic Standards requires organic producers to keep records of their operations. You can have written, visual (e.g. photos) or electronic records. The certifying agency will review these records during certification. You must keep the records for at least five years. This will provide as an audit for tracing:

  • Sources of animals.
  • Sources of feed.
  • The amount of feed fed.
  • Forage.
  • Feed supplements.
  • Treatments.
  • Medications.
  • Animal health.

Managing pig health without antibiotics and animal-derived ingredients


Diet examples

Tables 3 through 6 show example diets for the growing pig, gestating sow and lactating sow. These diets were formulated to meet the animal’s nutrient needs without forage or pasture. They serve as a few examples of the many diets you can use in natural or organic pork production.

These examples are based on table values for the ingredient nutrient content. They do not consider the differences in nutrient digestibility of the ingredients. Once you decide which ingredients to use, calculate the final diet using the standard ideals for digestible amino acids and phosphorus.

The tables show summer and winter diets, which assumes an environmental temperature of 32° F. Winter diets need a lower amino acid content because the pigs will eat more feed to meet their increased energy needs. Thus, the pigs will still meet their amino acid needs.

You can use a variety of feed ingredients in swine diets, but formulating diets correctly is key to the animals’ health. Ingredients will differ somewhat from the nutrient levels assumed in these example diets. You should sample and test the nutrient content of these feedstuffs before formulating diets.

A pig’s nutrient needs will depend on the following:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Growth phase.
  • Age.

Survey available ingredients that meet organic specifications and then formulate diets based on the needs of your operation and the cost of the nutrients found in the ingredients. Reduced performance may occur from organic diets because it is harder to meet a pig’s nutrient needs than traditional diets.

Use a diet formulation program or consult with a professional nutritionist when formulating diets.

In the following diet examples,

  • Gestation diets assume a feeding level of 4.5 pounds per sow daily for summer and 7.5 pounds per sow daily for winter. It also assumes an initial sow weight of 350 pounds, an additional 40 pound gestation weight gain and expected litter size of 10 piglets.
  • Lactation diets assume no winter farrowing, unless sow and litter are housed inside.

Forages in swine diets and pasture systems

Pigs out in the pasture
Pasture rotation can help prevent damage especially with spring and fall rooting

You can successfully use pasture forage in complete feeds and silage for pork production. Before 1950, pasture was seen as a key component to swine diets because it provides minerals, vitamins and unidentified growth factors.

The following affect the nutritional value of forages:

  • Species
  • Maturity
  • Growing conditions
  • Grazing habits of pigs

Jerry Shurson, Extension animal scientist; Lee J. Johnston, Extension animal scientist; Bob Koehler, former Extension educator; Robert Hadad, Cornell University Cooperative Extension; Dean Koehler, Swine Technical Services Manager, Vita Plus Corporation; Wayne Martin, Extension assistant professor - alternate livestock systems; and Sarah Schieck, swine Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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