A piglet hides behind her sow at Curtis Butler’s farm outside Belle, Mo.
Butler makes the rounds feeding hogs at his swine farm. The feed contains MFA Shield Technology to keep them at peak performance.
Butler holds one of the many piglets on his family farm. He has found a niche raising “natural” pork for premium markets.
Tom Sullentrup, left, MFA livestock key account manager, and Noble Carpenter, right, MFA swine specialist, work closely with Butler to help meet the specialized nutritional and animal health requirements needed for natural pork production. The MFA experts recommended Shield Technology, an all-natural dietary supplement, to help Butler promote the health and performance of his pigs without the need for medications that could interfere with natural market guidelines.
Butler feeds Shield Plus APF (animal protein-free) to a piglet on his natural-swine farm near Belle, Mo. Butler selected this particular product because it allows him to provide all the health benefits of the MFA’s regular Shield Plus formula while still keeping the farm “natural.”
Ever since he could stand, Chris Butler has been raising pigs at Butler Farms outside Belle, Mo. His first chore was helping with farrowing, sometimes bottle-feeding piglets to support them through the weaning process. He works together with his dad, Dale, and his 100-sow farrow-to-finish operation also includes 450 mama cows. However, he still considers baby pigs his favorite part of the job.
And keeping those piglets healthy is important to his farm’s success. That’s why Butler relies on MFA products and expertise, a partnership that was forged on the farm when he was very young.
“Trust comes from seeing the end results and seeing your livestock perform at their maximum capacity,” Butler said. “I use all the swine feed and products that MFA has to offer, and I can’t say enough about it. I’ve never fed anything else after we partnered with MFA, and I don’t plan to feed anything else.”
Butler runs a natural hog facility, a niche market that sets tight standards for living conditions and dietary standards with which he can grow the pigs and still be able to sell pork to natural markets. For example, his pigs cannot consume ingredients containing animal byproducts used as thickeners, stabilizers or other protein substitutes, many of which come from chicken eggs.
For a hog farm to be classified as “natural,” federal guidelines require the pigs to be raised in covered pens with deep-bed flooring to promote indigenous micro-organisms, as well as many other rules, including medical treatment of the pigs. Natural swine production emphasizes disease prevention, Butler said.
MFA’s Shield Plus APF is one product that helps promote healthy pigs, while still fitting under those USDA guidelines. The animal protein-free dietary supplement helps prevent diseases naturally with a research-tuned blend of essential oils and other nutritive additives, such as trace minerals, that enhance animal health.
“Weather stress is a little bit more prevalent in natural hog production than in total confinement,” said Noble Carpenter, MFA swine specialist. “Shield products reduce oxidative stress at the cellular level that is caused by extreme weather events. The idea is to keep pigs healthy, keep that gut working properly and keep those disease pressures down.”
Shield Technology fits neatly in any natural livestock production, including swine, because it also focuses on health promotion, disease prevention and supporting micro-organisms in a healthy digestive system, said Mike Spidle, MFA branded feed specialist and Shield Technology expert.
“Eighty percent of the pig’s immune system is in its gut,” Spidle said. “We add value back into any livestock production, swine included, by being proactive and by keeping the gut in order through probiotic health. And, in turn, that leads to healthier pigs.”
Butler strictly follows USDA guidance in his operations. In order to sell his hogs at premium on the natural swine market, he has to keep them healthy. If a pig gets sick, he will administer antibiotics or other medications per USDA regulations, which takes away his animals’ “naturally raised” status. Once that status is gone, it can’t come back—and the pig is worth dramatically less money to Butler in the end.
“Scours is our No. 1 common problem,” Butler said. “I think the Shield product does a wonderful job in preventing that. When you transition a baby pig from the mom to the weaning building, that is a rough time for pigs. It seems once you get that right Shield product in them, they just do 100% from then on.”
Shield Plus APF provides the same anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant benefits as other Shield products, minus the animal proteins that can get in the way of natural livestock production. Meaning, Butler can still operate his farm at peak efficiency, and his pigs can still reap the health benefits of Shield products.
“The idea behind Shield is being proactive,” Carpenter said. “If it’s in the gut, it’s working. And when it’s in there, it’s specifically targeting the bad bacteria and promoting the good bacteria. We just keep those pigs growing and healthy, and it avoids a lot of train wrecks down the road.”
In addition to Shield Plus APF, the technology is also available in MFA feeds, minerals and tubs, along with the original version of Shield Plus that contains egg antibodies. There’s also a liquid version of Shield designed to be mixed in stock tanks, water medications, milk replacer and liquid feed. Butler takes full advantage of these proprietary MFA products, because they may be scaled to any size operation, even a niche area like natural swine production. But mostly, he uses Shield because it works, he said, and he ends up making more money.
“Bottom line is providing the best-quality pork and any meat product you can to the consumers,” Butler said. “But it’s also important to make a living for your family while you’re doing it.”
As an MFA livestock specialist, Carpenter said he derives tremendous satisfaction giving back to the farmers and ranchers he serves.
“The economy has been tight. Feed prices have been high this year, and we’re looking to make farmers as profitable as possible,” Carpenter said. “That is our end goal here. We look at products that can add value to that producer. We’ve got a lot of testimonials from our customers. Everybody knows Shield is the premier product on the market, and it’s worked very well for them.”
While Shield Technology has helped Butler keep his livestock healthy, he says he has seen other farmers experience tragic situations.
“Once a bug gets in and makes one animal sick, it has a tendency to spread like wildfire,” Butler said. “But not here. Not as long as I have anything to do with it.”
Being proactive, rather than reactive, is often the best operational posture to avoid calamity, Carpenter added.
“They always say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that certainly is the case when we’re talking about health on a pig operation,” he said. “The program’s working. I mean, it’s just flat working.”
For more information about how Shield Technology can help your livestock health, visit mfa-inc.com/Products/Feed/shield or talk with the livestock experts at your local MFA affiliate.
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