Healthy pigs make profitable pigs

Two years ago, Rich Deppe felt like there was something lacking in the pigs’ diet at his family’s farrow-to-finish operation near Washington, Mo. To compensate, the producers were adding a lot of “extras” to the feed—vitamins, antioxidants, laxatives and a myriad of other supplements—to address whatever issue was most troubling at the time.

If the feed was balanced with the right nutrition in the first place, they shouldn’t need to add all those extras, Deppe believed. They decided to put that theory to the test, comparing their current feed to MFA’s Evolution swine feeds.

Deppe started using the mini pellets in his nurseries, kept track of what he was feeding and gathered weight and health information daily. After a few weeks, they saw improved weight gain, health and overall development.

“We have a lot heavier pigs coming out of the farrowing house going into the nurseries,” Deppe said. “We can say the same thing for nursery weights going into the finisher. We saw a huge improvement.”

Evolution Swine Feeds include MFA’s Shield Technology, an all-natural blend of essential oils and other additives to enhance animal performance and health. Seeing the notable improvement in the nurseries, Deppe Farms went a step further and began including the feed in sow rations as recommended by MFA Swine Specialist Tom Lattimore. Now, they use Evolution feed at every stage of development, and the farm’s sows are producing more pigs than ever.

“We’re getting a lot more pigs from the same number of sows,” Deppe said. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s actually a good and a bad thing. We’re almost running out of room on the pig side of it. We probably went from selling 24,000 a year to maybe 30,000-32,000.”

At any given time, Deppe Farms feeds roughly 1,400 sows, which are artificially inseminated about every five months. The farm’s litters now average 13 piglets born alive and have a higher overall survival rate. The producers attribute that improvement to a combination of factors.

“Our sows are in great body condition coming into the farrowing house,” Deppe said. “Some of it is genetics, but some of it is the feed, without a doubt. We also made some facility improvements, but our pigs and sows are definitely performing better.”

He’s also noticed fewer lame sows, which was one of the reasons they were supplementing with additional vitamins and additives before switching to Evolution.    

“If we had to cull a sow previously,” Deppe said, “it was usually on account of her feet and legs. It was a big issue for us, and we don’t see that much anymore.”

The third-generation producer farms alongside his brothers, son, daughter, niece, grandchildren and four other full-time employees. In addition to raising pigs, the Deppes raise some 4,400 acres of row crops, split evenly between corn and soybeans.  

They grind and mix their own feed with corn grown on the farm. Feeding about 200 tons per week equates to some 320,000 to 340,000 bushels annually just at the Washington farm. They also have another location in New Haven, Mo. With that volume, balancing rations can make for tricky math, but moving to MFA’s Evolution feed with Shield simplified that process, said Mark Amelung, who is in charge of the grind-and-mix operations.

“The inclusion rate is simple,” he said. “It’s easy to feed, and we don’t have to use as much bean meal either. It allows us to use more of the corn we raise rather than buying and trucking it in. It’s a comparable price per ton, but when you figure the complete ration, it’s probably cheaper than the rest for us.”

Evolution formulations are based on net energy, MFA Feed Specialist Noble Carpenter explained.

“Since our formulations are based on net energy and not metabolized energy, we’re giving corn more credit,” Carpenter said. “We know there’s energy in bean meal, but the animal has to break down the protein to utilize it, releasing heat. We’re feeding that animal what it needs—not more and not less—and we’re not overfeeding protein. This is possible because we are supplementing with several synthetic amino acids.”

Carpenter cautioned it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution because every farm is different.

“We work with each farmer to figure out their needs,” he said. “Our standard diets are solid, but we often tailor-make diets to complement the genetics and production system of each farm.”

But Deppe said he’s satisfied with what he’s getting in each bag.

“It just seems like it’s balanced nutrition,” he said. “It’s working really well for us.”

For more information on Evolution Swine Feeds with Shield, contact your local MFA feed specialist and view a short video at

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