Livestock farming has grown tremendously over the past few years placing great strain on resources. Consequentially, the cost of feed has increased drastically. While other livestock producers are facing challenges in providing constant supply of a well-balanced dietary plan, the upside of rearing pigs is that they are generally not picky thus can feed on a variety of feedstuff. Pigs are monogastric animals which means they digest feed similarly to humans. As such, they can eat most feedstuff primarily considered as human food. In fact, studies have proven that pigs can feed on chocolate without experiencing adverse effects on production and health. However, farmers should be have knowledge on the appropriate rations as excess chocolate supplements are not recommended.
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Why The Interest In Chocolate Though?
There was an interesting study done in USA a few years back. A supplement called whey powder is commonly used in feeding pigs in the USA. Over the years it has become too costly for most farmers to continue using it. Thus farmers thought of moving to what is called chocolate candy feed. It is essentially an inedible substance (for humans) that is given off during the manufacturing of chocolate or sweets. It was important to test whether or not pigs would adversely react to eating it.
The studies conducted showed that it was not injurious to piglets – particularly weaners. They also realized it was ideal for pigs in their final stages of maturation. Based on this and other scenarios, the conversation on whether or not pigs can eat chocolate became topical. The bone of contention seems to stem from the implications of deliberately adding chocolate or chocolate-based materials to pig diets. This is because most people agree on how that if a pig eats chocolate say, by accident nothing bad will happen. Most people, however, think that if it becomes an issue of feeding them with significant amounts of chocolate it becomes an issue. The bottom line is pigs can eat chocolate. What are the implications of all this?
Chocolate Nutritional Value
Chocolate is made from cocoa which is highly famed for its nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of energy, protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium and fat among others. Pigs can eat chocolate feed so as to acquire these essential nutrients. While chocolate is usually not considered as feed for livestock, its waste and by-products have been proven to be commendable ingredients in swine dietary plans. As a matter of fact, several studies have indicated that chocolate is a valuable source of energy for pigs and is a potential source of lactose for weaned animals. Pigs with dietary plans consisting of chocolate supplements generally perform better than their counterparts. They tend to produce highly nutritious pork products for human consumption. Although chocolate contains theobromine, a similar alkaloid compound to caffeine which is known to be toxic to some animal species, the concentrations are low; hence it is considered to be safe for pigs. Nonetheless, chocolate should only make up about 30% of their overall dietary plan. Excessive feeding is known to have adverse effects on production. To add on, chocolate is lacking in some minerals including sufficient trace elements. For this reason, it is necessary to combine with the usual swine feed.
Chocolate Supplements for Production
Livestock productivity is largely dependent on feed. Chocolate is rich in nutrients needed for sustenance of animals. As such, pigs can eat chocolate to stimulate physiological development as well as productivity. According to agricultural experts, chocolate plays a crucial role in the weaning process of piglets. It is a source of lactose that is used in the safe transition from a solely milk based dietary plan, to one that consists of solid feed. Piglets at this stage are susceptible to diseases and infection and so the lactose found in chocolate becomes necessary for a safe transition. Whey powder that is usually used when weaning pigs is expensive hence farmers seeking for an economical alternative can make use of chocolate to achieve the same results. Chocolate husks are high in dietary fibre and contain polyphenolic compounds that may alter the gut microbiome and promote beneficial bacteria to nursery pigs. Chocolate is not only beneficial to piglets but mature pigs can eat chocolate to improve on production quantity as well as quality. Research studies conducted to evaluate the effects of chocolate supplements on performance reveal that pigs can feed on chocolate as a means to maintain production levels, particularly when sufficient pig diets are unavailable. Pigs can eat chocolate for up to approximately 30% of their overall dietary plans to support optimal growth performance, carcass composition and improve pork quality.
Chocolate Supplements for Health Sustenance
Livestock health is at the core of every farming venture. This is because performance as well its success is largely dependent on the health of domestic animals. That being said, pigs can eat chocolate as a means of sustaining health. Chocolate contains vitamins, iron, zinc and calcium among other minerals and nutrients which make a significant contribution to the immune system of pigs. By strengthen their immune systems, pigs are allowed the opportunity to develop some form of resistant against disease and infection. Moreover, oxidation is a rampant challenge in the farming community. Farmers often record cases of oxidation which affects the overall quality of the meat, including its texture as well as taste. Pigs can feed on chocolate as a means of preventing the occurrence of oxidation. Chocolate contains flavonoids that play an important role in scavenging free radicals and disrupting oxidative reactions. The phenolic extracts from cocoa husks also contain potential antioxidant properties that may be beneficial in the reduction of oxidative stress.
Can A Pig Eat Anything?
Although pigs can eat chocolate and a lot of other feedstuff considered to be toxic to livestock, there are some feedstuff that are toxic to them. As such, a pig cannot eat anything. Pigs are not able to get rid of toxins from food or indigestible materials. Instead, the toxins are kept as fat storage thereby allowing them the ability to consume high level of toxins. However, with time animal health is compromised. When providing pigs with feedstuff that is not primarily meant for livestock consumption, it is necessary to be aware of the proper rations as well as the nutritional value of the feed. This is done to ensure that their daily dietary requirements are met and to prevent excess portions that may potentially be harmful. Another important factor to be aware of when providing pigs with unconventional feedstuff is that they have a very high nutritional demand and so it is important to combine supplements with a complementary dietary plan rich in lacking nutrients.
A popular misconception in the farming community is that pigs can eat anything, provided it is suitable for humans. This assumption is based on the fact that pigs are monogastric animals that digest food similarly to humans. Another misconception is that pigs can even feed on items considered as toxic to people. This is however not the case. Although pigs can eat chocolate and other foods primarily meant for humans, some feedstuff are toxic and so should be avoided. As such, it is of the utmost importance for farmers to be aware of what foods are toxic to pigs. The following are some of the feedstuff that are toxic to pigs and can therefore compromise their health as well as performance.
- Raw potatoes: contain glycoalkaloids which are natural toxins found in high concentration in the green parts of a potato including potato sprouts, and the peel of potatoes that tastes bitter.
- Fruit Seeds: apple and pear seeds contain a naturally occurring and potentially toxic substance called amygdalin which is a cyanogenic glycoside. This substance can release hydrogen cyanide in the stomach causing discomfort or illness and in severe cases, fatality.
- Parsnip: parsnip, celery, celery roots and parsley contain a group of natural toxins known as furocoumarins which can cause illness.
- Some types of nuts: some raw nuts such as almonds contain cyanide which can build up to toxic levels affecting animal health. Raw cashews contain an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid which can compromise livestock health.