Important conversations to have with your feed supplier part 2

Building a relationship with your feed supplier is an important part of a successful livestock project, key conversations regarding how you want to feed your animal and what products are banned at your county fair or exhibition are important.

Child feeding two pigs

When raising an animal for the county fair or other livestock exhibitions there are three main considerations that need to be taken so that you can raise a healthy, productive animal. These include providing proper housing for the animal, taking proper care and managing the health of the animal and being able to source good quality feed that meets nutritional needs for the animal. There are many options available to purchase feed for your animal, you may choose to use a local feed mill, private feed sales representative or purchase feed from a supply store in your area. Whatever source you use to purchase your feed, it is important to have a relationship with your feed supplier so that you can have conversations about the diet for your animal, what products are banned at your event and what your goals are for the animal.

With the changes to the rules and regulations at many different county fairs and exhibitions it is important that you inform your feed supplier of any products that have been eliminated at the specific event that you plan to participate in. For those exhibiting pigs at events that have banned beta-agonist products this will help you take proactive steps to make sure that you are not exposing your animals to ractopamine through the feed that you purchase. Exhibitors should make sure to read and understand all the ingredients in your pig’s rations and supplements that you purchase. This can be done by reading the feed tag that comes with your product. Exhibitors or those that purchase the feed and are getting their feed ground at a feed mill, should also have conversations with the feed supplier to make sure that ractopamine is not being used in your feed.

Secondary contamination is a concern when you source feed from mills that use ractopamine, this includes any ractopamine based products including those for cattle (Optaflexx® or Actogain®). Your feed supplier should have good quality control practices in place to prevent contamination so that you can maintain a ractopamine-free feeding program. Having a conversation with your feed supplier is important to gain a better understanding of what your risk(s) for secondary contamination may be, so that you can make informed decisions when you source your feed products.

When you are raising pigs fed a ractopamine-free diet your risk of contamination doesn’t stop with the feed that you are purchasing for your animal. There are other proactive steps that you should take to help reduce your risk of secondary contamination. For more information on ractopamine, continue reading 2020 Swine Exhibition season changes and adjustments series Part 1: Changes to Ractopamine usage for pigs at several county fairs and exhibitions and Part 3: Reducing the Risk of Secondary Contamination from Ractopamine. Other resources including information and frequently asked questions about ractopamine have been developed by MSU Extension and are available for exhibitors, parents, county fair staff and exhibitions that are considering or have implemented a ban on this product. 

If you have any questions or would like more suggestions on this topic, please feel free to reach out to Nick Babcock MSU Extension 4-H Livestock and Veterinary Science Program Educator  at 517-432-1626 or by email at or Beth Ferry MSU Extension Pork Educator at 269-876-2745 or 269-927-5674 or by email at

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