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By: Drew Woods, M.Sc.
Manager of Monogastric Nutrition
Grand Valley Fortifiers
As part of a healthy diet, we all must eat things we don’t necessarily like because they provide the nutrients that allow us to grow and function well. This lack of enthusiasm for food could be due to taste, texture, intolerances, or other factors. When we look at animal nutrition, it is similar in that pigs need nutrients from their food, but like us, we want to make sure they have palatable feed to maximize intake and growth. The argument can be made that pigs truly only need nutrients and that ingredients don’t matter, but that means we must know the nutrient composition in each ingredient in order to formulate a balanced ration. While it is correct that pigs utilize nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, we need to remember that if the ingredients being used don’t drive intake, we are just hurting production. Let’s look at some common ingredients used (excluding corn and soy), some limitations to their use, and how a well-rounded diet is created.

If we simply look at the nutrients in Table 1, we can see a typical separation of the ingredients based on if they contribute relatively more energy or protein. However, relying on their primary nutrient (e.g. fat or protein) can lead to shortfalls in diet creation. For energy ingredients, bakery meal and roasted soybeans are very popular and when considering energy content, this is due to a higher fat content. Roasted soybeans also come with the benefit of high protein, but it is in a lower concentration than soybean meal. This means that when high levels of roasted soybeans are used, amino acid supplementation is needed to provide the same levels as soybean meal. When we look at our protein ingredients, the first two, DDGS and canola, are expected, but having wheat shorts on that list may surprise some readers. It is lower in crude protein than both canola and DDGS, but it is a better source of digestible amino acids than DDGS. Despite the higher crude protein content of DDGS, wheat shorts still have a more favourable amino acid profile.

Table 1: Nutrient Composition of Common Feed Ingredients

Table 1: Nutrient Composition of Common Feed Ingredients (CVB, 2021)
*Net energy is the amount of energy in the feed minus the energy lost in the feces, urine, and in heat production through digestive and metabolic processes.
**Standardized Ileal Digestible Lysine. This is the most common measure of amino acid digestibility. Lysine is typically the first limiting amino acid in pigs.

Switching over from an ingredient level review, let’s look at some of the limiting factors associated with the various products presented. In Table 2, the energy-providing ingredients and their risk factors are very different than the protein-providing ingredients. The main issue when using too much of a high-energy ingredient is disruption of protein to energy balance in the diet, which can alter the body composition or carcass characteristics of the animal. If we overfeed energy, with high fat ingredients in particular, the animal is more likely to use that extra energy for fat deposition and not lean muscle. Also, high energy diets can give the illusion of a good FCR, but it is really just taking advantage of the efficiency of using dietary fat and directly depositing it as body fat. When we jump to our protein ingredients, the main risk from DDGS is the mycotoxin factor. When corn is poor quality, DDGS tend to be poor quality. We also need to ensure the quality of the drying process, as this can affect was done well and the protein quality is not affected. The final caution on this ingredient is the level of unsaturated fats, which can lead to soft carcass fat, which is not desirable for the packer or consumer. When considering canola, historically, canola it has been dismissed due to potential anti-nutritional factors. Although these have been removed via selective breeding in the plants, the limiting factor is palatability. Canola can have a bitter taste and should not be included above 15% in late-stage finishing rations.
Canola in the field.
One thing to note is that canola also has more fibre than wheat shorts, which makes it a great source of both protein and fibre. Finally, wheat shorts can also be at risk of mycotoxins, but their greatest limitation is bulk density. It is a very fluffy ingredient and can make diet manufacturing difficulty when used at high quantities.
Figure 2: Limiting Factors For Use of Common Feed Ingredients

Table 2: Limiting Factors For Use of Common Feed Ingredients

With all of this being said, when we consider the limitations of the ingredients and the nutrients contained in them, we can create a diet that provides everything that is needed by the pig at a specific life stage, while still encouraging adequate feed intake. The Nutrition Team at Grand Valley Fortifiers and Fortified Nutrition are experts at achieving this balance, while considering your on-farm ingredients and operation, to make optimal feeding programs for your pigs. If you’re not a GVF customer, but, interested in having our Nutrition Team review your diets please reach out to one of our Swine Specialists to get connected with us.

References: CvbPortaal, 2021.https://www.cvbdiervoeding.nl/pagina/10021/ home.aspx

This article was written for the Summer 2024 Swine Grist. To read the whole Swine Grist, click the button below.