June 2016: Fine tuning for top performance

We recently conducted a trial where we wanted to test the amino acid requirements at two different crude protein levels for growing pigs (30 to 110kg). Why? Well, we haven’t actually carried out a trial in this area for this age group of pigs in the past 10 years, and our thinking was that modern genetics must have different nutritional needs. Moreover, the protein content in feed has slowly decreased over the years due to environmental restrictions and due to the need to import expensive protein sources like soya. It is, therefore, important to know exactly at what level we need to allocate amino acids and protein to achieve optimal productivity, minimal environmental impact and optimal cost of production.

Practical experience also shows that we apparently compromise on lean meat percentage and feed efficiency if we reduce the crude protein content despite maintaining the amino acid level. The explanation could lie in the pigs needing the extra nitrogen in the form of non-essential amino acids – or the freely available amino acids never reaching the full effect, because they partly convert into other nitrogen components.

Nevertheless, the result of this study was that we maintained the overall amino acid profile and crude protein level, but for pigs from 30 to 55kg, we’re recommending a slight adjustment in the lysine level. We also now recommend that if the feed efficiency is better than 2.80 FU/kg gain, there’s a benefit in increasing the lysine level and the crude protein level to achieve a better performance and, therefore, an optimal cost of production per pig produced.

We are now moving towards a “dynamic” norm set, where nutritional requirements are determined by the productivity of the pigs. The interesting part now is how are we going to handle this in practice? When is the optimal time to adjust your diets? Is it after a consistent period of six or nine months of improved productivity? For producers who purchase pelleted feed, will it be transparent enough for them what’s in the diet versus price? All of these questions are to be discussed in a forthcoming round-table meeting with all the feed consultants.

Some of you may remember my nationwide feed project, where we were looking at reducing feed usage per pig produced. At a recent meeting, we presented figures showing that we’ve helped the 34 remaining, participating pig herds reduce feed costs by more than £900,000 in 2015 alone. Many of them say that the project is the main reason they can present positive figures and budgets to their banks this year.

We didn’t invent anything new in this project – it was all about efficient knowledge transfer and bringing all the good stuff we already know to farm level in a systemised way. I guess my seven years of experience as a KT manager came into good use!

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About The Author

Lisbeth Shooter is a former BPEX knowledge transfer manager who’s now head of department for feed efficiency at the Danish Pig Research Centre.