Deciding what ingredients to use in swine diets: Using science as our guide

Posted on March 16, 2012 in Swine Performance
By Dr. Dean Koehler

Swine producers are bombarded with dozens of possible ingredients that can be included in swine diets, such as various grains, plant and animal proteins, feed fats, amino acids, byproducts, minerals, phytases, energy enzymes, antibiotics, flavors, mycotoxin binders, probiotics…  The list is very long! And while you are confronted with a considerable number of possible ingredients, swine nutritionists must decide from among far more.  When all the potential forms and sources of various vitamins, trace minerals and additives are considered, we have literally hundreds of potential ingredients that can go into swine diets.   So which in this myriad of ingredients should you use and why?  That question generally boils down to deciding which products are shown to be safe, nutritionally beneficial, consistent in response, readily available and cost effective. Cost effectiveness is generally determined by entering the nutrient profiles and costs of various products into feed formulation software and mathematically determining the best combination of ingredients to meet a desired nutrient profile for a given diet at the lowest cost. Nutritional adequacy and consistency of response are often more difficult to determine – especially for new types of ingredients or potential new sources of established product types.  Here at Vita Plus, the standard we use when deciding whether or not to include an ingredient in our swine products or diet formulations is that a product needs to be shown to produce consistent responses or benefits to a level of scientific certainty.  By this we mean that the ingredient needs to have been investigated using properly designed controlled studies, and the results need to have been analyzed so that the observations of the product’s effectiveness or benefits can be shown to be statistically significant. It is not uncommon, however, to see products on the market that have little or no credible scientific evidence showing their effectiveness.  Often times, these products are sold based on no more evidence than poorly designed “field studies,” testimonials and unsubstantiated marketing claims.  Producers should view such product claims with a healthy dose of skepticism, keeping in mind the old adage caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Vita Plus swine nutritionists and sales consultants take pride in providing information to help you decide which feed ingredients and additives may be of benefit for your individual needs based on your specific production and economic situations.  Vita Plus has many technical bulletins and spreadsheet tools in our arsenal to explain the potential benefits and to calculate the economic impacts of various ingredients and additives. Contact your Vita Plus consultant to get more information about the cost-effectiveness of various ingredients and additives, and to receive assistance in determining whether various additives can improve pork production profitability for your farm-specific situation.

About the author:  Dr. Dean Koehler has served as swine technical services manager since joining Vita Plus in 2001.  He was raised in southwest Minnesota and was active in 4-H and FFA.  His youth livestock projects included raising and showing swine and sheep.  Koehler earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in swine nutrition from the University of Minnesota.  His master’s research investigated the digestibility of raw soybean varieties naturally low in anti-nutritional factors when fed to growing pigs.  His doctorate research utilized a stable isotope of the amino acid lysine to measure how efficiently sows transfer dietary lysine into their milk.  Koehler is interested in all facets of swine nutrition.  His role at Vita Plus is to provide technical service to the field and supervise the development of support tools, such as technical bulletins and spreadsheets.  Additionally, he is the author the Vita Plus online grow-finish feed budgeting software, mentor.

Category: Feed ingredients
Swine Performance