Animal protein is used in nursery swine diets as a source of digestible protein. In addition, animal proteins have been shown to help pigs combat health challenges and provide benefits such as increased feed intake, which in turn can help boost gain.
However, at times, certain animal protein ingredients either may not be readily available or are not cost-effective. As the pork industry battles porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and potentially other diseases, some pork producers have raised biosecurity questions related to a variety of swine diet ingredients.
Laura Greiner, swine nutritionist with Carthage Veterinary Services in Carthage, IL, shared some tips for understanding risk and management issues when using or removing animal proteins as part of a presentation at the recent Carthage Swine Health and Production Conference. “So can we start nursery pigs without animal proteins? The answer is, ‘Yes, we can do it.’ It is an option, and sometimes it is an economical option,” Greiner explains. “We don’t want to change nursery diets to have a large amount of soybean meal due to the antigenic issues associated with soybean meal in newly weaned pigs, but there are options available to reduce/remove animal proteins from nursery diets. We can utilize a soy isolate product that is not a full soybean meal. We can also look at products like yeast cells, corn syrup solids, molasses, maltodextrins, dextrose, and in the last year we have been able to economically include amino acids, such as valine and tryptophan, in formulations.”
Based on a literature review of existing research, Greiner offers the following suggestions and comments related to a list of commonly used animal proteins for nursery diets.
“The data is somewhat limited in the literature on milk replacement, particularly complete replacement. We know there are a lot of products out there today that give us lactose equivalents or some type of milk evaluation equivalent. Those are partial replacements, and they do provide good gain and feed conversion. You can remove all of the lactose or milk from the diet of the nursery pig; however, this is not recommended, as you will struggle with some feed-intake issues initially when you do that,” she says.
Risks and value considerations related to milk products:
- Audit manufacturing facilities. “Producers will want to know where the milk products are manufactured to ensure that the same facility is not handling other animal-derived products if this is a concern,” Greiner says.
- Pellet quality. “Understand that the replacement of lactose with other simple sugars may impact pellet quality. You may actually have to go to lower pelleting temperatures or a different type of pelleting that may not be an option in your particular feed mill.”
- Potential for diarrhea. “If you are going to take lactose out and replace it with other simple sugars, it may trigger a diarrhea in piglets,” she says.
“In the last year there has been a lot of discussion about what might happen if plasma is taken out of the diet. Data from a proprietary research trial showed a significant difference in gain, with plasma providing value early and average daily gain being significantly improved when using plasma. Average daily feed intake was trending the same way. But when we look at the entire nursery period in that particular trial, we see that the significance disappears; so by the time pigs are done with the nursery phase, there is no additional value to plasma. If we look at the mortality differences, there is no difference between plasma or no plasma, and there is also no difference in full-value pigs over the entire nursery period,” Greiner says.
“There is other literature available that supports the idea that we can feed diets without plasma in them. It does not mean that you do not need plasma at all. I am still a firm believer that when we have health challenges or early-weaned pigs, there is value in using plasma in the diets to help pigs overcome those issues.”
Risk and value considerations related to plasma products:
- Species source availability. “We know that plasma can be purchased as mixed plasma, porcine plasma and bovine plasma. If you can no longer feed a specific source, for whatever reason, there are options. There are some sources that are 100% bovine-based and are not being manufactured in a facility that is manufacturing other porcine products.”
- Bovine plasma benefits. “We know that porcine plasma provides cross-protection. With porcine plasma, the pigs may have the opportunity to benefit from antibodies that maybe another pig has experienced that can be transferred to get cross-protection. However, there is still value in bovine plasma for health-challenged pigs, but the cross-protection aspect will be potentially limited,” she says.
- Feed intake. “Data has shown that there is a potential reduction in feed intake when plasma is not used in early nursery diets. Here again, you have to weigh the benefits and advantages, and your feeling of the risk of cost and control related to biosecurity concerns.”
“Fat is not necessarily an animal protein, but it did come up on our list of items to look at when talking about biosecurity and animal product control. We know we can replace choice white grease with vegetable oil, and in our system today, we use corn oil. We feel very comfortable that our performance has not been impacted, whether it is grow-finish or on the sow farms during the last year. In evaluating historical growth and feed conversion data from our research barns, we did not see any differences from when we fed choice white grease or corn oil,” says Greiner.
“We can use the general rule of thumb that every 1% increase in fat generally improves feed conversion 2%. So we know if we take fat out of the diet altogether we can lose feed conversion, and that is an economic consideration for us in grow-finish. But looking at it on the sow side, recent North Carolina State University research [Rosero, et al., 2013] has demonstrated that in periods of high ambient temperatures, we can get improved feed efficiency when feeding choice white grease to sows compared to an animal-vegetable blend. But both the choice white grease and animal-vegetable blend products improved reproductive performance and subsequent total born as the inclusion rates increased. We are continuing to learn that there can be some differences between choice white grease and vegetable oil during different phases of the animal’s growth period.”
Risks and value considerations related to fat source:
- Choice white grease is a rendered product.
- Heating of choice white grease should allow for potential pathogen control.
- Biosecurity of transport vehicles. “The big question is related to the biosecurity of your vendor truck. Understand where the vendor truck has been, and have a clear outline of what is expected from a biosecurity standpoint of the truck. Verify the truck is clean when it comes to your farm, or if it has been somewhere that could potentially put you at risk of PRRS [porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome], PEDV or other pathogens.”
- Vegetable fat and oxidation. “When we look at vegetable fat, we know that it oxidizes relatively quickly; so if you are going to use a vegetable fat, you may need to add an antioxidant to your fat tank to help maintain that fat. You may also need to increase Vitamin E in the diet to help with oxidative stress that may occur.”
Everyone’s model is different for the types of costs and risks they are comfortable with when it comes to a production system.
“Producers need to look at what species the ingredient may be coming from, where the ingredient is being manufactured and what other products may be manufactured in the facility where the ingredient originates,” she explains.
Greiner urges producers to contact the product suppliers for the ingredients they may be using. “Suppliers can be a great resource to tell you where the product is coming from, how it is being handled, and what they are doing to help you out.”