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A Guide to Application of Net Energy in Swine Feed Formulation

Posted in: Production by admin on January 1, 2007


Feeding pigs is the single most expensive aspect of pork production, accounting for as much as 70% of total costs. Surprisingly, at least 50% of these feed costs can be attributed to providing energy to the animal, thus making energy financially the most important nutrient. Many nutritionists have accepted and are formulating diets on the basis of standardized ileal digestible amino acids and the ideal protein concept. However, for energy, many North American nutritionists continue to formulate diets using digestible or metabolizable energy systems (DE or ME) as opposed to more advanced systems, such as net energy (NE). The purpose of this paper is to identify the benefits of using an NE system, and then to provide an outline for implementing NE into commercial production. The NE system was developed to provide more accurate estimates of the “true” energy in an ingredient (and subsequent diet) that is going to be available for a pig to use for maintenance and product formation (i.e. growth, gestation, lactation, etc.). The main difference between the NE system and the DE and ME systems is that the NE system considered the amount of heat lost during digestion and subsequent deposition of nutrients in protein and adipose tissue. A serious downfall of any energy system, including NE, is that most nutritionists have been and still are using the same energy values for their ingredients as they have been using for years. Of course, this may work for the NE as well, but it is certainly not the best management practice, because with every change in the crude nutrient (protein, fiber, fat, etc.) profile, there also is a change in the energy available from that ingredient. This paper focuses on providing a detailed guideline of how to proceed with implementing an NE system. As with any nutrient system, the ideal first step is to develop some sort of database that will help nutritionists better understand the ingredients and their roles in animal diets. A good place to start is by identifying the energy containing feed ingredients that would typically be used in the grow-finish diets. Grow-finish diets typically contain the least number of ingredients and these diets make up the bulk of the feed that a pig will consume over its lifetime. Furthermore, while the concepts of NE certainly apply to all phases of growth, it is conceivable that each phase of growth would require a different set of mathematical equations as the animal’s ability to extract nutrients, including energy, change as the animal grows. Once the energy containing feed ingredients have been identified, then the next step towards creating a NE database would be to collect each ingredient over a defined period of time. After analyzing the ingredients, the next step would be to incorporate the crude nutrient values into the NE equations so that a prediction of the NE content can be made. Next, the newly calculated NE values should be incorporated into the formulation software, and if not already present, add NE into each grow-finish diet matrix. Finally, once the nutritionist has become comfortable with the NE levels, then the nutritionist should make the switch. The implementation of a NE system is a major step forward from the use of the DE and ME systems. Combined with digestible amino acids and the ideal protein concept, a NE system will allow the nutritionist to formulate diets that provide the animal with the energy and amino acids that it needs for efficient and predictable growth and carcass performance. These systems promote better environmental stewardship for more sustainable pig production by improving nutrient utilization and efficiency. While NE may not be the final advancement to be made in energy evaluation systems (De Lange and Birkett, 2005), it is definitely a start in the right direction.

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