Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Western Hog Journal - Ruurd T. Zijlstra, University of Alberta
Publication Date: July 12, 2011
Reference: Spring 2008


A must for regaining competitiveness

Take home message

The draconian rise in feed costs is directly associated with a drastic rise in price of locally-grown wheat and barley. Thus, the most immediate method to keep the rise in feed cost in check is to increase the dietary content of feedstuffs such as by-products by partially replacing cereal grains. The increased use of by-products must coincide with the use of modern feed quality evaluations systems for energy, amino acids, and phosphorus. Then, the risk of increased dietary protein and fiber content due to increased by-product use can, to a great extent, be managed. Growth performance and carcass quality of grower-finisher pigs can be maintained with reasoned changes in feedstuff composition of feeds, while simultaneously formulating more cost-effective feeds by using more by-products.

Current status

In the last decade, the Western Canadian pork industry has expanded rapidly, supported by competitive locally-grown feed grains, an advantageous exchange rate, and overall reasonable prices for market pigs. Within the last year, this combined picture has changed quickly. Especially for feed grain prices and current exchange rate, the current situation might last for a while. The expansion of the bio-fuels industry, especially in the US, and pressure in global wheat markets are main causes for high feed grain prices. In other words, local crop producers have now been given access to markets that are able and willing to pay more than the local livestock and feed industry for locally-grown grains that were used previously in swine feeds. As result, competitiveness to feed grower-finisher pigs in Western Canada was lost relative to the Northern US, as has been reflected by increasing numbers of young pigs that are being born in Western Canada to be finished in the US.


Instant solution 

To regain competitiveness, the Western Canadian pork industry must implement aggressive strategies to use other feedstuff combinations than have been used for the last decade. The use of alternative feedstuffs was not required for the last decade, because grain producers were forced to trade large quantities of grains domestically to feed markets following the elimination of transport subsidies. The feed grain markets have now changed for the foreseeable future. By-products should be used by the pork industry to a much greater extent as feedstuffs in swine feeds than during the last decade to regain competitiveness short-term, or as a minimum, to reduce feed costs. By-products would include feedstuffs such as dried distiller’s grain plus solubles (DDGS), millrun, canola meal, etc., but also raw materials that have been extruded and are cost-effective should be considered. Medium-term, rapid feed quality evaluation systems combined with trading based on feed quality and modern feed processing techniques will support the cost-effective use of locally-grown and locally-produced feedstuffs. Crop breeding programs might provide relief long-term, especially if yields per acre can be enhanced beyond averages achieved in the last decade. But obviously long-term breeding efforts do not provide solutions that are required immediately to keep a viable local pork industry in western Canada.


Risk management – energy

To feed pigs diets with an increased content of by-products presents a risk to maintaining growth performance and carcass composition. However, other areas in the world, especially in Western Europe, have managed this risk to a great extent by using more modern feed quality evaluation systems, at least systems that are more modern than used traditionally in North America. By-products such as canola meal, millrun, DDGS, etc. generally have a much higher protein and fibre content and lower starch content than grains. Therefore, less starch and more protein and fibre will be used to supply energy to support protein deposition. Better energy systems than digestible energy (DE) and metabolizable energy (ME) are required, because these two systems overestimate the amount of energy supplied by protein and fibre. The net energy (NE) system is such a system. Although the NE system has not been validated for extreme inclusion levels of by-products in swine diets, a large body of evidence of European and North American data suggest that the NE system is superior to the DE and ME system in dealing with large fluctuations in dietary content of macronutrients, especially protein. In other words, growth performance and carcass quality can be maintained more easily across a wider spectrum of changes in dietary protein content. In contrast, if expected changes in macronutrient composition are small, not much of an advantage of the NE system will be observed.

Risk management – other constituents

Apart from energy, dietary amino acids should be formulated using the standardized ileal digestible (SID) amino acid system, and the use of total and apparent digestible amino acids for feed formulation should be avoided entirely. Furthermore, phosphorus should be formulated as digestible or available phosphorus and not as total phosphorus. Some by-products such as DDGS have a high content of digestible phosphorus and this potential advantage would be ignored if the total phosphorus system is used to formulate swine feeds. Moreover, by-products present a risk because concentrations of mycotoxins or anti-nutritional factors can potentially be higher than in the original cereal grain. For example, vomitoxin or DON can survive the fermentation and drying process, and can thus be concentrated in DDGS in comparison to the feedstock grain. Finally, the high fibre content of by-products and thus compounded feeds will mean that pigs should be marketed 1 to 2 kg heavier to ensure that target carcass weight will be reached. The increased fibre content will stimulate intestine growth and dressing percentage will thus be slightly lower.

Risk management – guidance

The risk of including an increasing amount of by-products into swine feeds can be managed better by including multiple by-products each at a lower inclusion level in swine diets than a large quantity of a single by-product. Unfortunately, local research efforts have been mostly directed towards studying the impact of individual by-products, rather than studying the maximum inclusion level of a mix of by-products. Still, if one of the following feedstuffs – tallow, canola meal, phytase, and DDGS, and perhaps even extruded feedstuffs – are currently missing from your feed formulations from grower-finisher pigs, your feed costs are likely too high. If the combined total of these feedstuffs, excluding soybean meal, is currently less than 30% of grower diets, opportunities to develop a more cost-effective feeding program exist. Experiences with by-products in The Netherlands indicate that combined total of by-products can be pushed to 70% in compounded feeds and up to 95% in liquid feeding systems. The Western Canadian pork industry has barely explored such opportunities. Unfortunately, pork producers in western Canada do not have the same extent of opportunities as pork producers in Ontario to use liquid by-products from the food industries. Still, sufficient opportunities exist to explore larger inclusion rates of by-products


To use local by-products effectively, information on the content of their constituents NE, SID amino acids, and digestible/available phosphorus is essential. Throughout history, large databases containing the nutritional quality of these constituents have been acquired for an array of feedstuffs including by-products, especially in Western Europe. In particular local feed consultants have brought this information to Western Canada, and have implemented the use of these databases to formulate feeds. A steep learning curve followed. For example, some differences in macronutrient profile of by-products likely exist between continents that should be accounted for properly using laboratory analyses. Correct NE content and ratios of SID lysine to NE had to be implemented, whereas SID ratios of other amino acids to lysine were more easily implemented. Also, even though the NE system can predict performance and carcass quality better than the DE and ME systems, it does not mean that the NE system can be implemented without reasoned changes in feedstuff and macronutrient composition of feeds.


 The pork industry in western Canada is under severe pressure, in part due to very high feed costs. The current status dictates that the risk of using increasing amounts of by-products will be taken. These risks should be managed properly. Even though Western Canadian nutritionists have generally worked with more complex feeds than colleagues in the US, more complex feeds in other places globally provide a guide to reductions in feed costs that can be achieved instantly. At Banff Pork Seminar for the last two years, we developed specific sessions that provided the breadth and depth of knowledge required to implement these changes.

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