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Author(s): Noblet, Jean
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Country: France


The cost of feed is the most important cost of pig meat production (~60%) and the energy component represents the greatest proportion of the feed. Therefore, it is important to estimate precisely the energy value of feeds, either for least-cost formulation purposes or for adapting feed supply to energy requirements of animals. In addition, energy supply has an important impact on performance of animals. Evaluation of energy content of pig feeds is firstly and most commonly based on their Digestible Energy (DE) or Metabolizable Energy (ME) contents. However, the closest estimate of the “true” energy value of a feed should be its Net Energy (NE) content, which takes into account differences in metabolic utilization of ME between nutrients. In addition, NE is the only system in which energy requirements and diet energy values are expressed on a same basis, which should theoretically be independent of the feed characteristics. The objectives of this paper is to present the available energy systems for pig feeds with emphasis given to NE systems and to evaluate their ability for predicting pig performance. Energy value of pig feeds can be measured according to different criteria (DE, ME or NE). The most advanced and practically applicable energy evaluation system appears to be the NE system proposed by Noblet et al. (1994) for which energy values of most ingredients used in pig diets are available (Sauvant et al., 2004). In addition, these authors have proposed energy values that are different for growing and adult pigs. This system has been widely used in Europe and internationally in many major feed companies. The relative energy density or the hierarchy between ingredients depends on the energy system with considerable variations between ingredients or compound feeds when either fat or crude protein contents deviate from values in standard diets. Even if it has not been considered in detail in this review, the change from DE or ME systems to a NE system is usually associated with a shift in diet composition with lower crude protein contents and slightly higher fat levels. From that point of view, formulating according to a NE concept produces more environmentally friendly diets. Significant improvements in prediction of energy value of pig feeds will come from an improved knowledge of energy and nutrients digestibility, which depends on chemical characteristics of the feed, (bio)technological treatments and animal factors. Unfortunately, current information is insufficient to take this systematically into consideration and it should be a promising area for future research. Finally, for least cost formulation purposes, reliable (i.e., related to animal performance) nutritional values must be used. It is then highly suggested to combine efficient protein – digestible amino acids – and energy – net energy – systems. Under such circumstances, the feed cost of production should be minimized.

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