Kansas State University, Iowa State University improving feed efficiency in swine herds
Monday, Nov. 2, 2015
MANHATTAN — Researchers at Kansas State University are making steady progress in developing improved diets for pigs, a science so exact that even a 1 percent improvement in feeding efficiency can translate into $100 million of added profit to the U.S. swine industry.
Mike Tokach, Kansas State University distinguished professor of animal sciences and industry, said the university is working in collaboration with researchers at Iowa State University to develop practices that improve feed efficiency on U.S. farms.
"Our first goal is to save feed and thus reduce costs for producers, which ultimately reduces the cost of pork to consumers," Tokach said. "The other very important part of our research is the environmental side. Anything we do to improve feed efficiency reduces the output of nitrogen and phosphorus from that farm."
Based on results from a 2012 survey of more than 200 U.S. swine producers, the two universities developed 13 fact sheets that provide specific direction on how producers can improve feeding efficiency on their farm. The topics include genetics, particle size, pelleting, temperature, market weights, amino acids and more. The materials are available at swinefeedefficiency.com.
One sheet includes a decision tool that producers can use to measure their current practices against research-tested methods.
"Producers can use that to troubleshoot their operation; if their efficiency is not where they want it to be, they go through the decision tree to see what areas they can check out," Tokach said. "Or, they can plug in things they're currently doing into a feed efficiency model on the website that tells them it's good enough, or maybe they should change temperature in the barn, change diets, or change the way their feed is processed."
Since the 2012 survey, the researchers have conducted field trials with farmers in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.
"Each project was done with different production systems to give the data more credence since it was done in many locations and in the field," Tokach said. "Each project explored a different area that influences feed efficiency, such as the level of dried distiller grains, feed particle size, pelleting or sow feed usage."
Also in the field trials, Iowa State University researchers focused on genetic selection as a factor of feed efficiency. Their work led to a genetic line selected for improved feed utilization.
The $5 million project is funded through 2017 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Tokach said that the federal agency's support is a testament to the importance of feed efficiency on the farm. The annual value of hog feed in the U.S. is $10 billion, and feed accounts for 65-70 percent of the cost of raising a pig, he said.
The work done by Kansas State University and Iowa State University is being updated regularly online. Tokach and many others have been sharing the research results at numerous workshops, professional meetings and in the mass media.
Tokach said feed efficiency will be a hot topic during the university's annual Swine Day, which is Nov. 19 in Manhattan. Nearly 400 U.S. swine producers and industry professionals typically attend the annual meeting.
For more information, visit KSUswine.org.
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