Swine Nutrition

WCROC Swine nutritionFeed costs represent about 70 percent of the total cost to raise a pig to market weight. Scientists at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) direct much effort toward researching ways to economically feed pigs so that pork is priced competitively for the consumer. Our research covers the nutritional needs of pigs from conception to market with emphasis on economic and environmental sustainability and pork quality. Swine nutrition research at the WCROC benefits pork producers and pork consumers by providing a high-quality, wholesome product at an affordable price.

Dried distillers grains (DDGs) and other products in swine diets

Historically, pork producers relied on diets composed of corn and soybean meal to feed pigs. However, increased demands from competing markets have made these traditional ingredients less available and more expensive. So, pork producers continually look for alternative ingredients to make cost-effective diets for pigs. Our scientists conduct research to identify the nutritional value of alternative ingredients, and determine the pig's willingness to consume them.

WCROC Swine nutrition, group feedingOne recent study looked at whether frequent inclusion and removal of DDGs (PDF) affected pig performance, as well as the effect on growth performance (PDF) and carcass characteristics of growing-finishing pigs.

Often, these ingredients present handling difficulties that need to be evaluated and solved, such as the introduction of additives (PDF), and storage bin design (PDF) with relation to flowability.

The use of co-products can alter pork quality, so our scientists are evaluating ways to mitigate such problems. Scientists have looked at the challenges and opportunities related to fat hardness (PDF) in swine products, including the use and effectiveness of cottonseed oil.   Our studies include evaluating new production technologies, such as the use of immunological castration methods (PDF), that may interact with feeding co-products in ways that must be understood for sustainable pork production.

Nutrition and sow housing

WCROC Swine, electronic feeding system

At the SROC, sows are fed using an electronic feeding system.

Diet formulation is an essential part of pig nutrition, but the job is not complete until feed is delivered to the animal. Management, feeding and delivery (PDF) can be different among housing systems. We are working to understand how nutritional programs for sows might be different (PDF) in one housing system compared with another. Swine nutrition studies are conducted in collaboration with the Southern Research and Outreach Center (SROC).

Additional information

  • Feeding camelina meal to pigs
  • Camelina cover-crop use may support pig growth, soil health
  • One of our more recent swine nutrition projects is a comparative trial using dried procine plasma that has been treated with UV light.  Spray-dried plasma has widely been used in feeding programs for weaned pigs.  Our objective is to look at whether or not the way UV treated plasma  optimizes growth performance and gut function of pigs experiencing weaning stress, such as vaccinations, transportation, diet change, and/or adaptation to new environments.  Read more.
  • The Zinpro Corporation funded a project at the WCROC which focuses on dietary zinc's role in mitigating the crowding-induced depression in growth performance of finishing pigs.  Our swine undergraduate intern, Julia Holen, earned the Swine Research and Education Experience award through National Pork Board to evaluate this study.  Find out more about our zinc study.


For more information on swine nutrition research conducted at the WCROC, contact Lee Johnston at 320-589-1711 or johnstlj@morris.umn.edu

Exploring Water Quality and Swine Health