Feeding Camelina Meal to Organic Pigs

May 2021

By Yuzhi Li, Alternative and Organic Swine Production

Compared to pigs produced conventionally, pigs produced organically may have better nutritional value, due to greater contents of poly-unsaturated fatty acid (such as omega (ω)-3) and intramuscular fat. In addition, antimicrobial resistance in E coli has been reported to be lower in organic pork than in conventional pork, which suggests that organic pork may help combat antimicrobial resistance in the food sector. However, producing organic pork is costly for many reasons, one of them being high organic feed cost. Pigs rely on high energy and high protein diets to achieve their genetic potentials. Traditional feed ingredients that contain high energy and protein for pigs are corn and soybean meal. The price of organic corn and soybean meal is about 2 to 3 times that of commodity price. To help reduce the high cost of organic feed, most organic swine producers use alternative feed ingredients to replace corn and soybean meal. A potential alternative feed ingredient for organic pigs is camelina meal. Camelina meal, a by-product of camelina oil, contains 33-35% protein and 14-18% fat and can be used as a protein and energy ingredient in diets to feed organic pigs. However, feeding camelina meal to organic pigs has never been reported.

Over the last two years, we investigated whether camelina meal can be used to replace corn and soybean meal in diets for organic pigs without any negative impact on pig performance. We used 396 pigs with the initial weight about 60 lb (10-wk old). Pigs were housed in pens (50 or 48 pigs/pen) of hoop barns that were bedded with straw. Pigs in four pens were fed Control diet and pigs in other 4 pens were fed Camelina diet for 96 days until they reach market weight (270 lb). The control diets were organic corn and soybean meal-based diets that are formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of pigs. The Camelina diets contained 10% camelina meal, replacing corn and soybean meal of the control diets. All pigs were fed organic diets without any growth promoters or treated with antibiotics from birth to harvest as required by the National Organic Standards. Over 96 days of the feeding trial, pigs fed Control diets gained 224 lb and weighed 284 lb (average) before harvest, whereas pigs fed Camelina diets gained 211 lb and weighed 271 lb before harvest. In other words, pigs fed Camelina diets gained 13 lb (or 0.13 lb per day) less weight than pigs fed Control diets. The less weight gain for pigs fed Camelina diets was attributed to less feed intake compared to pigs fed Control diets. During the period of the feeding trial, Camelina pigs consumed 32 lb less feed than Control pigs (651 lb Control vs. 619 lb Camelina feed consumed). There was no difference in feed efficiency between the two groups of pigs. On average, pigs in both groups need 2.8 lb feed for every lb of weight gain. These preliminary results indicate that feeding camelina meal to organic pigs is feasible. Replacing corn and soybean meal with 10% camelina meal did not affect feed efficiency but reduced growth rate by 4%. The decreased growth rate is considered acceptable because pigs fed camelina meal reached 270 lb at about 6-months old. Thus, camelina meal can be used as an alternative feed ingredient for organic pigs. Currently, we are conducting an economic analysis to determine whether replacing corn soybean meal with camelina meal by 10% will reduce feed cost of organic pig production.  

This project is supported by Organic Transition Program (Award# 2017-51106-27129) from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.