Swine Nutrition

Feed 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.

One 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

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

For more information on swine nutrition research conducted at the WCROC, please contact Lee Johnston.