K-State researchers test low-protein diets for slowing pig growth

Pigs were about 14 pounds lighter at the end of the 44-day finishing period by feeding reduced levels of amino acid.


Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension

via National Hog Farmer - Jun 24, 2020


Kansas State University swine researchers are reporting results of a study in which they were able to help producers slow the growth of pigs during the COVID-19 pandemic while they waited for packing plants to re-open.


Their findings, they say, could be important any time markets are disrupted, whether that be for a global pandemic or other industry challenges.


Mike Tokach, a swine nutritionist with K-State Research and Extension and one of the lead investigators, says the study focused on reducing protein sources namely amino acids from the animals' diet. They focused on pigs weighing 200 pounds, targeting the last 70 to 80 pounds those animals needed to reach market weight.


"We were able to buy 3 1/2 to four weeks of extra time to get those pigs to market," Tokach says. "As many know, that was really crucial when we were going through some of the slowdowns (at packing plants, which caused a backlog of pigs on farms). Buying that extra 3 1/2 weeks allowed some of our producers to keep their pigs on the farm longer, while not getting them too heavy and still fitting into the packer's window in terms of weight ranges."


Amino acids are the building blocks for animal protein, or muscle, and are beneficial to a pig's growth. Lysine is an important amino acid often used in pigs' diets.


"If we limit the intake of amino acids, that animal simply isn't able to grow as fast," says K-State swine nutritionist Joel DeRouchey. "Ultimately that was our goal: to slow down growth while they're still consuming a full amount of feed."


DeRouchey says the researchers tested four diets to compare the effect of reduced lysine on pigs' growth: