Paylean has kept the pork world abuzz since its introduction at the 2000 World Pork Expo, probably more than any other product introduction in recent memory. The feed additive's effects could make long-lasting changes in pork production, but as with all new technology, you need to carefully assess its real value before accepting it.

Paylean is Elanco Animal Health's brand name for the feed additive ractopamine, which encourages lean-muscle growth in finishing pigs. The positives can be beneficial to producers, but using it will require a new level of management and some changes to your current system.

"The use of Paylean always favors better management," says Allan Schinckel, animal scientist Purdue University.

Perhaps the greatest change from adding Paylean to your pigs' diets is the increased pig-flow rate. Research shows that feeding Paylean can help pigs reach market weight nearly a week sooner than pigs not receiving the product.

This presents several management options to best utilize that boost.

"People under time constraints are impressed with the way Paylean cleans up the tail-enders," says Mike Brumm, University of Nebraska swine specialist. He points to producers who use a 16- or 17-week pig flow and were always tight on room. Those producers would have built another barn and gone to an 18-week flow in the past, but Paylean can eliminate the need for the extra construction, he says.

Even producers who are not tight on pig space can use the extra time gained to do other tasks, such as cleaning and disinfecting the room.

Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist, says that if you run an all-in/all-out system, you should start feeding Paylean about one week before the fastest-growing hogs will go to market. This way the top hogs are only on the additive for about a week, while the rest are on it for two to six weeks. That means the tail-enders who need it most receive the benefit for the longest amount of time.

Plain warns that this strategy requires a different management approach. "You can reduce sort loss on tilenders, but if you're not careful you may wind up with more sort loss on your first group of pigs, because they may grow faster than you expected." Of course quicker pig flow will trickle down to the sow herd, requiring management adjustments there. You want to keep buildings full, but pushing sows too hard won't pay either.

Paylean also can help solve problems on specific operations. "For some, it has cleared up a bottleneck of hogs. Some farms in North Carolina only use it in the summer to reduce the typical seasonal growth lag," says Brumm.

He notes that the return from using Paylean is best if you feed market hogs in a fixed amount of time vs. feeding hogs to a certain weight.

Plain says the annual return from using Paylean was 950 percent in his studies, which means it takes about five weeks to double your money. He points out that annual net returns averaged about $2.50 per pig across all feed costs and hog prices. Plain used $40 per hundredweight live-hog prices and $1.80- to $1.85-per-bushel corn prices.

The additive does three things to increase returns, says Plain. Average daily gain increases by about 22 percent, feed conversion improves by 17 percent and carcass characteristics improve due to an increased amount of lean muscle mass, according to his data.

This offsets the additional costs of buying Paylean and feeding the higher protein ration required. (See sidebar.) Plain used a fixed cost of $28 per ton of feed for Paylean, but says producers may be able to get it cheaper. Plain says the extra protein costs can run about 60 percent higher than ordinary feed rations.

Aside from the higher protein costs, there are some other questions about Paylean. One reason the product is so management intensive is that it loses some of its punch after the recommended duration of use.

"If you feed the product too long it shows diminishing returns, so you probably don't want to feed it any longer than four weeks," says Plain. Plus it's only approved for use in pigs weighing up to a barn average of 240 pounds per pig. So, if your packer wants heavier pigs, Paylean may not be right for you.

Schinckel agrees saying, "At week five there is no increase in average daily gain and you'd still have to pay for the product." With all heavy-muscled hogs, stress and death loss are potential problems, and Paylean-fed hogs are no different. However, it is unclear how much of the problem is based on poor animal handling and transportation. Paylean-fed pigs may be bigger, so crowding the same amount of hogs in a load could lead to an increased stress level. As a result, you may have to haul fewer hogs per load.

Elanco officials recommend that all producers use the National Institute for Animal Agriculture's animal handling suggestions.

Packer reactions to Paylean-fed hogs have been varied. Those hogs have caused some concern among packers regarding death loss. Brumm points out that so far no packers have said they will not buy hogs that have been fed Paylean.

One criticism is that using the product will put more pork on a market that is well aware of slaughter capacity limitations, and supply and demand. Plain contends that Paylean use will increase slaughter weights by only about 2 percent, because most pigs will be on the additive for only one to three weeks.

Brumm has another outlook. "Anything that improves performance will put more pork on the market," he says. " If someone discovered a cure for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome there would be more pork on the market, and when artificial insemination and confinement housing gained popularity they put a lot of pork on the market." There is no scientific reason consumers should fear Paylean, but sound science has long ago taken a backseat to consumer fears, whether real or perceived. If you don't believe that, just ask producers of genetically modified grains.

Elanco officials believe Paylean will be different because it provides an advantage to

he consumer by producing more lean meat, rather than providing advantages only to producers. In addition, the company is planning education efforts to share information about Paylean and avoid publicity problems with consumers.

Current uses for Paylean may just be the tip of the iceberg compared to possible future technology advancements. Today, high-lean genetic lines get top priority on the sire and dam side. But in the future, growth or maternal traits may regain priority because you could compensate for lack of leanness by feeding Paylean, says Schinckel. However, much more research is needed before that theory is put into practice.

In addition, Paylean appears to have some manure and odor management benefits when used in the right situation. According to preliminary research at Purdue University, total manure output could be reduced by 5.1 gallons per pig when Paylean is fed for 28 days.

To find out more about Paylean you can either go to Elanco's Web site: www. paylean.com or visit the Purdue University site at www. ansc.purdue.edu then click on "pigs," "porkpage" and "Paylean." There's no turning back technology, so it's always best to be informed before making a decision whether to embrace or reject any new development.

What Paylean Can Do For You

Promoting better growth and efficiency is Paylean's main purpose. The question is by how much? Feed efficiency, average daily gain and carcass characteristics can all increase when Paylean is added to a diet correctly. Here are the increases in each category, according to Elanco's data.

  • Up to 20.6 percent improvement in average daily gain.
  • Up to 15.2 percent increase in feed effeciency.
  • 10.6 pounds heavier carcass.
  • 1.3 percentage-point increase in carcass yield or dressing percent.
  • 1.3 percentage-point improvement in percent fat-free-lean estimate or lean premium.

When and How to Use Paylean

Paylean can have dramatic results when added to swine rations – if it is added correctly.

While Paylean could have a huge impact on U.S. pork production, it is also one of the more management intensive products in recent development. Like any product, it won't work if used incorrectly. Here are Elanco Animal Health's recommendations for Paylean use:- Incorporate Paylean into the ration at 4.5 to 9 grams per ton of feed.

  • Start feeding the ration containing Paylean one week prior to the first shipment of pigs (assuming there are four to five weeks to closeout.) - Continue feeding so the majority of pigs receive at least four weeks of the ration containing Paylean.
  • Increase lysine content by 0.3 percent (so that total dietary lysine is 0.9 percent to 1.2 percent) with at least 16 percent protein.

Handling Takes Priority

Animal handling becomes a crucial issue when raising heavily muscled pigs, like Paylean-fed hogs tend to be. Reports of death loss and stressed pigs during transport surfaced in the early days of Paylean's release. If your hogs tend to have problems with stress, or death loss during transport, you should examine and reassess your handling procedures before using the product.

"If you've been having these problems before, and you load pigs fed Paylean like you always have, problems may persist or increase," says Mike Brumm, University of Nebraska swine specialist. " These animals are bigger than you're used to. You may need to re-think some of your animal handling practices." Allan Schinckel, Purdue University animal scientist, says that transportation problems with Paylean-fed pigs have been similar to problems with other heavily muscled pigs, and it varies by genetic lines. As a solution, he suggests taking extra time and care in handling these animals.

"You should plan for 30 percent to 40 percent more loading time to avoid stress problems – and put the hotshots away," says Schinckel.

Elanco Animal Health is recommending that you adhere to the National Insitute for Animal Agriculture's recommendation for the Handling and Transport of 21st Century Pigs, which includes:- Handlers should walk slowly among pigs in each pen for 1 minute a day or for 5 minutes once a week during the finishing period. This is to t pigs accustom to human contact and teach them to move quietly around the handler.

  • Withhold feed for 4 to 6 hours prior to loading market hogs or withhold feed for 12 to 18 hours prior to slaughter. However, provide access to water.
  • Rely on the natural tendency of pigs to follow "leaders" into strange areas rather than forcing the group to move together.
  • Ensure that lighting placed above and ahead of moving pigs is bright and evenly distributed, so that there are no distracting shadows.
  • The workers should move around as quietly as possible.
  • Use panels, paddles or large flags to move pigs. Avoid caning, clubbing, kicking and slapping, all of which can cause injury. Minimal electroshock is used only as a last resort.
  • To equalize temperature and lighting, open the room's curtains 15 minutes before loading pigs.
  • Load pigs at night or early in the morning if heat and humidity are high.
  • Move small groups of five to six pigs in a 3-foot-wide alley, and move only three pigs at a time in a 2-foot alley.
  • Move each small group of pigs immediately from the finishing pen onto the truck.
  • Avoid sharp turns in alleys; loading chutes should have less than 20-degree angles.
  • To minimize fighting among pigs do not hold large groups of finishing pigs in an alley or holding pen.
  • The number of pigs per running foot of truck floor space (on a 92-inch-wide truck) should be 2.2 for 200-pound pigs, 1.8 for 250-pound pigs and 1.6 for 300-pound pigs.
  • Transport pigs at night or early in the morning if heat and humidity are high, and observe the heat index transportation chart.
  • Use partitions to divide the load.
  • Don't leave pigs unnecessarily in a fully loaded truck. Drive off immediately after loading, to minimize the temperature rise in loaded, stationary trucks.
  • Truck drivers should start, brake and stop smoothly, to avoid injuring pigs.
  • Schedule truck arrivals at the packing plant so that pigs can be unloaded promptly.