Pork producers are always looking for ways to improve feed use but never more so than today, with high feed costs and tight supplies. Now, thanks to a $5 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an international team of scientists will tackle the challenge of improving feed efficiency in swine.

“This project is to improve the efficiency with which the pig converts feed into edible consumer products. Feed is increasingly expensive and food on this planet is becoming increasingly scarce. It’s very important that all aspects of agriculture continue to improve efficiency,” says John Patience, Iowa State University swine specialist, who will direct the project.

On average, it takes about 3 pounds of feed for a pig to produce a pound of gain. A 5 percent improvement in that feed-conversion rate would reduce annual feed requirements by 2 million tons. Add it up and it would be worth nearly $500 million.

“This is extremely important to our pork industry,” Patience notes. “Improving feed efficiency also will benefit the consumer through lower food prices.”

Two-thirds of the project will be committed to research, in partnership with Kansas State University. Patience points out there will be a “very aggressive” Extension component, which will provide results and recommendations to pork producers. “We’re going to take the information generated in our research herd and we’re going to test it and evaluate it under commercial conditions.” Strengthening the competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry is the long-term goal.

Iowa State scientists will join researchers from Kansas State, the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Australia’s Pork Cooperative Research Centre, the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Those involved in the research have organized an international conference on feed efficiency in swine, scheduled for Nov. 8-9 in Omaha. More information is available at http://tinyurl.com/3ba2ufm.