Pork producers are caught between a rock and a hard place, as strict environmental regulations, coupled with soaring input costs, are changing the way they are allowed to do business. Rather than using traditional hog production methods that were widely accepted in past generations, today’s producers must search for other ways to remain profitable while eliminating excess animal waste generated by production. Fortunately, new research and resources are showing how ration adjustments can improve efficiency and reduce nutrient output.

Seed companies are focusing efforts on creating more targeted and specialized crops to meet the demands of various industries. Among those efforts is nutrient-dense corn hybrids designed to enhance pork production.

Specialty corn hybrids developed for swine production have been shown to have three distinct advantages compared to yellow dent corn:

  • Increased energy content;
  • Increased amino acid level;
  • Increased amino acid digestibility;
  • Increased phosphorus digestibility. 

Thus, these advantages can lead to improvements in feed efficiency and growth rates while decreasing nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient excretions. Kansas State University researchers have worked with BASF Plant Science, which has identified a set of traits that create nutrient-dense corn hybrids shown to provide these advantages in swine diets.

Increased energy content

Feeding trials have shown that pigs fed nutrient-dense corn have improved growth rates and feed efficiency compared to pigs fed yellow dent corn. The major reason for this is that the nutrient-dense corn contains approximately 1 percent more oil. That has translated into a range of 2.5 percent to 5.3 percent higher metabolizable energy than yellow dent corn, depending on the variety, type and age of the pigs fed in the studies. 

The high energy content has led to consistent findings for improved feed efficiency. Also, pigs in one study had an improved average daily gain due to the higher energy content, but this improvement has not been consistent in all research experiments that looked at nutrient-dense corn.

Improved amino acid quantity and quality

Another advantage of nutrient-dense corn hybrids is that they contain high levels of amino acids that also have been shown to be more digestible. Both of these aspects allow for the diet’s corn portion to contribute more digestible amino acids, thus reducing the level of supplementary protein, particularly soybean meal, in the diet. In fact, you can replace approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of the soybean meal when using nutrient-dense corn hybrids. The diets do need to be formulated to account for these changes, not only to meet the pigs’ needs but to capture the various benefits and advantages to improve profitability. 

Reduced nutrient excretion

One specific nutrient-dense corn variety worth looking at is low-phytate corn. It is nutritionally enhanced to contain approximately 50 percent available phosphorus (in this case, BASF’s variety) compared with yellow dent corn, which has 14 percent available phosphorus (according to NRC, 1998). Due to this improvement in phosphorus digestibility you can reduce supplemental phosphorus by about 50 percent to 60 percent using low-phytate, nutrient-dense corn. 

This is beneficial in two respects. First, it helps reduce the diet’s cost by replacing supplemental phosphorus sources. Secondly, since the pigs are consuming a diet that has a higher phosphorus digestibility, phosphorus excretion also is reduced. Thus, producers with nutrient utilization plans based on phosphorus application rates will be able to apply manure on a given land area and cut back on the amount of commercial fertilizer required.

Due to the improved amino acid digestibility, as well as the improved amino acid profile, there’s also a decline in nitrogen excretion.

Exceeding the industry standard

A Purdue University study found similar results when comparing nutrient-dense corn to the industry standard. The study tested five diets:

  • Traditional corn-based diet.
  • Traditional corn-based diet with supplemental fat.
  • Nutrient-dense corn fed pound for pound to match the industry standard.
  • Nutrient-dense corn fed to match the lysine level of the industry standard.
  • Nutrient-dense corn with extra synthetic lysine to reduce the crude-protein level.

During the 12-week study, researchers found that feeding nutrient-dense corn improved feed efficiency by 4.5 percent when compared to the industry standard diet. Both diets were fed at the same rates.

The researchers also found an 8.6 percent increase in feed efficiency from week three to week six for the following three treatments: the industry standard diet using nutrient-dense corn, the traditional corn diet supplemented with fat to match the lysine level of the aforementioned diet, and the final diet with extra synthetic lysine.

In the end, university research confirms that you can significantly improve feed efficiency by feeding nutrient-dense corn hybrids with improved nutrient profiles. With improved feed efficiency, you can reduce overall manure production and, consequently, the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus excreted. These all are key benefits to remain competitive today and to be a positive environmental steward.


Points to Consider

If you’re considering using a nutrient-dense corn variety in your swine rations, you will need to review the amino acid profile and compare it to what you have been feeding. Not only does it offer higher levels of amino acids compared with yellow dent corn, the amino acids are more digestible for the pig.

See the comparisons in the graph below. Making the right adjustments can allow you to reduce supplementary protein levels in the diet such as soybean meal. That way you can take advantage of potential savings as well as benefit the animal’s growth rate and performance.