While humans often take vitamins to boost energy, it appears as though pigs experience a similar benefit. Researchers at Kansas State University have been feeding a vitamin supplement to nursery pigs and getting results that show the pigs use energy more efficiently, and grow at a faster rate than they do without the supplement.

The researchers used low doses of carnitine, a compound similar to B vitamins. Nursery pigs were fed diets that included approximately 25 parts-per-million of dietary L-carnitine per ton of feed. The low dose and the resulting growth improvements would make the process more profitable, says Bob Goodband, an animal scientist at Kansas State.

Previous studies showed similar growth improvements, but those trials used doses as high as 1,000 ppm, which is cost-prohibitive for pork producers, notes Goodband.

Pigs and other animals produce carnitine naturally, but research has shown that giving the animals a small supplement improves the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria, a process that creates mechanical energy.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University found similar results using dietary L-carnitine in nursery pig diets. But because vitamin research is often variable, Goodband says he and others are awaiting results from ongoing trials at other universities. He plans to use those results to help develop recommendations.