Reduced corn and soybean yields and potentially tight supplies cause many pork producers to look for alternative ingredients and canola meal has received quite a bit of attention recently. Canola meal has an amino acid profile similar to soybean meal (SBM), but has higher fiber content and is believed to have a lower energy value.

In the summer of 2012, Hubbard Feeds conducted a trial that examined the effects of replacing 1/3 of the SBM in a corn-SBM-based late nursery diet with 200 lbs. of canola meal. The objective was to determine supplemental energy needs in the canola meal diet to observe growth responses similar to the corn-SBM diet.

The results show that pigs fed the diet containing canola meal had similar performance to pigs fed the corn-SBM diet. No difference was shown in feed intake and efficiency between the two diets, which suggests canola meal may have an energy value more comparable to SBM than previously suggested.

Pork producers could also consider a wheat midds diet, but it has a lower energy value and higher fiber content than SBM. Research shows that pigs fed diets that contain 15 percent wheat midds will have a lower average daily gain (ADG) and higher feed conversion than diets containing corn, SBM and distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS). “It’s critical to balance the diet for energy when using wheat midds, unless producers can project improved return over feed costs, despite poorer feed conversion,” says Ernie Hansen, swine group leader, Hubbard Feeds.

Regardless of feeding strategy, how the pigs are marketed is a major factor. Are they on a fixed-weight system in which time is not a consideration and pigs are marketed at the same weight or are they on a fixed-time system in which the number of days is limited? Lower energy diets, especially with higher ingredient costs, may not provide the best return over feed costs in a fixed-time system since pigs will not reach optimal market weight.

Using alternative grains may lower diet cost per ton. However, due to reduced performance the actual return over feed costs may be lower also. Lower-cost diets do not necessarily mean better returns. Unfortunately when corn supplies are limited, producers may not have many options. Knowing the impact of their decisions can be helpful.