With rapidly rising feed ingredient costs, U.S. pork producers are seeking strategies and creative solutions for managing feed costs to protect dwindling margins while maintaining efficient pig growth.

“We have to be constantly looking for ways to get the most calories out of every bite of feed consumed by pigs,” says Joel DeRouchey, Extension swine nutritionist, Kansas State University. At the World Pork Expo in Des Moines this week, DeRouchey outlined several feeding strategies that can help producers get the most from each feed dollar invested.

Maintaining equipment and adjusting feeders to minimize waste are increasingly important as feed costs rise. Repair or replace broken feeders and consider using wet-dry feeders.

Increasing use of distillers’ dried grains with solubles should be considered but care must be exercised to avoid negatively impacting fat quality and carcass yield. Look for DDGS in which lysine is at least 2.8 percent of crude protein.

DeRouchey cites feed pelleting as a way to increase feed efficiency. Research at Kansas State shows that pelleted diets increase nutrient availability and result in less waste, better feed conversion and lower occurrence of ulcer problems.

Managing micron size of feed particles must be a part of maximizing feed efficiency. For example, each change of 100 micron in feed particle size can mean 1.2 percent change in feed efficiency, says DeRouchey.

Each dietary ingredient added to diets must be a proven benefit to feed efficiency and overall performance. It may be found that whey, for example, can be eliminated from diets without severe consequences. DeRouchey expects cost of the lactose ingredient to continue rising and says some producers have removed dried whey from the diet of 15 pound to 25 pound pigs. “Producers need to evaluate the economics of the extra weight gain from the whey and determine if the ingredient pays for itself.”

Added dietary fat is another ingredient that must be considered carefully before automatic addition at a certain level. A pig responds to added dietary fat early in the growing period better than in the finishing phase, according to DeRouchey. Use added dietary fat in the growth stage that it is most beneficial. “We need to avoid thinking that there is one certain level that must be maintained in all finishing diets.”

Be sure nutrient levels of each diet are known. It is increasingly important that nutrient analysis of complete feeds as well as DDGS be available in order to make economical decisions.

Read more feed strategies to consider.