Is there a shift coming in pig mineral nutrition? According to one swine nutrition expert, change is inevitable – and overdue.

“Trace minerals are often supplemented into swine diets at levels above recommendations in the belief that this will enhance productive performance,” says Dr. Don Mahan, professor emeritus at Ohio State University. “This method can negatively affect not only the animals, but also the consumer and environment, as a greater level of trace mineral supplementation into diets can result in the additional excretion of minerals and more mineral waste flowing into the environment.”

The National Research Council (NRC) routinely publishes a review of the nutritional requirements for swine based on the available scientific literature; however, Mahan said that the relevance of most of the published literature is questionable, particularly in the mineral area.

Mahan will present some of his recent studies on addressing proper mineral nutrition at the Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana on Sept. 4. The paper, “A New Approach in Determining the Micro Mineral Needs of the Growing Pig,” highlights how the current NRC recommendations for micromineral supplementation are well above the pig’s requirement. One conclusion from his studies is that when mineral levels at or above 50 percent of the NRC (1998, 2012) requirements were fed, there was no effect on pig performance.

Mahan’s paper also indicates that organic trace mineral digestibility values averaged 20 percent greater than the digestibility of inorganic trace minerals. Mahan said that it is important to not only look at the mineral levels that are being fed to pigs, but also the source of the minerals. Organic trace minerals offer a form of supplementation that can be more naturally absorbed, stored and utilized by the animal. Alltech has partnered with scientific experts, such as Mahan, in the investigation of trace mineral technology.