University of Illinois (U of I) researchers have discovered that use of a common feed additive may also reduce feed costs.

Pork producers have long understood the value of virginiamycin due to increases in growth and performance when added to corn-soybean meal rations. Recently, U of I researchers have learned that this boost in growth is partly due to increased ileal amino acid digestibility.

“Virginiamycin is a popular feed additive in swine diets throughout the world. It’s typically used to achieve higher feed efficiency and results in less feed needed to put on a pound of gain,” reports Hans Stein, U of I associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences.

But until now it wasn’t clear what caused this improvement.

Stein’s team discovered that amino acid digestibility improved when virginiamycin was added to the diet. When the feed additive was removed, digestibility returned to baseline. The improvement in digestibility only lasted as long as virginiamycin was included in the diet.

“This information is helpful to producers because it provides an explanation of why virginiamycin can help improve feed conversion,” Stein explains. “Producers can use less feed and fewer amino acids when they add this product to a diet because amino acids are better utilized by the pig.”

The resulting potential savings in feed costs could boost use of virginiamycin in swine diets.

“We’ve shown it has a positive effect on digestibility,” Stein says. “Now it’s up to the producers to decide if it makes sense to use it from an economic standpoint. We believe it can lower diet cost a little due to this increase in digestibility.”

The research was published in the Journal of Animal Science. The U of I research team included Laura Stewart, Beob Kim and Hans Stein, plus Brad Gramm and Ron Nimmo of Phibro Animal Health. Funding was provided by Phibro Animal Health.