Despite predictions of record high hog prices in 2011, pork producers will be challenged to achieve profits as feed ingredient costs continue to climb.

“Feed costs make up 70% of a producer’s costs,” reminds Hans H. Stein, University of Illinois Extension swine specialist. “As feed ingredient costs rise, it’s become even more critical for producers to take a closer look at non-traditional feed ingredients.”

There are a number of options available for reducing diet costs by changing ingredients and reformulating diets, Stein says. Assumptions for calculations are listed in Table 1. He outlined five options to consider:
1. Incorporate DDGS into diets. Although the cost of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) has increased during the past six months, there are still significant savings associated with their use.

With current prices for corn, soybean meal, and DDGS, costs of swine diets are reduced by $7 to $9/ton for each 10% of DDGS that are included in the diets (Figure 1). In most cases, 30% DDGS can be included in diets fed to all categories of pigs if the quality is average or above, and the diets are properly balanced for all nutrients. When 30% DDGS is included in diets fed to sows, weanling pigs and growing-finishing pigs, the total cost savings by using the ethanol byproduct is approximately $10/market pig produced.

2. Use small grains when available. The price of small grains should be followed closely, as they may replace all or most of the corn in diets fed to all categories of pigs.

“Wheat has a slightly greater nutritional value in a pig’s diet than corn, so it can easily replace all the corn in the diets,” Stein says. “On a per-bushel basis, a producer can pay between 25 and 50 cents more for wheat than for corn without increasing diet costs.”

Barley and sorghum can also replace all or most of the corn in all swine diets, and the nutritional values of both grains are close to that of corn. However, because there are fewer pounds per bushel for barley than for corn, the cost on a per-bushel basis should be no more than 85 to 90% of the cost of corn.

Oats can replace up to 40% of the corn in all swine diets. However, the bushel weight and the energy concentration of oats is less than that of corn, so the grain should be purchased only if the price is less than 80% of corn
(on a per-bushel basis).

3. Consider other co-products.
In certain regions, co-products such as hominy feed, bakery meal or wheat middlings are available. Each of these ingredients may be included in diets fed to pigs by up to at least 30%. If they can be purchased at a price that is around 90% of corn or less, they can usually reduce diet costs, Stein notes.

“There are differences in the quality of these ingredients, so it is important to work with the suppliers of the ingredients to make sure an acceptable quality is obtained,” he adds.

4. Use fish meal substitutes.
The cost of fish meal has increased dramatically in recent years as catches decline and demand from the aqua feed industry increases.

Producers who use fish meal in diets fed to weanling pigs should look for alternatives, such as enzyme-treated soybean meal, fermented soybean meal, enzyme-treated pig intestines, poultry byproduct meal, meat and bone meal and blood meal, Stein says.

“Weanling pigs usually perform well when fed these protein sources instead of fish meal,” he says. “Pigs do not have specific requirements for fish meal, so the inclusion of this ingredient should be reduced or avoided.”

5. Eliminate inorganic phosphorus. Pigs have requirements for dietary phosphorus, and because the phosphorus that is present in corn and soybean meal is poorly utilized by pigs, diets are often fortified with dicalcium phosphate or monocalcium phosphate to meet their needs.

However, as these phosphate sources have increased in price, it has become economical to use the enzyme phytase in swine diets. By using phytase, a greater proportion of the phosphorus in corn and soybean meal can be utilized and less of the inorganic phosphorus is needed.

The need for inorganic phosphorus is also reduced if diets contain DDGS, which has a relatively high concentration of highly digestible phosphorus. If both phytase and DDGS are used, there is no need to use dicalcium phosphate or monocalcium phosphate in diets fed to weanling pigs after 25 lb. or to grow-finish pigs.

By eliminating the inorganic phosphorus, the total costs of the diets will be reduced significantly, he says.

Producers have many options when it comes to diet formulation. In a year when risk management is critical to achieving profit, Stein recommends taking a close look at feed ingredients. Reducing feed costs is the quickest way to improve profits.

Jennifer Shike is a media communications specialist, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL.