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Could Net Energy be Key to Lowering Hog Producers’ Cost of Production?

Could Net Energy be Key to Lowering Hog Producers’ Cost of Production?

Net energy diet formulation holds the promise of reducing the cost of production. When formulated correctly, net energy swine diets can decrease feed costs and increase gain. Sound too good to be true? By better understanding the concept of net energy, you may find a better, more efficient way to feed your hogs.

At the core of net energy formulation is the concept of building diets that minimize the energy wasted during the digestion process. Although this seems like a simple idea, most diets are formulated based on metabolizable energy. Metabolizable energy does not account for energy burned or lost during the digestion process. Net energy assigns feed components an energy value that corresponds to the energy available for the animal to put toward production after digestion.

“Net energy is a different approach to formulating diets,” says Dr. Russell Fent, Director of the Swine Technical Group at Ralco. Fent explains focusing on net energy is the reverse of the high-protein/low-carb Atkins Diet. “Weight gain, not weight loss, is the focus of a net energy formulation. Putting lean weight on hogs requires efficient energy utilization and easy-to-digest amino acids and avoiding excess protein.”

Ralco’s focus is to drive better nutrient conversion, ensuring more inputs convert into production output. “We call our proprietary approach to building swine diets EnMAX®. Within EnMAX, we use several tools to maximize the net energy in feed by minimizing the energy wasted during the digestion process,” explained Fent.

During the development of EnMAX, Ralco explored, researched and fine-tuned many feed components that allow them to take advantage of the net energy concept. One way to propel the efficiency of net energy is harnessing the power of purified amino acids. Purified amino acids accomplish this without the wasted energy and digestive stress that comes with excessive soybean meal. Backed by more than 15-years of research, the proprietary blend of purified amino acids in EnMAX unlock a pig’s ability to take full advantage of corn’s production energy. The increased energy in diets from more corn also reduces the need for high levels of supplemental fat.

“The idea of net energy becomes a reality when building a ration upon a blend of purified amino acids. The more we understand the relationship between purified amino acids and energy absorption, the further we can push net energy diets,” Dr. Jim Hedges, Senior Swine Technical Advisor for Ralco. “EnMAX is the result of years of research, science and knowledge.”

Hedges explains essential, purified amino acids, not proteins are required for best feed gain. “A crude protein, like soybean meal, contains as many as 20 amino acids. Most of these are in serious excess of what the pig needs. Pigs will waste quite a bit of energy breaking down the excess amino acids they do need, which also causes them to consume more water to excrete excess nitrogen.

Whereas purified amino acids, like lysine, provide pigs with an essential amino acid that is quickly absorbed and can more readily meet their daily nutritional requirements.” Hedges says.

When comparing EnMAX diets to more than 100 commercial swine diets, Ralco’s EnMAX diets cut soybean meal by an average of 28 percent. Corn was fed in place of soybean meal, helping to build a lower cost diet that delivered more net energy to drive production efficiencies.

An on-farm, 6,000-head comparison illustrated the value of EnMAX net energy diet formulations. In this commercial farm, every other barn at a 6-barn site was fed a competitive feed program or Ralco’s EnMAX swine nutrition. EnMAX diets resulted in reduced soybean meal and fat use while requiring less water consumption.

EnMAX diets:

  • Decrease soybean meal by 39 percent

  • Reduce supplemental fat usage by 27 percent

  • Boost feed intake by 5.5 percent

  • Increase average daily gain by 9.4 percent

  • Reduce water consumption by 12 percent

  • Improve feed:gain by 3.8 percent

  • Cut feed costs

Reduce wasted energy & fight heat stress

Energy wasted during digestion is known as heat increment. Heat increment is the result of unnecessary energy being “burned” during the digestive process. Because EnMAX diets reduce heat increment, they allow for “cooler” digesting inside the animal. “Pigs already have a tough time keeping cool. Feeding a low-protein diet reduces production waste. It also reduces body heat generated as a pig’s body works to digest soybean meal. During summer, this can have a big impact on feed intake,” Hedges says.

Decrease protein to reduce waste & conserve resources

Lower-protein feed rations cut down on more than feed costs. For every 1 percent reduction of crude protein in a feed ration, research shows the following:

  • 5 percent less manure

  • 10 percent less nitrogen in manure

  • 10 percent less ammonia

  • 12 percent less water consumed per pig

“By rethinking nutrient conversion and reducing energy waste, EnMAX net energy diets not only save producers through lower feed costs, but they save in manure management and play a role in conserving resources as well,” Hedges says. “EnMAX and net energy formulation hold the promise of a nutrition approach truly built to drive and fine-tune efficient performance.”

To learn more about how a customized, EnMAX net energy diet program can reduce feed costs and increase overall gain, contact a Ralco representative or call 1-800-533-5306.

About Ralco

Ralco is a third-generation family-owned multinational company with distribution in more than 40 countries. Ralco is a leading global supplier of natural solutions to maximize nutrient conversion in both plants and animals. Learn more at


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