Soybean meal is a great source of dietary amino acids for pigs. But it’s also known that too much soybean meal gives an excess of protein above what pigs need.
If producers are increasing the amount of soybean meal in swine diets based on high L-lysine prices or a supply shortage, rather than similar feed-grade amino acids, the pigs will get an excess of crude protein in return. Then the animal’s body must deal with it.
A pig must digest the excess protein, break it down and absorb it. Then it is processed by the kidneys and later excreted like nitrogen, which increases with the volume of soybean meal.
So, while the pig can do all of that, the process requires extra energy. A good nutritionist will tell you: you’d rather see energy go to something productive—like lean gain or milk production in a sow—rather than trying to digest protein levels above what they need to be efficient.
Higher Soybean Meal Lowers Net Energy in Pigs
Research shows that lower energy intake results in poor feed efficiency and poor performance in pigs. The same energy that's used to process excess protein from soybean meal also causes more heat from digestion, resulting in a higher heat increment.
Simply put, high soybean meal diets equal high body heat in pigs.
Those diets also result in lower feed intake and performance, particularly during the summer months, when there's a heavy heat load on those pigs already. So what’s the first thing a pig does when it's hot in the summer? Backs off eating. Pigs don’t want to eat something that will only make their bodies hotter. Swine diets that are high in soybean meal can create that issue.
Crystalline Amino Acid Sources Are an Alternative to High Soybean Meal
When swine nutritionists use crystalline amino acids, they can more precisely formulate swine diets to meet amino acid requirements and avoid adding extra protein for their bodies to process and excrete.
Crystalline amino acids are quickly absorbed and can more accurately meet the animal's requirements, resulting in less need for protein-bound amino acids typically delivered in soybean meal.
Another place where crystalline amino acids come into play is lactating sow diets. During lactation, producers try to get sows to eat as much as possible to keep up with their milk supply. However, high soybean diets aren't very palatable to them, so soybean meal levels must be balanced with crystalline amino acids. A more precise feed formulation preserves energy in the diet while increasing net energy for production purposes.
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