Of the nutrition needed to build a pig’s diet—vitamins, minerals, protein, fat—the most energy-dense is fat. Most fat sources on the market have about two and a half times more energy than grain sources. That gives you an idea of the caloric density that fat provides. Therefore, any supplemental fat added to a swine diet will increase the overall dietary energy density of the diet.
As the pork industry focuses on lean tissue gain in pigs, they are equally as focused on increasing the market weights of pigs. As pigs grow to heavier weights, it should be done by adding lean gain, which is the most efficient gain composition. Achieving lean gain is dependent on nutrients, but predominantly energy and amino acids.
If energy is low, lean gain won't be maximized—proving energy can be a weak link in the equation of an ideal swine diet. If we take the fat out of diets, there's a potential that it'll affect the gain in feed efficiency of those animals.
What’s the catch? Energy is typically the most expensive nutrient in a swine diet. So, wherever producers can get energy from economical sources, that is what they need to do. When fat prices are lower, it makes sense to use supplemental fat. But when fat prices are high, like in the market right now, a producer needs to see where else they can get energy from in the diet.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Role Fat Plays in Gain and Feed Conversion
When evaluating producers’ swine diets, nutritionists should do an economic evaluation of what the appropriate energy level should be in producers’ diets for their pigs, based on the ingredients they have, the prices of those ingredients and the production situation they have at hand. This allows the producer to have a swine diet created specifically for their animal’s dietary needs and promotes a return over feed cost on those pigs. An economic evaluation of your swine diets would be a wise financial move with soaring fat prices.
Some swine producers may be feeding pigs from a fixed time standpoint, where they're on a tight flow and pigs need to leave the finisher by a certain time. In that case, whatever they weigh on their scheduled load-out day is what they’re going to weigh for the market. The value of additional weight needs to be evaluated based on your marketing situation. The value of this extra weight determines what you can afford to pay for fat. Fat can be an important tool for those producers to get pigs the gain they need to maximize revenue on a fixed schedule.
Years ago, when genotypes of pigs used to get fatter towards the end of finishing, producers would reduce supplemental fat because the pigs were already getting fat at that point. Today, as swine genetics have changed and adapted for leaner growth, pigs will maintain that growth to the end. So we've gone the other way now, where we tend to keep supplemental fat in those diets until they get to market.
Want to make sure your swine diet meets your herd’s energy needs? Let our Ralco nutritionists measure how your energy sources are stacking up in your feed blends.