Alternatives to fish meal in diets fed to weanling pigs

By Dr. Hans H. Stein

July, 2010

Increased global demand for fish meal has resulted in rapidly increased costs of fish meal during the last 6 month. The recent shutdown of many fish processing facilities in the Gulf area has exacerbated the situation and many producers are no longer able to secure fish meal for their pigs. It is, therefore necessary to look for alternatives to fish meal in diets fed to swine.

The reason most producers are using fish meal in the phase 1, 2, and 3 diets fed to weanling pigs is that less expensive sources of protein, such as soybean meal, is not well tolerated by young pigs because of the antigens in soybean meal. The antigens include glycinin, beta-conglycinin, and oligosaccharides and conventional soybean meal contains significant quantities of these compounds. If young pigs are fed conventional soybean meal, pigs will have reduced growth performance and increased scouring. To avoid these problems, the concentration of soybean meal is usually kept relatively low in phase 1 diets fed to weanling pigs, and then slowly increased as the pigs become older. Diets fed to pigs that are less than approximately 50 lb, therefore, usually contain some sources of animal proteins and fish meal has been the most popular choice for many years in these diets. There are usually no anti-nutritional factors in fish meal and the protein in fish meal is well digested by young pigs. However, the current high costs of fish meal has made this ingredient cost prohibitive in commercial diets fed to pigs.

Two new sources of soybean meal have recently been introduced to the US feed market. These sources are PepSoyGen, which is sold in the US by Nutra Flo, Sioux City, IA, and HP 300, which is sold by Hamlet Protein, Plymouth, MA.  Both Pepsoygen and HP 300 consist of soybean meal that has been treated in such a way that the antigens, including the oligosaccharides, have been removed. The two products, therefore, can be fed to weanling pigs without creating the problems that are associated with feeding conventional soybean meal to pigs. Recent research at the University of Illinois has demonstrated that the amino acid digestibility in PepSoyGen and HP 300 is comparable to that of fish meal and that the levels of antigens in PepSoyGen and HP 300 are reduced dramatically compared with conventional soybean meal. Research has documented that pigs fed diets containing PepSoyGen or HP 300 have growth performance that is comparable to that for pigs fed fish meal. PepSoyGen and HP 300 are less expensive than fish meal, and both of these two sources of soybean meal, can be used in diets fed to weanling pigs as replacements for fish meal.

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