Pasteurizing Nursery Feed Diets Improves Pigs’ Growth

By Kansas State University - Researchers have discovered that sterilizing portions of newly-weaned pig’s diets can lead to large improvements in the animals’ growth. The researchers are using electronic pasteurization – or, irradiation – to kill naturally-occurring bacteria in spray-dried blood meal and animal plasma. K-State researchers initially studied use of blood meal and animal plasma – two highly-digestible, growth-promoting ingredients – in the 1990s.
calendar icon 1 March 2001
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"I think this is the most exciting thing we’ve done in the nursery pig area, at least since bringing animal plasma into the market," said Mike Tokach, an animal scientist with K-State Research and Extension. "This is something that I’m positive will have application in the industry."

K-State’s pasteurization trials have consistently shown improvements between 20-30 percent in pigs’ average daily gain within the first 14 days of weaning, compared to non-pasteurized diets. Researchers typically consider an increase of 5 percent as "huge," Tokach said.

For the farmer, the pigs’ improved growth during the nursery stage translates into a return of about $1 more per animal, he added.

And, Tokach said, "because the pigs are growing faster, it reduces the potential for death loss due to disease introduction."

K-State graduate student Joel DeRouchey is conducting the trials as part of his doctoral work. He said that one likely explanation for this project’s success is that electronic pasteurization kills most of the bacteria in that portion of the diet – which means that newly-weaned pigs with few immunities use less energy to fight bacteria.

"The pigs can shift that energy toward growth," DeRouchey said.

He said that spray-dried animal plasma and blood meal makes up 2 ½ to 7 ½ percent of the nursery diet. Bacteria probably is present in the non-pasteurized portion of the diet.

"So, to get that type of growth response after treating just a portion of the diet is real exciting," DeRouchey said.

"There really has not been anything like this available previously, in terms of a consistent response that improves growth performance to levels above what we’ve been able to formulate."

Tokach said that commercial ingredient suppliers already are seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use electronic pasteurization for spray-dried animal plasma.

DeRouchey said data indicates that the cost to pasteurize spray-dried animal plasma or blood meal prior to adding it to feed diets is about 10 cents per pound – which indicates that "the initial costs are justified by the growth response."

K-State’s patent on this process is pending.
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