Using Canola Meal in Swine Diets

Advice on the use of canola meal in diets for nursery pigs, growers/finishers and sows from Greg Simpson, swine nutritionist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in the latest issue of Pork News & Views.
calendar icon 15 June 2010
clock icon 6 minute read

Producers are continually trying to look at ways to reduce feed costs. Incorporating opportunity ingredients can be a cost effective way to reduce feed costs but you need to do your homework. The current surplus of canola meal in Canada is one such opportunity for swine producers.

Canola meal is a by-product of the canola oil crushing industry. It is widely used as a protein source in swine diets in Western Canada and is a good source of essential amino acids, especially methionine. Depending on its relative cost and nutrient profile, canola meal can be an economical, partial to full replacement of soybean meal in swine diets.

Solvent extraction methods are mostly commonly used to obtain canola oil. This results in a meal that has less than 5 per cent residual oil. Mechanical expeller extraction methods can also be used but are less efficient and result in a meal with greater residual oil content (8 per cent to 15 per cent). For expeller-extracted canola meal, the residual oil content depends on whether the seeds are passed once (singly extracted) or twice (doubly extracted). Table 1 lists selected nutrient values of canola meal using different oil extraction methods.

Table 1. Nutrient profile of canola meal using different oil extraction processes
(Woyengo et al. 2010); standardised ileal digestibility

One of the main concerns for swine producers using canola meal in diets has always been its effect on feed intake. Canola meal contains, at very low levels, several factors with potential to negatively affect feed intake, such as glucosinolates, tannins, sinapine and fibre. The main concern for swine is glucosinolates. Aside from their anti-nutritive effects, glucosinolates have a bitter taste. Canola meal, however, has very low levels of glucosinolates. During the development of canola, the maximum level of glucosinolates that pigs can tolerate in the diet was well defined through several research studies.

This research with growing pigs suggested pigs can tolerate a maximum level of 2µmol/g of glucosinolates in the diet. Since canola meal contains on average 6µmol/g of glucosinolates, this would correspond to a maximum canola meal inclusion level of 33 per cent in growing pig diets. In situations where reduced feed intake of canola meal diets is observed, it is usually caused by factors other than glucosinolate level, i.e. tannins.

The Canadian Canola Council has created a valuable resource in the Canola Meal Feed Industry Guide which summarizes all of the information and research on using canola meal in animal diets. The following are excerpts from the guide summarizing the research based recommendations for use of canola meal. Table 2 summarises the maximum inclusion levels and potential limitations for each phase of production.

Table 2. Recommended maximum inclusion levels and limitations for canola meal in swine diets
(Canola Meal Feed Industry Guide, 2009 4th Ed.)

Nursery Pigs (6-25 kg)

For nursery pigs, dietary levels of canola meal should be limited. Research has shown that live weight performance of young pigs tends to decrease as dietary levels of canola meal increase. This reduced performance is likely due to fibre levels and the presence of tannins, sinapine and perhaps glucosinolates in the meal. Generally, canola meal is not used in pig starter diets up to 20 kg bodyweight, but can be introduced at levels up to five per cent in the later stages of the starter/grower period to smooth the transition to diets containing higher levels of canola meal.

Grow-Finish Pigs (25-120 kg)

In the grow-finish phases, canola meal can be used at high dietary levels and will support excellent pig performance. A number of studies have shown that when diets are balanced for digestible amino acid levels, performance is equal to that of soybean meal based diets with dietary inclusion levels of canola meal up to 25 per cent. Typically, the inclusion of canola meal will be increased gradually to avoid any potential reductions in feed intake.

Gestation and Lactation

Canola meal can be used in diets for sows and gilts both in gestating and lactating periods. Numerous research studies have found no difference in reproductive performance between sows fed diets with or without added canola meal at levels from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

The results of this research suggest that canola meal may be used as the main supplemental protein source in gilt and sow diets for all phases of reproduction. Canola meal may be restricted in sow diets that are formulated to maximum fibre levels in order to limit hind gut fermentation.

Table 3. Relative economic value of canola meal to soybean meal (47 per cent crude protein) in least cost swine diets
(Canola Meal Feed Industry Guide, 2009 4th Ed.)

The value of canola meal relative to soybean meal, and other protein sources, varies. Canola meal has several valuable nutritional characteristics, such as a good amino acid balance with high levels of methionine and cystine. It also has high levels of phosphorus. Conversely, canola meal has relatively low levels of lysine and energy. Canola meal is often called a complementary protein because its amino acid balance, especially methionine and cystine, can complement other protein sources, such as soybean meal, which are low in these amino acids. The relative value of canola meal to high-protein soybean meal in some least cost swine diets is shown in Table 3.

Opportunity ingredients, like canola meal, can offer producers significant savings. However, as with any potential feed opportunity, producers should do a thorough cost/benefit analysis with the assistance of their feed consultant or nutritionist to ensure diets are correctly balanced and animal performance is optimised.


Woyengo, T.A., Kiarie, E. and Nyachoti, C.M. 2010. Energy and amino acid utilizaton in expeller-extracted canola meal fed to growing pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 88, pg 1433-1441. Canola Meal Feed Industry Guide. 2009. 4th Edition. Canola Council of Canada. June 2010
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