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Lost pig treasures under the bed

From time to time, it’s wise to look back and plough through your own pig archives, says nutrition and health columnist Casey Bradley. Who knows what kind of useful experience you may find you had long forgotten about?

It’s spring time and like many I try to squeeze in some spring cleaning. I am always amazed at the lost items I seem to find in unusual locations. But to my son, Arthur, every lost item is a new treasure. It might just be a paper clip to us, but with a young boy’s imagination it is the top of the line gadget for mischief.

Pig nutritionists moving on to a next study

What does this have to do with swine nutrition? As nutritionists, we tend to run one study and if it’s not positive sometimes we’ll move on to the next item on our list. Sometimes it’s hard to determine why ‘the pigs didn’t read the protocol’, even though there was sound evidence to support our hypothesis. Furthermore, if other fires break out, we also sometimes forget about products that showed promise. And new priorities form and the results are filed away and forgotten about.

I have a great example of this throughout my career. When I was working as a research manager and graduate student at the University of Arkansas we conducted a few trials on a feed intake enhancement product. Our results were positive and I even presented the lactation trial results at Midwest Animal Science in 2009. Life went on and I often wondered what traction this product received in the industry.

Early intake in newly weaned pigs

Today, one of the main challenges the USA swine industry is facing is early intake in newly weaned pigs. Without diving into this topic fully, the product I researched almost ten years ago is now marketed by a new company and now has a growing market presence to help combat this industry-wide problem. Early feed intake issues were not always the key area of focus for integrators but they are today, thus an older solution is now the new treasure tackling a major issue for our industry.

The kind of treasure anybody would like to find: this is the 2nd most important prehistoric gold treasure ever found in Europe, discovered near Alicante, Spain. Photo: Wikipedia
The kind of treasure anybody would like to find: this is the 2nd most important prehistoric gold treasure ever found in Europe, discovered near Alicante, Spain. Photo: Wikipedia

I think this is important to discuss because another main issue in the industry we are facing is sow mortality. This is not a new problem for our industry, but sow mortality has spiked again and warrants the necessity of resources to solve this problem.

Basic micronutrient requirements of animals

As humans, we tend to forget history in everyday life and repeat the same mistakes. One area we often overlook in research is the basic micronutrient requirements of our animals, such as vitamins and trace minerals, as they are relatively low cost ingredients with little opportunity to save money in least cost formulations. Furthermore, funding for basic research has all but disappeared at our universities and if professors do not have an NIH grant or industry funding, their new discoveries are lost in their minds, never to bring value to the industry.

To further exacerbate the problem, we often do not report or measure all biological relevant parameters of a trial. Mortality is a great example of this, as it is rarely reported in journal articles, but today, has the most important return on investment for the industry.

Spring cleaning in the nutritional library

In closing, I urge you to do some spring cleaning in your nutritional library. Go back and review some older trials, read misplaced journal articles from a forgotten era, but most importantly ponder the results, because just maybe that top of the line gadget to solve your current problem has been under your bed all along.

One comment

  • John Boulle

    Well done Casey. My field of animal breeding is slightly different and particularly in the cattle industry,most people are abuzz with genomics but forget that without measuring/weighing cattle, there would be little of no genomics. You are absolutely right and perhaps a return to the basics is an important reminder to us all. Kind regards John Boulle, Angus Breed Director, South Africa

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