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Whey quality: it matters!

Ioannis Mavromichalis
When prices go up, we're all inclined to find a cheaper source for any ingredient, especially in piglet formulas where margins have become so small in the last few years. But, there is a line which we should not cross, as pigs will respond by simply refusing to eat sub-optimal diets.

This is the case for whey, a very central ingredient in many high-quality piglet diets. Whey quality varies considerably according to manufacturing process. The drying process is the most crucial part as during drying protein quality can deteriorate very easily.
In the photo are three representative samples of commercial whey products, all of which are being used currently in different formulas, including some from very respectable brands in the industry. In my opinion, only the light pale, off-cream product is worthy using in high quality diets. As demonstrated in the following table, piglets also agree with this assessment!
Another frequent controversy regarding whey is the choice between sweet or acid whey. Here, I prefer the sweet one, but others have had good results with acid whey.
What is your opinion regarding whey quality?



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    Dr Nikolaos Kotrotsios

    There are different types of whey: liquid and dried whey.The retention of protein level plays an important role to the quality during the manufacturing process and is counting as a feedstuff. Sweet whey is less stable than liquid whey during storage. It will lose up to 40% of its nutritional value if stored longer than 24 hours. That�s why liquid whey has a lower nutritional quality than sweet whey. In my country there are many pig units, trying to avoid the high production costs, feeding the liquid whey as a supplemental protein in the diet of gestation sows. Whey powder is a dried whey considering as a by-product of cheese manufacturing and a kilogram contains about the same amount of nutrients as 14 kg of liquid whey. Dried whey is usually added to diets of weaning pigs as a source of milk protein. The addition levels is 10% or more in the complete rations of piglets. In the photo, brownish color indicates the caramelization through an excessively heated. This lowers the feeding value of the product. Although some good quality whey may have a pinkish or yellowish color from carry-over of the cheese color but the most desirable is white color of the dried whey. Another critical point should take in consideration about the whey quality is the amount of lactose and minerals removed from the dried whey will affect the actual amount of protein. Delactose whey is not recommended for use in baby pig diets. Usually, I recommend skim milk because the level of protein in whey is lower than dried skim milk (12 vs 33 percent). Also, levels of whey higher than 10 percent tend to cause bridging in feeders when the diet is in meal form. However, the biggest benefit of using the whey is usually cheaper source on a per unit of protein basis than dried skim milk. Finally, the main quality factors to look are the content of lactose, protein, ash, color, salt and lysine.

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    Piotr Saltykov

    Dear Dr. Macromichalis,
    I agree with your article, but when talking about whey, main target is to provide lactose, not protein. Of course if whey is overheated or have a bad taste it can provoke feed rejection, but in these moments of high prices of dairy products, I would be more interested in knowing opinions about the interest or not of replacing sweet whey by other lactose sources or other ingredients, such are acid whey, permeate, lactose, etc. I think it is possible without loosing performance.
    Dr. Saltykov

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