Cromwell’s top 11 discoveries in swine nutrition

According to Gary Cromwell, the landmark discoveries in swine nutrition over the past century include:

1. The recognition of protein quality, which has led to estimates of the amino acid content of feedstuffs, specific requirements, synthesis and use of crystalline amino acids in diets, and the concept of amino acid balance in diet formulation.

2. The development of the soybean crop from insignificant proportions to the major source of high quality protein for swine rations.

3. Studies in mineral nutrition and especially the determination of calcium and phosphorus requirements.

4. The discovery of vitamins, their isolation and synthesis, and studies which led to estimates of their requirements of pigs.

Nutrition: Time to administer some tough love to your feeding program

In tough economic times, it is important for producers to re-evaluate their operation’s feeding program so as to save money without compromising animal performance


Despite the recent decline in oil prices, the realities of feeding pigs remain hard on the wallet. Thanks to increased demand for alternative fuels, the competition for feed ingredients has stretched prices upward.

While pork producers have always been conscious of ways to improve production efficiencies and reduce input costs, it is especially vital during these tough times to take another look at potential opportunities for cost savings. There will be no simple answer, but there are options for producers to get their bottom line back into the black.

Nutrition: Sow colostrum – start of a lifetime or missed opportunity?

Colostrum is critical in carrying the newborn piglet down the right path to rapid growth and good health. It is up to producers to ensure that each piglet gets its fair share of this rich source of nutrients


Piglet survival is one of the keys to success in the pork production chain. And colostrum intake is a major determining factor of piglet survival during the early suckling period as well as later on in life. Unfortunately, colostrum production varies considerably among sows and the factors that cause this variability are not that well understood.

Nutrition: Potato protein can improve growth and reduce bacteria in starter diets

Research has shown that using a new potato variety called Gogu valley in starter diets not only helps growth but also provides an alternative to antibiotics


Pork producers have always been innovators, pushing the limits of what is considered possible to explore the physiological and biological boundaries of the pig. In this quest for efficiency, the industry has decreased weaning age in an attempt to increase the number of pigs produced per sow per year and, ultimately, to improve profitability.

The end result of this trend is the need for very specialized starter diets which contain highly digestible ingredients, such as dried whey, spray-dried plasma and high-quality fish meal.

Nutrition: Do feed interruptions affect grower-finisher performance?

Research conducted in Nebraska clearly suggests that grower pigs are more sensitive to out-of-feed events than finisher pigs


Anyone who has had experience feeding grower-finisher pigs can relate to the constant struggle of keeping feed in front of pigs 24 hours a day. Working within modern production facilities presents a variety of challenges, but when it comes to the feeding system, the main culprits are human error, bridging of feed in storage tanks and equipment breakdown.

Human error is commonly associated with empty bins when feed is not ordered, prepared or delivered in a timely fashion. This is bound to happen as operations increasingly rely on external processing of feed and just-in-time delivery.

Nutrition: What effect does dietary fibre have on dry sow diets?

A multi-university experiment concludes that soybean hulls contributed to a reduced bodyweight at farrowing when compared with sows, while psyllium increased bodyweight through the reproductive cycle


The profitability of the swine production chain hinges on reproductive efficiency in the sow operation. Discussion is continuing in the research community as to the role that fibre plays in gestation diets, since studies have shown that fibre can increase reproductive efficiency of sows in some instances, but not in others.

Nutrition: Can a feed supplement improve performance and help clean up the barn?

Yes, suggests research at the University of Arkansas. But whether or not the additive will ‘clean up’ after itself in a commercial setting remains to be seen


Intensive swine production practices create many manure management challenges – storage and handling of manure, odour control, accumulation of solids on pen surfaces and in manure pits.    

The presence of offensive odours and accumulation of manure solids are the direct result of inadequate microbial decomposition of manure. Researchers admit that these problems are further complicated by swine diets deliberately formulated to contain high levels of trace minerals and antibiotics which stifle the very bacteria needed for effective manure decomposition.

Nutrition: Can spray-dried plasma help sow feed intake during lactation?

Experiments in Indiana suggest that young lactating sows fed spray-dried plasma in summer had increased feed intake and reduced weaning-to-estrus interval, whereas mature sows had lower feed intake and heavier litter weights without compromising days to estrus


A tremendous amount of time and energy goes into the selection and management of breeding females in a swine herd. Attrition of young sows has a significant impact on a production unit’s ability to achieve sow longevity targets. Ultimately, a breeding female must produce enough offspring to offset her purchase price and maintenance costs within the herd so that any offspring produced above and beyond that represent profit.

Nutrition: Does multiple feeding help group-housed sows?

When Kansas State University researchers tested this theory, they found little difference from normal feeding routines, though previous research suggests it has benefits in the dog days of summer

In the modern swine industry, change continues to be the norm. While sows are individually housed in gestation stalls in many commercial swine facilities, animal welfare concerns have recently led to a shift toward group housing.

This trend has been fuelled by ballots cast in Arizona and Florida, where gestation stalls have been banned, as well as decisions by Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods to make the move to group housing.

The perception is that group housing allows for increased freedom of movement and social interaction and, as a result, is more welfare-friendly than housing sows in stalls. Group housing is also thought to decrease chronic stress in sows and speed up the farrowing process, most likely due to the increased level of activity compared to sows confined to stalls.

Unfortunately, not all sows will thrive in a group housing situation. Just like children in a schoolyard, there is always the chance of running into a bully. The opportunity for social interaction can lead to aggressive behaviour between sows, allowing dominant sows at the top of the pecking order to consume more feed at the expense of sows at the bottom. The result is most likely fear and distress on the part of the less dominant sow.