Hog producers are under pressure from all sides these days, from feed costs to new provincial environmental regulat ions on spreading manure that are due by 2013.
With an eye on potentially reducing those burdens, Carole Furedi, a researcher at Niverville-based Puratone, will be testing the effects of including zero-tannin fababeans and dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) on two parts of the hog farming “whole.”
The Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council (MRAC) funded a project that will look at animal performance as well as manure volume, nutrient levels and farm economics in Puratone’s research barn, beginning in December of this year.
The goal of the research at Puratone, which finishes about 450,000 hogs a year, is to maximize production while minimizing the impact on the environment.
“We’ll be looking at how the ingredients impact the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the manure, instead of just looking at the growth and carcass performance,” said Furedi, continuous improvement and research facilitator at the company, which has hog operations in the south, north and Interlake areas of the province.
“Come 2013, things are going to change in terms of what we can spread.”
Hog rations are made up of two basic components: protein and energy. Currently, soybean meal is the most commonly used protein source.
In the study, Furedi said that Puratone researchers will try replacing 15 per cent of the soybean meal with zero-tannin fababeans, a legume that has had the bitter tannins bred out of it.
A relatively new crop that has been the subject of testing at government research farms around the province, studies have shown that it can replace up to 30 per cent of the soybeans in hog diets without adverse effects, she added.
The rations will also include anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent DDGS, which is also high in protein, as well as bioavailable phosphorus. By using it as a replacement for synthetic P used in hog diets, the researchers believe that the levels of the nutrient blamed for causing eutrophication in lakes and streams may be reduced.
Puratone is already using phytase to boost phosphorus efficiency in their hogs, and the levels of the enzyme will be unchanged during the study, she added.
“They should be able to use more of the phosphorus in the DDGS because it’s more bioavailable to them, and we’re hoping to see a balancing of the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the manure,” she said, adding that because swine manure is typically high in phosphorus but low in nitrogen, hog producers have historically overapplied P in trying to supply adequate N to meet the requirements of growing crops.
“By adjusting these ingredients, we’re hoping to get a better N:P ratio.”
DDGS, however, have more fibre than other protein sources, so researchers will be looking at the entire effect of manure volume in terms of application costs, since solids are more difficult and costlier to spread than the liquid fraction.
Fred Greig, a farmer from Reston who is also chair of the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association’s pea and fababeans committee, said that if the study finds that locally grown fababeans can be used to replace imported soybeans in hog diets, Manitoba farmers could stand to benefit from greater demand for a promising new crop that first appeared on the scene about half a decade ago.
“We’ve been always trying to get peas into the hog ration, but we never seem to be able to do that. They’re all set up for soybean meal,” he said, adding that it may be due to the lower cost, consistency and widespread availability of soybeans, much of which is imported from the corn-soy belt in the Midwestern United States.
“Anytime we can get a crop that can be used locally that we don’t have to export is always a good thing,” he said.
Farmers are eager to include fababeans in their crop rotations because they are the most efficient soil nitrogen fixer of the legume family, coming out ahead of even lentils, peas, soybeans and drybeans. The crop is also more tolerant of wet growing conditions, and is easier to harvest than peas due to its taller, vertical stalk, he added. [email protected]