December 17, 2009


Australian study looks at alternative pig feeds



More than 100 wheat and barley lines had been selected to assess their potential as quality pig feed in Australia.


The research is a collaboration effort by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Murdoch University and InterGrain, as part of a diverse project funded by the Pork Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).


Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) calibrations determine the digestible energy content of cereal grains, allowing researchers to identify lines with higher feed potential, said Bruce Mullan, a senior researcher from the Department of Agriculture and Food.


Mullan said they are looking for lines with high energy characteristics, which can vary based on genetic or agronomic practices that can increase pig growth rates via improved nutrition without rising feed costs.


Grains account for about 60% of pig producers' feed costs at a rate of about US$100 per pig, and it could be reduced if more suitable feed varieties are found, he said.


The grain varieties were plant at Ballaying, Bullaring, Darkan, Katanning and Meckering and another 14 sites across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales in this first year of the three year project. 


Following harvest, the nutritional merit of the varieties will be analysed using the NIRS calibrations and their agronomic potential assessed.


In 2010, the most promising material will be field tested again and digestibility trials may be conducted.


In the final phase of the project, InterGrain will analyse the commercial potential for any promising lines and investigate commercialisation options to enable pig producers to capture the value of the specifically targeted varieties.


InterGrain commercial manager Tress Walmsley said encouraging growers to grow a specific feed variety could be a challenge.


She said they are targeting the highest yielding material so that the additional kg per hectare will overcome the milling versus feed price differential. Once combined with a variety that has higher digestible energy, grain producers and pig producers can both benefit.