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Executive Summary of Applied Swine Nutrition Basics


Swine rations for market hogs should be formulated to balance the (1) genetic potential of the pig to grow muscle, the (2) ambient temperature and the (3) energy density of the ration so as to supply adequate but not excessive protein and lysine in relation to the amount of energy consumed to support maximum growth of muscle.


A three part manuscript was written to (1) show the theoretical basis of the above statement, (2) supply rations formulated according to the thesis (theory) for three feedstuff combinations in five temperature ranges and (3) present the Pig Profit Planner used to analyze data generated from the rations formulated for Part 2 and to predict (1) how much can be made or lost by feeding hogs each of the ration combinations studied and (2) what ration combinations will be the most profitable to feed taking into account the feed and non-feed costs to arrive at a Return on Investment (ROI) per year.

Executive Summary

It may be helpful to look at a growing hog as a biological machine that converts feedstuffs into pork that can be consumed by humans. To enable this pork producing machine to operate at top efficiency and to make the owner-operator the maximum return on investment per year, it is important to understand how the machine works. Look at this manuscript as an operator's manual for a pork producing machine with the final exam being graded on the Return on Investment per year from raising pigs from weaning to market. The objective of raising pigs is to earn the maximum ROI possible. Feeding good feeds is an investment that will increase profits. Don't wait until you have more money before feeding good feeds but feed good feeds so that you'll have more money.

Part 1. The Theory

Pigs of a similar weight in a similar environment will voluntarily consume a similar number of calories per day when offered feed ad libitum. The amount of calories (digestible or metabolizable) they will consume can be predicted with a computer program. What they do with the feed consumed (will they grow muscle or deposit fat?) above the maintenance requirement is determined by their (1) genetic potential and the (2) adequacy of ration protein in (3) relation to ration energy to support muscle growth.

Daily caloric intake is influenced by the ambient temperature in relation to the pig's optimum (ideal) temperature. The ideal ambient temperature for a pig decreases from 26 C as the pig grows and can be calculated according to the following formula:

Formula #1: 26 C - (0.0614 times kg body weight)

Subtracting the actual C ambient temperature (AT) from the optimum temperature (OT) and multiplying this number times 0.0165 gives the approximate change in voluntary energy intake from that consumed if the pig were living at its ideal ambient temperature.

Formula #2: Change in Feed Intake = (OT - AT) x 0.0165

A similar pig in a similar environment will consume a similar number of calories. Tables are presented that predict the change in feed intake in various ambient temperatures for a pig of a given size. For example, a 20 kg pig experiencing 5 C will consume 31% more calories than if experiencing 25 C ambient temperature.

The amount of feed consumed to satisfy the caloric desire is determined by the energy density of the feed, with pigs eating more feed as the caloric density declines. Pigs eating rations with sunflower meal with hulls compared to those eating rations with soybean meal as the protein supplement will eat more feed trying to compensate for the lower energy density of sunflower meal with hulls.

The ability of the pig to increase feed intake until the caloric requirement is met has an upper limit that is regulated by the amount of fiber in the diet. (Fiber dilutes ration energy). Rations that contain more than 10% crude fiber (or 15 to 18% neutral detergent fiber) may limit dry matter intake short of the pig's desire to consume calories. The protein level of the diet should be in balance with the energy level rather than formulated to a set percent of ration dry matter, which happens if you formulate an 18% ration irregardless of the amount of energy in the ration dry matter. The protein level in rations using soybean meal needs to be higher than if sunflower meal with hulls is used.

Higher fiber levels reduce the digestibility of the entire ration. Each one percent increase in dietary crude fiber has been reported to reduce energy digestibility by 3.5 %.

The amount of feed that will be consumed can be calculated by dividing the number of calories the pig wants to consume by the number of calories in the feed. Knowing the price of feed and the amount consumed allows calculation of the feed cost per day.

Pigs consume more calories as the ambient temperature falls below the ideal temperature in an effort to obtain extra calories to keep warm. They don't need the extra protein consumed (assuming the ration was adequate in protein at the higher ambient temperature in the first place) and thus the protein level of the ration can be reduced as the temperature declines below the ideal temperature.

The protein level in the diet needs to be increased for pigs living in an environment above the ideal temperature. We will show that adjusting ration protein levels will reduce the cost of feeding a pig in a colder climate compared to feeding the pig the same ration it was eating when the weather was warmer. Reformulating rations to match the ambient temperature (really to match changes in intake of energy caused by ambient temperature changes) will reduce the cost of producing pork and optimize profitability.

The genetic ability of the pig to grow protein determines the amount of protein it needs to consume. Protein intake requirements can be predicted by evaluating the fat free lean (muscle) of the carcass. This concept is discussed in Part 1.

If a pig does not consume as much protein as it needs to grow muscle it will use the calories left over to produce fat and deposit fat tissue. This means slower average daily gain because fat tissue is 90% dry matter as opposed to protein tissue being only 23% dry matter (a difference of 3.9 times). It takes 10.6 kcal of metabolizable energy to produce a gram of pure protein and 12.5 kcal of M.E. to produce a gram of pure fat. (12.5/10.6) x 3.9 = means it takes 4.6 times more calories to produce a gram of fat tissue than a gram of fat free lean (muscle). Therefore if protein is limiting, the pig grows a carcass with a higher percentage of fat tissue compared to muscle and the rate of gain is slower. Examples of this are given with comments on the economic consequences in Parts 1 & 2. Feed for a carcass high in muscle and ask a premium price.

The theory of predicting protein requirements by measuring carcass muscle gain is discussed. This section will give the student an understanding of protein accretion and muscle growth measurements and predictions and will improve his/her management.

In Part 1 animal performance is predicted for pigs eating rations that supply 3000 kcal of metabolizable energy per kg feed consumed in different ambient temperatures. In Part 2 rations are formulated using ingredients available in Western Ukraine. In Part 3 these rations and their actual level of metabolizable energy are shown. In Part 1 performance measurements are given for pigs of given weights that are living in various ambient C eating rations of similar energy density. Part 3 adds Ukrainian reality to the theory by adjusting for differences in ration energy density that result from formulating feeds using various types of protein supplement in variable amounts to meet protein needs. In both Parts 1 and 3 data are presented on feed intake, average daily gain, feed efficiency (units of feed per unit of gain), days on feed, ration protein and lysine requirements, carcass composition (percent of muscle versus fat tissue deposited), feed costs after adjusting the rations for ambient temperature, etc. A lot of economic data are presented, particularly in Part 3. Discussion of Return on Investment based on performance data will be given when it is presented for Part 3 to avoid doing it twice.

I present absolute data followed by two relative comparisons using (1) soybean meal and wheat rations to which the performance of pigs fed rations made from other protein supplements is compared and (2) ambient temperatures of 20 C or 25 C to which animal performance when the pig is fed in other ambient temperatures is compared.

Tables are given on carcass composition (protein vs. fat tissue) for different body weights of pigs fed in various C. As the pig matures, the percentage of gain that is fat tissue increases. Temperatures below the ideal temperature don't affect body composition much as long as protein intake is adequate for muscle growth but at temperatures above the zone of thermal neutrality the ratio of protein to fat increases (improves!) (assuming adequate dietary protein is consumed) because pigs eats less feed in hot weather and more of the energy consumed goes for muscle growth rather than fat tissue deposition.

Feed costs per kilogram of body weight gain go up in weather colder than the ideal ambient temperature but this increase can be minimized by adjusting the protein level down to balance the increased energy consumed in cold weather. That's the main message of this manuscript!

The economic summary using data generated in Part 1 is that pigs consume 31% more calories at 5 C than at 25 C ambient temperature but feed costs can be held at a 16% increase if the rations are reformulated to balance protein to energy intake for feeds fed in the lower ambient temperature.

All performance data presented assume that you wormed the pig as we want to feed only the pig and not its parasites. All pigs should be wormed after weaning and the entire herd wormed twice a year to reduce the parasite load of the herd and the facilities.

The calculations needed to determine the amount of fat that will be deposited are discussed as are other topics of interest including some comments on the importance of the type of fat consumed as related to human health.

Part 2. Feed Formulas.

Formulas using Western Ukrainian feedstuffs are presented for gestation, lactation, starter, grower, finisher #1 and finisher #2 rations using (1) soybean meal and wheat, (2) sunflower meal with partial hulls and wheat or (3) sunflower meal with hulls and wheat for five ambient temperatures (5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 C) for a total of 90 rations (6 x 3 x 5 = 90). In addition, six rations each are given for (4) soybean and corn, (5) canola meal and wheat and (6) meat and bone meal fed in 20 C, for a total of 18 more rations.

Using principles discussed in this manuscript to balance protein and lysine to (1) the genetic potential of the pig to grow muscle, (2) ambient temperature that the pig experiences and (3) energy density of the ration consumed I formulated multiple rations to be fed to swine in Western Ukraine. The feed formulations include vitamin and trace mineral (1) premixes, (2) base mixes that contain major minerals and lysine added to the premixes, (3) concentrates that contain a protein supplement added to the base mix and (4) complete rations where grain is added to the concentrate. Rations can be mixed using base mixes, protein source and grains. Sources of supply are given.

Baby pigs should be introduced to a creep feed (starter or pre-starter) as soon as they will consume dry feed in order to increase the rate of gain and to reduce the pressure on the sow to produce milk. Producing milk takes much energy! Conversion of small pigs to dry feed should be made gradually before weaning rather than made suddenly at weaning.

Weaning is a tough time on young pigs. Feeding ground barley and oats for a few days with a gradual re-introduction of the starter feed may reduce digestive problems. The protein in diets high in soybean meal and/or wheat may elicit an immune response if introduced suddenly to pigs at weaning. Make the feed available before weaning when intake is reduced because the pig is nursing. If introduced for the first time at weaning, dilute starter rations with ground barley and oats for several days going from 25% mixed feed to 50% to 75% and finally to 100% prepared feed. In the starter ration formulas presented in Part 2 I used a mixture of grains rather than all wheat. Starter rations should contain mostly soybean meal in comparison to sunflower meal with partial to full hulls.

All animals should have free access to clean fresh water 24 hours a day. Without water, animals reduce their dry matter intake with a commensurate drop in energy intake that results in a reduction in growth. The negative response to water deficiency is even more severe during lactation. Milk is mostly water and a reduction in water intake today will reduce milk production (and growth of baby pigs nursing the sow) TODAY.

Grains should be allowed to "cure" for a month after harvest to reduce the chance of scouring animals. Grains continue to metabolize for a few weeks after being harvested and this sometimes can cause digestive problems for swine and cattle.

It is possible to exchange grains for those suggested in the feed formulas. Use the table of energy and protein values to make informed choices and substitutions.

The rations presented, when mixed as directed with the appropriate vitamin - trace mineral premixes, base mixes or concentrates (formulated for the specific and exclusive use of our three CDP co-ops) can be expected to support superior animal performance and improved profitability when good management practices are used including worming all pigs twice a year. Pigs need free choice access to water, clean air and sanitary pens. Growing pigs need free choice availability of feed and water for optimum gain & profitability.

Part 3. Pig Profit Planner Using Theories and Formulas Presented in Parts 1 and 2.

In the third part of this manuscript (written specifically for swine producers in Western Ukraine), I present the Pig Profit Planner (PPP), which is a book of spreadsheets I created using Microsoft Excel for gathering data presented in Part 3 of this manuscript on Applied Swine Nutrition Basics. The PPP was created using the theory of Part 1 and the formulas of Part 2 to predict animal performance and economic results from feeding the rations presented in Part 2. It is a budgeting tool designed to help hog raisers make good management decisions by being able to answer the two important questions that should be answered before you start feeding pigs:

(1) How much profit or loss will be realized from feeding market hogs under today's present economic conditions?

(2) What feed combinations (protein and grain sources) will be the most profitable?

The successful operation of the Pig Profit Planner spreadsheets depends on the accurate estimation of the performance of hogs of a specific weight fed specific rations formulated using specific ingredients of a specific cost and fed under specific environmental conditions. I need to know your cost of ingredients in order to predict your ration costs and your cost of gain. With other information supplied by you I can help predict ROI.

Hog performance will change if you change the genetic potential of the pig but given the same pig raised in the same environment (temperature & floor space), performance data of the pig will remain similar so we need to update only the economic data in the PPP to answer the questions of (1) profitability and to learn (2) what feed combinations we should feed. This makes the PPP a dynamic budgeting tool that will give accurate predictions if the data inputted are updated so as to be accurate at the time of use. If the rate of gain of fat-free lean (muscle growth) changes because the genetic potential of the pig to grow muscle has changed then the PPP would need to be modified. I can do that.

Please Read Part 3 of this manuscript if you're interested in how the PPP works. In this executive summary I want to focus on what the PPP tells us rather than on how it works. This is the most important part of this executive summary as it will help you answer the two main questions posed concerning profitability and feedstuff choices.

To understand the following table (Table 20 C) assembled from data predicted for pigs living in 20 C ambient temperature with adequate floor space fed eight different rations you need to have the following data.

The abbreviations for feed ingredients include: SBM = soybean meal. SFMH/2 = sunflower meal with partial hulls. SFMH = sunflower meal with hulls. Canola = canola meal. M&B = meat & bone meal. WVMX = wheat supplemented with vitamins and minerals but with no added protein. WVML = wheat supplemented with vitamins and minerals plus lysine added to the level where the next limiting amino acid after lysine (threonine) becomes limiting and thus there is no advantage to add more lysine.

Ration costs are for actual rations formulated by me using the feedstuffs shown with the following costs in grivnia per kg of ingredient:

Barley @ 0.55, Corn @ 0.70, Oats @ 0.50, Wheat @ 0.55, Wheat Bran @ 0.40, Canola Meal @ 1.00, Soybean Meal, expeller @ 1.65, Sunflower Meal with Hulls @ 0.60, Sunflower Meal with partial hulls @ 0.75, Meat & Bone Meal @ 1.00, Liprot (source of lysine) @ 2.55, plus the cost of vitamins & minerals and plus the cost of processing the feed. Feed processing costs can change and not change relative ranking.

More Abbreviations: FFL = Fat Free Lean (muscle). ADFI = Average Daily Feed Intake. ADG = Average Daily Gain. ROI/Pig = Return on Investment per pig. ROI/Year = Return on Investment per Year, which is the return on investment per pig divided by the days on feed times 365 day to convert to a yearly basis. BW = Body Weight.

You'll need to study Table 20 C that follows to understand what we're doing with the PPP. Rather than explanations I'll concentrate on presenting a few results on animal performance and the economic ramifications. You can draw your own conclusions.

20 C Table: Pig Profit Planner for Pigs Fed From 15 to 120 Kg BW in 20 C Ambient Temperature with Adequate Floor Space

Feed Combination ID Number that remains the same through this paper.
Protein SourceSBMSBMSFMH/2SFMHCanolaM&BNoneLysine
Grain SourceCornWheatWheatWheatWheatWheatWheatWheat
FFL/Day, g325325325310325325Adjusted to Max
Cost of Feed. All monetary values given in Grivnia. Weights given in Grams.
Finisher #11.0990.8600.7910.7630.8240.7420.6920.739
Finisher #21.0380.7900.7620.7450.7660.7400.6860.727
Cost Data to Raise Pig - Will Change as Market Prices Change
Cost of Pig150150150150150150150150
Feed Costs270230222224226212253235
Per Kg Gain2.572.
Non-Feed Costs9898981019898136118
% of Total1921212121212523
Pig Performance Data - Will Not Change unless the Ration or Genetic Potential Change
Weight Gain105105105105105105105105
Feed Intake246264278291270269361315
Days on Feed124124124126124124171148
% FFL Gain6363636163633851
% Fat Gain3737373937376249
Income Data for Pig When Marketed - Will Change with Market Price Changes
Sale price/kg6.
Market Wt.120120120120120120120120
Income Over Feed Costs
Per Pig300340348346344358317335
Per kg Gain2.853.243.313.293.273.413.023.19
Per Day2.432.752.812.742.782.901.852.27
Net Profit (Net Profit = Income Over Feed Costs Less Non-Feed Costs)
Per Pig201242249245245259181217
Per kg Gain1.922.302.372.342.332.471.722.07
Per Day1.631.952.021.951.982.101.061.47
Return On Investment per Pig & per Year & Relative to Pigs Fed SBM & Wheat
SBM+Wht = 100771001051021021126686
SBM+Wht = 100771001051001021124872

I won't repeat a lot of conclusions here that are discussed in Part 3. I ask you to study the above table and draw your own conclusions. When you look at animal performance, be sure to study the effect of protein adequacy on carcass composition. I really had fun with the following comparisons! When I see rations fed without added protein I have questioned the economics of feeding wheat (1) with or (2) without added lysine and with no other protein source. (Be sure to add vitamins and minerals to all rations. It is really bad economic news not to feed them.) Look at combination WVMX (wheat, vitamins, minerals, no lysine) to see what the PPP predicts and compare it to the predicted results when lysine is added (WVML) up to the level where threonine becomes the next limiting amino acid so adding additional lysine won't help. A huge threonine plant just open in the USA to go with lysine and methionine as three amino acids you can add synthetically.

Among the tables presented in Part 3 are the recommended protein and lysine levels and accompanying energy density tables for feeds made from soybean meal and sunflower meal with partial or full hulls for each of five ambient temperatures so if you need these values, look in Part 3. There are tables that give the values for each of the five ambient temperatures for the performance and economic data presented in Table 20 C above. There are approximately 100 tables in Part 3. I don't have room here to even summarize them. I will present the Return on Investment (ROI) tables that answer the two main questions asked of (1) profitability and (2) feedstuff choice and give some conclusions.

Table 26-1: Percent Return on Investment - ROI - per Year.
The True Measure of ROI

Gain of Muscle/Day, Kg325325310Max allowed by % lysine
5 C Ambient Temp.12012311789101
10 C Ambient Temp.12913412763104
15 C Ambient Temp.14014513967107
20 C Ambient Temp.14915615071107
25 C Ambient Temp.14615514867100

Comments: With the cost and income figures used, there is money to be made raising pigs in Western Ukraine if the pigs have the genetic potential as assumed and if the rations are balanced for each feedstuff used and for the ambient temperature.

Table 26-2: Relative Return on Investment per Year
SBM & Wheat = 100

Gain of Muscle/Day, Kg325325310Max allowed by % lysine
5 C Ambient Temp.100102974984
10 C Ambient Temp.100104984981
15 C Ambient Temp.100104994876
20 C Ambient Temp.1001051004872
25 C Ambient Temp.1001061014667

Comments: Under the economic conditions used in this study, if the rations are balanced to the situation, sunflower meal with hulls equals soybean meal as a protein source for pigs fed in moderate to warm temperatures. Sunflower meal with partial hulls is your protein of choice at the prices compared. Feeding wheat without protein supplements has a Return on Investment (ROI) half that of soybean meal. Adding lysine raises the ROI to only about 70% that of SBM.

The greatest return on investment comes if the protein levels of the ration are adequate. Under today's economics, cheating on protein to reduce feed costs also reduces net income and ROI. Manage for profit by feeding rations balanced to the needs of the pig. The formulas presented were formulated for our CDP agricultural co-ops.

Table 26-3: Relative Return on Investment per Year
20 C = 100

Gain of Muscle/Day, Kg325325310Max allowed by % lysine
5 C Ambient Temp.8179788294
10 C Ambient Temp.8786858898
15 C Ambient Temp.94939394100
20 C Ambient Temp.100100100100100
25 C Ambient Temp.9899999494

Comments: The greatest return on investment occurs when pigs are fed in their ideal ambient temperature, which is about 20 C when calculated for the entire growth period.

Please look at the almost 100 pages of the Applied Swine Nutrition Basics manuscript as a place to learn concepts that will help you improve the profitability of raising swine and as source material to find (1) actual values and (2) relative values to soybean meal and to 20 C or 25 C ambient temperatures. I have the PPP book of spreadsheets ready to use so feed me the data needed and I'll run them to answer the two important questions of:

(1) How much profit or loss will be realized from feeding market hogs under today's present economic conditions?
(2) What feed combinations (protein and grain sources) will be the most profitable?

Roy E. Chapin, Ph.D. Animal Nutritionist
Cooperative Development Program
USAID, ACDI/VOCA and Southern States Cooperative

11145 Chapin Lane, Amity, Oregon 97101 USA
Home Phone: 503-835-7317/Fax: 503-835-333.
E-mail: <>

© Roy Chapin, 2018
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