Healthier pigs with local feed

  • Pig trials
    Photo
    Gunn Evy Auestad

In the event of closed borders and restrictions on imports, how do we ensure food security for our four-legged friends? New research shows that locally produced feed resources can be just as good, and even better, than those we import from overseas.

Healthier pigs with local feed

Today the livestock industry in Norway is largely dependent on the import of protein-rich resources to produce feed. However, through extensive trials with Norwegian pigs, two major research projects have found that local feed based on Norwegian grain, rapeseed and field beans can replace feed based on imported commodities, such as soy. The pigs grew equally well on the new feed, and they were healthier. In addition, the results unveiled several positive effects on the quality of the meat.

- These findings support what we hope for the future of the Norwegian livestock industry, says CEO at Norsvin, Olav Eik-Nes. Norsvin is a farmers’ cooperative specializing in pig breeding and genetics in Norway. Eik-Nes gives credit to the research communities at NMBU working with innovative alternative feed ingredients. Norsvin’s ambition is that Norwegian animals should be fed 100 per cent Norwegian feed in the near future. Currently Norwegian feed consists of about 80 per cent local resources.

- Increasing the level of self-sufficiency is important to us at Norsvin, and not least ensuring that we use our own domestic resources rather than those of other countries. Nevertheless, we have limitations as to what we can grow successfully in Norway, so we need further research into this, says Eik-Nes.

- Also, the pig is the largest meat producer in Norway. A positive effect on the pig's climate footprint will have a big impact on a larger scale, he emphasizes.

Increased intestinal health and meat quality

Rapeseed is an inexpensive commodity which we have in abundance in Europe. It can also be grown under Norwegian conditions. Rapeseed is mainly cultivated for its oil, but the meal left over after the oil extraction also has potential. The meal contains about 35 per cent protein and has a beneficial amino acid profile compared to what the animals need. Rapeseed meal also has a higher fibre content than other, more traditional protein sources, which again improves the pigs’ intestinal health.

This is explained to us by professor Margareth Øverland. She is the leader of Foods of Norway, a Centre for Research-based Innovation. She also leads the FeedMileage project, through which these trials have been conducted.

- In our trials with piglets and pigs we see a clear improvement in the intestinal microbiota of the animals being fed local rapeseed meal. They had more of the bacteria beneficial for fibre degrading and also more of those that produce the favourable volatile fatty acids in the intestine. Compared with pigs fed soybean-based feed, the pigs fed rapeseed also showed an increase in the bacteria associated with positive health effects, such as immunity from some diseases, says Øverland.

- Through trials conducted by Foods of Norway on the meat quality we also see that the feed resulted in more tender meat, with better colour and flavour, and it also improved the meat’s shelf life. For this alternative feed to yield positive effects on both animal health and product quality is absolutely what we can call a great result, she adds.

Published 20. October 2020 - 12:55 - Updated 20. October 2020 - 14:17