Results of a preliminary experiment conducted at the University of Illinois indicate that it may be possible to select pigs that can make efficient use of energy in less expensive feed ingredients, thus reducing diet costs.

Less expensive feed is usually higher in fiber than the corn-soy diets typically used in U.S. swine production, according to Hans H. Stein, professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. However, the white breeds that are used in commercial pork production use only about 40 percent of the insoluble fiber. "If you can increase that number to 50 or 60 or 70 percent, then of course, you would get a much better use of the energy in those ingredients," said Stein. "There are also indigenous breeds of pigs that have not been selected for commercial production, and these breeds have, therefore, not been fed the corn-soybean meal diets for as many generations as the white breeds."

The study focused specifically on Chinese Meishan pigs, on the theory that they would use fiber more efficiently than the typical white breeds. "What we observed was that, particularly for the DDGS diets, the Meishans were quite a bit more effective at using that fiber," said Stein. "That diet is high in insoluble dietary fiber. When we looked at more soluble fibers, there was no difference." Although Meishan pigs would never be used for commercial pork production in the U.S., the results indicate that differences exist among breeds of pigs. Thus, it is possible that differences also exist among the white breeds and that some may use fibers more efficiently than others, according to the researchers.

Stein said that the findings are preliminary, and determining if white breeds can be bred to use insoluble fiber more efficiently will be expensive because it requires selecting pigs for multiple generations. The next step is pursuing funding for further research.