As the Chinese pig industry becomes more intensive, western-type feed formulas are being used increasingly as a means of sustaining a high level of performance. Nevertheless, this practice is not without its own problems, especially when it requires imported materials to be used.

This is the case for whey. China is a net importer of whey for piglet feeds. But, whey quality can be so variable that in most cases than not, piglet feed quality is affected negatively by low-cost whey (or any other dairy substitute for whey).

Here, I would like to share the experiences of one of my customers in China. I was employed to review their nutrition program, in regards to piglet products -- being my specialty as a nutritionist. Their problem was low feed intake. A first review revealed two things: they were using a western-type formula heavily based on imported whey, and the formula was actually a good one. So, why the failure to produce a good finished product when the "recipe" was not faulty?

I had the same problem with a client in Spain, not many years ago. There, they were using the low-cost whey variety (actually the worst I had ever seen!) and had similar or worst experiences. Piglets simply refused to eat the feed -- they went hungry instead of eating such bad feed. So, I asked for a sample of the whey from China and I was not surprised to find it was a very low quality product. We switched to a better type of whey, and without any reformulation, the products started working as expected.

The take home message: A single ingredient can spell disaster even in the best formulas available.

Ioannis Mavromichalis can be reached at imavromichalis@wattnet.net.