Cheaper corn may have some pork producers moving away from a distillers-based diet and back to the traditional corn/soybean meal ration.
Hans Stein, Extension swine specialist with the University of Illinois, says the combination of corn and soybean meal is a tried and true ration for hogs.
“The reason we started using distillers was to save some money, not because the corn/soybean meal ration wasn’t working,” he says. “If you cannot save money using distillers, the corn/soybean meal ration makes more sense.”
Stein says producers looking to feed more corn need to make sure they reformulate the ration.
“You can’t just substitute corn straight up for distillers,” he says. “You need to talk to a nutritionist and re-balance everything to make it work.”
Roughly 42 percent less soybean meal is needed for a ration heavy in distillers, Stein says. He adds since distillers are high in phosphorus, producers may need to add some supplemental phosphorus in a corn-based ration.
Testing feedstuffs is always a good idea, says Laura Greiner, Extension swine specialist with Iowa State University. She says different percentages of distillers are fed to hogs, based on their phase in the operation, such as gestation or finishing.
“Every product is different, so work with a nutritionist to make sure you are getting the energy level you need,” Greiner says.
Both corn and distillers should also be checked for toxins.
“Is the local plant using locally grown corn, or are they using corn brought in with a train?” Greiner says. “Some suppliers test on a regular basis, but others may not.”
Stein says the traditional hog feeding systems will handle corn just as well as distillers.
“If anything, the feed flow is better with corn and soybean meal,” he says.
Stein says producers need to make sure they are grinding the corn properly.
“Make sure you grind it as fine as you can to avoid having problems with ulcers,” he says. “Remember, the same micron size will not work for everyone, so work with your nutritionist to make sure you are doing it correctly for your operation.”
Stein adds feeding corn will cause fewer issues with soft bellies in hog carcasses.
“It’s more of an issue with distillers,” he says. “But over the last three years, fat levels have been reduced in distillers, so it isn’t the problem it once was for the industry.”