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Hybrid rye can be included in finishing pig diets at rates of up to 60%, according to UK trials to evaluate its use as... Trials highlight benefits of hybrid rye in pig diets

Hybrid rye can be included in finishing pig diets at rates of up to 60%, according to UK trials to evaluate its use as an alternative feedstuff.

The trials were conducted as part of a collaboration between plant breeder KWS and feed manufacturer ABN. They focused on the value of hybrid rye in feed for finishing pigs from 36kg to 115kg live weight.

Starting in early 2020 and involving about 4000 pigs, trials saw three different diets fed during three distinct growth phases: 36kg-65 kg, 65kg-85kg and from there to finishing at 115kg live weight.  

Full results are expected after the trials conclude in September. But early results are significant at a time when the sector is searching for sustainable raw materials, says ABN senior pig nutritionist Steve Jagger. 

“The results look very encouraging,” said Dr Jagger, who is leading the trial.

Growth rate, feed intake and feed conversion showed no any significant differences between treatments. But a significant effect was observed for the measurement of fat depths at the P2 position, which reduced at the rate of 0.2mm per 20% inclusion of rye.

There was no notable effect of treatment on deaths and mortality, but these were lower when fed rye. Energy and protein levels compare well with wheat and rye’s fibre content is associated with additional welfare and gut health benefits. 

“Rye has slow release of energy from the large intestine and increases satiety, which is why it has been associated with positive behavioural effects in finishing pigs and gestating sows,” said Dr Jagger.

Proven benefits

This effect may also be of value over the farrowing process where a continued supply of energy may help reduce the number of stillborn piglets, he added. Rye has also been associated with a reduction in ulceration.

“Its structure can improve gut health and lower skatol, reducing carcass taint. It gives rise to high levels of butyric acid which can reduce the incidence of salmonella as well as increase the antibody levels in colostrum.”

KWS feed product manager Richard Grone is a qualified veterinarian. The benefits of feeding rye have been proven by pig producers all over the world, he said.

“Major improvements in performance, health, behaviour, and welfare have been recorded in pigs from five weeks of age to fatteners, both in controlled conditions and commercial situations.

“This latest UK trial represents an exciting development for producers at a time when the industry is aiming to reduce its environmental impact and the focus on animal welfare and health is increasing.”

“Previous trials to assess how the inclusion of rye in pig diets affects performance have shown promising results on growth rate, feed intake and feed conversion ratio. Although not yet been included in compound feeds, there is increasing interest.”

Hybrid rye can be substituted one-to-one for wheat and barley, so it offers many possibilities for feed compounders and producers. The amount which can be included is not fixed and can range from 20-70% – but most producers start using it at 30%-40%.

“Hybrid rye also fits in well with the requirements of the UK’s new agriculture bill by delivering nitrogen and agrochemical savings without compromising yields, while its straw acts as a novel stimulus and helps to further reduce aggression.”

Increasing interest

Frontier Agriculture regional seed manager Chris Piggott said the results were encouraging because interest in growing hybrid rye is high among from arable farmers. The crop had significant agronomic and economic benefits in certain situations, he added.

“To establish rye as a viable option in the rotation, it is essential to ensure that it works for the whole supply chain, from growers and the trade to the feed industry and other end-users,” said Mr Piggott.

“Frontier’s role is to facilitate that and our investment in these areas could help to bring about a significant increase in the UK rye area, if market conditions allow.  New varieties play a key role in achieving that goal. For example, KWS Tayo has PollenPlus technology which provides effective protection against ergot in rye.”