How our group decided on animal plasma levels for a new generation piglet feed for older weaned piglets in the EU.
A few week ago, I was involved in an EU commercial project that will see the launch of a new generation piglet feed, to be released soon as a private label.
One point of hot discussion was the level of animal plasma that we were going to use in this product. Being a commercial product available throughout the EU, it had to be able to withstand the test on two fronts: cost and feed intake. We were not concerned about diarrheas as we had already developed a blend of anti-diarrhea additives, and we had also formulated the feed along the lines of antibiotic-free principles established by our team. But, animal plasma remains expensive as ever and there was a point of disagreement.
A minority of the group advocated the omission of animal plasma altogether, but most of us believed it was still needed for various reasons. So, the question became one of quantity versus cost. At 5-6% animal plasma (the level at which most U.S. diets were formulated when studies were conducted in the past) cost was prohibitive. We then decided to set a level between 2% and 4%. We reasoned the lower level could be justified by the later weaning age (28 vs. 21 days of age) and the provision of the same feed as a creep diet on the same pigs.
Having myself a wide range of contacts through LinkedIn, I thought it would be interesting to pose this question as a poll. Reflecting exactly the split in our group, results came almost equally spread among the many options. Roughly one-quarter of voters thought plasma was not justified (for several reasons). But 75% of voters decided on using animal plasma, although roughly each remaining quarter voted for 2%, 3%, or 4% animal plasma concentration.
I think it is clear that commercial nutritionists feeding piglets weaned at a later age use none or less animal plasma than recommended by one major supplier. I think this kind of question would be an interesting project shared among different universities in the EU. As for our group, the first results of our new feed have verified our combined efforts toward a new and less expensive piglet feed for the EU.