A study from the University of Illinois illustrates how adding more copper to pigs' feed results in heavier porkers while helping farmers save plenty of pennies.
Pig farmers have long known the value of adding copper supplements to their livestock's feed. The hows and whys of plumper piggies have been a mystery, however... until now. A team of University of Illinois researchers led by Hans H. Stein (below), professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, has unlocked the key to growing heavier pigs without blowing the budget on extra feed.
The study titled “Effects of copper hydroxychloride on growth performance and abundance of genes involved in lipid metabolism of growing pigs” was published in Volume 98, Issue 1 (January 2020) of the Journal of Animal Science. “Our results indicate copper hydroxychloride is enhancing metabolism of fat, and that's how the pigs get more energy,” explains Stein, “and that, we believe, can explain why pigs have better feed conversion rates when we feed this copper source in the diets.”
The researchers organized two groups of pigs – a control group whose diet included 20 milligrams of copper chloride per kilogram, and a second group whose feed contained 150 milligrams of copper hydroxychloride per kilogram. Both diets were otherwise identical, containing corn, soybean meal, and distiller's dried grains with solubles.
At the completion of the study period it was found that pigs on the copper-enriched diet gained more weight per day, and displayed a better gain-to-feed ratio. In a nutshell, the experimental diet offered improved “feed conversion” - aka, meatier pigs per unit of feed given – thus offering farmers the prospect of significant economic savings. One might say “a penny saved is a penny earned,” though some of those cents go towards the livestock's lunch money. (images via Aliaksandr Palanetski and PhysOrg)