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ALMA ready to roll — almost

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The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) has been mandated by Alberta Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld to help turn the hog and cattle sectors around and onto the road to profitability. Alberta Farmer recently asked chief executive officer Jeff Kurcharski some questions as to how the agency is getting established.

Q:Is the agency now fully organized and staffed?

A:Yes we have our board of directors in place and most of our staff. There are some legal matters as to incorporation, but most of that will be in place by April 1 when we expect to be fully operational. We are also absorbing the Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund which will give us some more staffing to run the agency. There is also a fair bit of programming to be developed.

Q: Will taking over the development fund provide you with more funding to run the agency?

A: ALIDF was set up and funded by government and the agency will get some funding from that source. We are looking at $50 to $60 million a year to operate. Part of our funding is also coming of the $300 million grant to the livestock sector. Further long-term

more significant funding is still to come.

Q: What programs are you involved with right now?

A: We have already been involved with six workshops on such topics as value-added for processors and age verification for producers. We also had workshops on an industry vision and on the livestock information system for Alberta up and down the supply chain. We are also working on brands that can help us in marketing. We are working with the CCA on other projects.

Q: How do you see the agency – as a promoter, marketer?

A: The agency is a catalyst – it is not about taking over things already being done by the industry. We are simply here

“Overall, replacing wheat with triticale did not affect feed disappearance or weight gain.”

– Dr. Eduardo Beltranena

Prairie hog producers will need to utilize more byproducts from the bio-industrial processing of traditional feed ingredients such as wheat and canola in the future, says Dr. Eduardo Beltranena of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking at the recent Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium, he noted that the increasing demand for grains and oilseeds from ethanol and biodiesel plants meant that there will be a wider range of valuable co-products and fractions available that have the potential to reduce production costs. There is also an opportunity to use non-traditional grains and protein sources that can replace wheat, barley and soybeans.

However he said more information is required in order to get the best from new materials without compromising pig performance and in order to maximize cost savings. Current research by his department and the University of Alberta is aimed at helping producers understand how best to use novel feed ingredients.


Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, has several advantages, Beltranena says. “It gives a five to 20 per cent increase in yield compared to wheat in the Brown soils of the dryer southern Prairies. Also, it has a higher energy level than wheat, closer to that of corn.”

A recent trial compared several varieties of spring and winter triticale with HRS and CPS wheat in diets for nursery pigs. “Overall, replacing wheat with triticale did not affect feed disappearance or weight gain,” Beltranena said. “Pigs fed the triticale diets had better overall feed efficiency. This factor, combined with the higher yield, means that triticale can produce more pork per cultivated area of land.”

Alternative legumes

Field peas have been the traditional legume fed to hogs in the past, but Beltranena says there are other options.

“Those farming in the cooler central and northern Prairies should consider zero-tannin (ZT) fababean and perhaps lupins,” he said. “In years with adequate rainfall, fababean out-yields peas in the Black and Grey Wooded soil zones of central and northwestern Alberta.”

The high energy and protein content of fababeans allows them to displace soybeans in pig rations and trials suggest performance of nursery pigs can be maintained.

“The old fababean varieties were limited in their use in swine diets due to their high content of anti-nutritional factors, mainly tannins, which restricted their dietary inclusion,” Beltranena said. The new zero-tannin white-flowered varieties, such as Snowbird, have much lower tannin content.

“Although tannins have been reduced, we suspected that there might be other anti-nutritional factors that could hinder digestion in pigs,” he said. “Legumes, in general, have complex carbohydrates that can cause digestive upset in young animals. We therefore tested this theory in weaned pigs by offering zero, 10, 20, 30, and 40 per cent ZT fababean. To our surprise, young pigs tolerated fababean inclusion well up to a level of 40 per cent without detrimental effects on performance. Weaned pigs did not even require an adaptation period to ZT fababean. They performed as well as controls fed soybean meal even for the first week on trial.”

Similar trials with grow-finish pigs have shown that performance up to market weight is also similar at rates up to 30 per cent of the diet. Carcass traits were similar, although some aspects of pork quality, notably colour and drip loss, were improved in pigs fed fababeans.

Canola meal

Canola meal has long been fed to hogs in Western Canada and is the co-product of the solvent-extraction of oil for human consumption from canola seed. Recent interest in biodiesel production from canola has resulted in the appearance of three novel co-products: canola cake, expeller-pressed canola meal (EPCM) and crude glycerol. A recent study fed up to 22.5 per cent EPCM to grow-finish pigs. “Overall, weight gain and feed intake reduced as the inclusion level increased, although carcass backfat and loin depths were not different,” said Beltranena. “Therefore, although EPCM is a valuable energy and amino acid feedstuff, targeted inclusion levels are required to ensure that pig fed diets containing EPCM reach expected growth performance.”

Another byproduct of biodiesel production is glycerol, a sugary gel that can be used in the diet as an energy source.

“In a recent weaner trial, we tested the effects of substituting wheat with crude glycerol as a dietary energy source in nursery diets,” said Beltranena. “Weaned pigs were fed one of three pelleted wheat-based diets containing zero, four, or eight per cent glycerol for four weeks. Body weight increased linearly with glycerol content and pigs fed eight per cent glycerol were 1.11 kg heavier than pigs fed no glycerol. This was because feed intake increased but feed efficiency was similar.”

While feeding up to eight per cent dietary crude glycerol by enhanced growth performance, inclusion levels of crude glycerol in mash feed should be limited to prevent difficulties with feed flow in feeders and material handling equipment, warns Beltranena. Feeding crude glycerol will also be subject to regulatory approval due to residual chemicals used in the process, he notes.

“The bio-industrial use of crops is now in direct competition with the use of crops to feed humans and their animals,” Beltranena concludes. “It is now clear that we need to learn how to profitably feed crop fractions and co-products. Aggressive research is needed to optimize inclusions and manage variation in order to obtain consistent, predictable animal performance. How fast we adapt will be critical to regaining our global feed competitive advantage.”

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