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How Far We Could Go Reducing Crude Protein with the Use of Supplemental Amino Acids


Feeding growing pigs with diets providing the required amount of essential and non-essential amino acids (AA) reduces energy expenditure and minimizes N excretion. Low protein diets can be obtained by supplementing feeds with crystalline AA. Numerous experiments have evaluated the ideal dietary AA concentration at different growth stages, but reducing dietary protein with the use of supplemental AA is limited by the inaccuracy of the principles used to estimate AA requirements. One of these principles states that growing animals need AA for maintenance and growth. Maintenance requirements are related to BW whereas the efficiency of AA utilization (e.g., 72% for Lys) and body protein AA composition are constant (e.g., 7% for Lys). These parameters are, however, affected by AA restriction, meal frequency, energy supply, genetics, etc. Even when controlling these factors, individual pigs respond differently to the same AA supply. Yet pigs are raised in groups and fed with a unique feed for long periods. Individual pigs within a given population differ in terms of BW, ADG, health status, etc., and consequently, differ in the amount of AA they need at a given time. Therefore, when feeding a group of pigs, the concept of maintenance and growth requirements may not be appropriate. In this situation, nutrient requirements should be seen as the optimal balance between the proportion of animals that needs to be overfed and underfed.

Given that for most AA, underfed animals exhibit reduced performance, whereas overfed animals exhibit near-optimal performance, optimal growth is obtained when nutrients are provided to satisfy the requirements of the most demanding animals. There is therefore a trade-off between performance and dietary protein reduction. The inaccuracy of the principles used to estimate AA requirements, both for individual animals and populations, limits how far we can go reducing dietary protein with the use of supplemental AA.