Be wary of products to help swine operations

Be wary of products to help swine operations Swine producers should think carefully before buying new products touted to "help" their operations, a South Dakota State University specialist warned.

"While some of these products may work and can be economically justified, there are just as many products, if not more, that are worthless," SDSU Extension Swine Specialist Bob Thaler said. "In the past three weeks, I've seen two different products being sold that promise to do everything and then some: improve gain, feed efficiency, carcass quality, reproductive performance, litter size, and profitability, as well as decreasing odor and nutrient excretion."

In cases like this, Thaler said, producers should remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Thaler added there are some things producers can do to better evaluate products.

* Find out if there's been any controlled research done on the product. Testimonials and on-farm trials by themselves are meaningless if you don't know who ran the trials, and how, Thaler added.

"Land-grant universities will do research on products, and this will provide valid information on how well a product works," Thaler said. "If the manufacturer doesn't have enough confidence in his product to pay for the testing, why should you invest your money in it?"

* Find out the active ingredient that is supposed to be responsible for the improvement. "One product promoted urea as one of the main ingredients, and it was supposed to help the growth of 'good' bacteria," Thaler said. "The bad news is that pigs can't utilize urea, while cattle can. All the urea did was make the analyzed protein level seem much higher than it was, and increase the amount of nitrogen excreted by the pig."

* Ask what level of an active ingredient ends up in the diet. "If you add 10 pounds of a product per ton of feed, and there's only 5 percent active ingredient in the premix, that's not very much getting to the pig," Thaler said.

* Find out if the pig actually requires what is being sold. "One product I've seen recently discussed a pig's hydrogen requirement," Thaler said. "Considering all the hydrogen a pig gets from water and feed, this is pretty ridiculous."

* Even if the product does what the seller says it will do, ask yourself whether you get enough return to pay for it. "If diet cost increases by 11 percent with the product, you'd better improve feed efficiency by at least 11 percent if you want to break even. If you improve feed efficiency less than that, you're losing money."

* Finally, visit with your Extension people, veterinarians, and consultants about any new product and get a second opinion on it. They might have had some experience with it, and can give you good advice on it.

"Again, there are some good products out there that will help and don't be afraid to use them. However, stay away from the 'cure-all' products," Thaler said. "The only people that benefit from them are the ones taking your money."

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