Hybrid rye offers pig producers lower cost production and healthier animals

March 2020

Benefits across economics, welfare and environment seen

Digestion and metabolic performance significantly improved

Major opportunity for UK arable producers too

Rations based on hybrid rye could increase pig health and reduce costs of rearing whilst opening up new rotational opportunities for UK arable growers, believes John Burgess of KWS.

With inclusion levels of up to 40% possible in mixed feeds for pig fattening, trials have shown not just significant cost benefits but also positive behavioural effects and reduced gut problems from the approach, he points out.

“Hybrid rye is fast becoming an important part of pig rations across European and further afield due to a unique combination of factors including both improved feeding performance and the opportunity for greater flexibility in arable rotations.

“The UK has the potential to easily increase the area of hybrid rye grown by 10% very quickly and this could have a profound effect on the UK pig industry and the make-up of the country’s arable acres.”

In terms of pig production, the biggest benefits lie in improved feed intake, environmental enrichment for animals and digestive benefits, he says.

“Rye is high in water absorbent digestible fibre which requires more active chewing and when this happens more saliva is produced which reduces the overall acidity of material entering the stomach.

“Furthermore, in meal-based home mixing systems, limiting the overall fraction of very fine particles using rye avoids gut ulceration and the incidence of respiratory problems from dusty feeds.”

Hybrid rye also has a straw yield of around 4 – 5t/ha – almost 1.5t/ha more than wheat or barley – which makes it highly cost effective means of adding ‘interest’ to the pigs’ environment, John Burgess says.

“Research in Denmark has suggested fattening pigs require around 0.5kg of straw per pig per day to fully meet their behavioural and exploration needs.

“When adequate straw is provided aggressive behaviour becomes less and this manifests itself in reduced incidences in tail and flank biting.

“This means whilst rye grain can go a long way to improving the production and health of pigs from a nutritional perspective, the abundance of cost-effective straw produced makes it a valuable by-product in countering behavioural issues, too.”

Further benefits can be linked to improved overall digestion and satiety, he points out.

“Hybrid rye’s abundant amounts of dietary fibre means it also contains high levels of resistant starch which acts as a pre-biotic feed.

“Resistant starch is able to bypasses digestion in the stomach so that it reaches the hind gut where it has a profound effect on the growth and activity of vital microorganisms by providing them with a valuable source of fermentable energy.

“As well as promoting gut health, this also results in higher satiety which adds further positive behavioural effects. Hybrid rye also contains higher levels of vitamin E compared to other cereals and has almost twice the levels of phytase than wheat.”

Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) derived from hybrid Rye can also boost immunity via encouraging gut microflora development and reducing salmonella levels, he adds.

“SCFA’s play a critical role in intestinal development and immune function as well as increasing important butyrate levels in the hind gut so the need for synthetic sources of these are reduced.

“Hybrid rye supports higher levels of fructan – a precursor to butyrate formation – in comparison to wheat or barley and the more natural the source of butyrates, the less the risk of carcase taint.

“There is also evidence that the SCFA’s derived from rye can reduce the attachment of salmonella to the gut wall.”

Hybrid rye’s lower protein content compared to wheat and barley also works in its favour in terms of reduced slurry production and better Nitrogen utilisation, John Burgess adds.

“Dietary protein has to be supplied at adequate levels in order to optimise essential amino acid supply and liveweight gain, but too much can result in high levels of wasted N and P levels in slurry.

“The crude protein of hybrid rye is around 8 – 9% compared to wheat at 11 – 12% and this 3% difference gives a significant reduction in slurry production. The less water consumed by pigs fed on lower protein rations also increases the slurry DM % reducing the volume further.

“All told, there are considerable production, animal health and environmental advantages to feeding more hybrid rye in UK pig industry and the acreage grown to serve this demand can only grow in the future.”

Growing a higher volume of hybrid rye in the UK could not only benefit the country’s pig industry, it could also create advantages for growers too
John Burgess, Hybrid Rye Product Manager, KWS

Agronomic Benefits

Growing a higher volume of hybrid rye in UK arable rotations could not only benefit the country’s pig industry it could also create significant advantage for growers too, John Burgess says.

“Hybridisation of rye has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for growing the crop including delivery of consistently higher yields than previously, together with many agronomic advantages.

“Yields have increased by 20% in recent years with modern hybrid rye varieties such as KWS Serafino, Tayo and Edmondo now capable of producing consistent yields up to 13t/ha with many growers reporting they easily outperform wheat and barley as a second or third cereal.

“Fertiliser requirement with rye can be roughly half that of a second wheat with savings of 100kg N/ha and more being achievable.

“It’s a fast growing crop with a long drilling window that stretches from mid-September through to early November with an early harvest, so it ticks a lot of boxes with regard to increasing demands for flexibility in the rotation, too.”

Hybrid rye’s speed of growth also gives it significant weed control potential with diseases problems being less of an issue, too, he says.

“It moves through stem elongation faster than any other cereal with trials showing the competition it exerts against blackgrass reducing the viability of seeds by 60% compared to wheat.

“Hybrid rye also has much higher resistance to take-all than triticale or winter wheat whilst inclusion of PollenPlus technology means ergot infection is now a thing of the past.

“Growers should also factor in properties such as a straw yield being 25 – 30% higher than with wheat or barley and a water requirement 25% less than either of these, making it a perfect choice for lighter land or drought-prone regions.”

Find Your Consultant