Fat sources in nursery diets
Weanling pigs have limited ability to digest and utilize fat to improve growth performance (Tokach et al., 1995). The ability to utilize fat improves with age, particularly for animal fats compared with vegetable oils.
In the early post-weaning period, weanling pigs seem to require a more digestible fat source rich in unsaturated and short-chain fatty acids for efficient energy utilization (Gu and Li, 2003). Vegetable oils like soybean oil and coconut oil are high quality sources of energy for weanling pigs (Weng, 2016), but cost often limits the use in nursery diets. Animal fat sources of good quality like choice white grease or beef tallow are usually more cost-effective to use in nursery diets.
The addition of 3 to 4% fat is mainly used to improve the pelleting process of initial nursery diets with high levels of lactose. As fat utilization for growth performance gradually improves with age, 1 to 3% fat can be added to nursery diets depending on economics.