January, 2024

The WAGS Word

Happy New Year! May 2024 bring great performance and dropping feed prices to all of your operations.

Saying this feels a little like déjà vu, but may the new year also bring improved livestock prices as we proceed for 2024. Catching up with many from the hog industry in Banff earlier this month, there is an eye on dropping commodity prices. Managing production margin on the way down will be critical to preserving cashflow of your operations.

Continuing to provide commodity market information remains a focus of ours. Please feel free to reach out to any of our personnel if you are looking to receive further information and insight on margin management and we can link you up with our experts.

To end 2023 and kickoff 2024, our swine nutrition team led workshops on both sides of the border focused on sow nutrition and management. It was wonderful to see the participation and sharing of experience between our team and the swine producers that attended. Great feedback from all as information flowed around the room sharing experiences, and new feeding and management opportunities. We certainly look forward to hosting more of these and having the opportunity to discuss production in a collaborative setting with our customers.

Our goal is to continuously provide up to date information on best nutrition and management opportunities. On that note, we expect to be holding additional workshops focused on poultry production and to support our growing dairy ingredients business. Look forward to sharing more with all of you as these are set up!

Thanks for your business and may 2024 bring good health and happiness to all of your communities.

Commodity Price Update

The good crop outlook in the US and Brazil contributed to the downside trend for global grain & protein prices. The market attention is shifting to the new crop estimates and the South American weather news – which added volatility to prices. Protein prices were more volatile over the past months given the short crop in Argentina and strong US exports. However, the market has turned bearish following the additional crush capacity in North America and positive expectations around global supply.

Crude oil prices softened on sharp price cuts by top exporter Saudi Arabia and a rise in OPEC output, offsetting supply concerns generated by escalating geopolitical tension in the Middle East. The Brent is currently trading below the US$80 level. The global economy outlook and the US Federal Reserve rates decisions will be important drivers as we move forward.

The Canadian Dollar (CAD) received a boost against the US Dollar (USD) following the hawkish speech made by the Bank of Canada (BoC). The US Federal Reserve (Fed) has put rate cuts on the table for the first time in years, which added further pressure to the American currency. The crude oil trend is limiting the Canadian dollar gains, which are currently trading around the 0.74 range against the US dollar.

Corn futures declined given the ample global ending stocks and a record US corn crop. Corn delivered to Lethbridge is being traded at $290-$295, while barley prices are around $290-$300 delivered to the same area. Barley prices are following the correlation with corn futures, but the lack of winter snowfall is a strong concern since the volume of water in reservoir is very low – especially in Southern Alberta, which could challenge irrigation over the next year.

Following the same trend, wheat prices have also declined over the past months across Western Canada. Canadian exports of wheat are moving 25% ahead of last year’s pace and 15% above average – despite the smaller harvest, which could limit the downside risks as we move forward. Delivered price indications in Red Deer, AB are at $320-$325, while indications in the Saskatoon area range between $325 and $335 per MT.

Soybean meal prices increased due to reduced global ending stocks. However, the market turned bearish given the good crop estimates in Argentina and following the additional crush capacity and the declining Chinese hog herd. On top of that, widespread rain in Brazil has also improved crop conditions after drought. Soymeal prices are expected to soften further, but the market could be volatile in the following weeks due to weather-related news. Prices are trading around $635-640 per MT delivered to Lethbridge/AB. Canola meal declined to around $400-$405 per MT in the Red Deer area – Canola meal usage increased over the past weeks and prices could soften further following the correlation with soymeal futures.

In conclusion, grain & protein prices could decline further in the following weeks. However, the market is expected to be volatile at this moment as a result of the news related to weather, war and logistics. The FX component has also limited the upside trend for amino acid prices over the past weeks. Synthetic amino acid prices could follow a downward pressure as well but attacks on ships in the Red Sea could disrupt supply chains that depend on Asian products. Buyers are likely covered for the next month since the Chinese New Year is coming.

Feeding Replacement Gilts for Longevity and Optimum Lifetime Performance

Breaking news! Gilts are the most valuable animals on your farm. This is something we have all heard and something we can agree on. Similar to that old adage “children are the future”, gilts are the future of the sow herd; thus, their success or failure will dictate the future productivity and profitability of your farm. But, are we raising and managing our gilts as the most valuable animals on our farms? I would argue that we often forget about our gilts until we need them to hit the weekly breeding target. In addition to proper gilt selection and rearing management, adequate nutrition is crucial to prepare gilts for a long and productive life.

Why would we feed the future of our herds the same way we feed our market pigs?

In contrast to market pigs which we want to grow fast and leave the barn as soon as possible (just like some people with their children), we want gilts to remain in our barn for as long as possible. Nearly 20% of premature culling in the breeding herd occurs at parity 0, with 65% of these culls attributed to reproductive failure (Engbom et al., 2008; PigChamp 2006). Thus, diets formulated for developing gilts require specific nutrient formulation to ensure proper muscle growth, bone and reproductive tract development and sound foot/leg structure to prepare gilts for high lifetime performance.

Nutritional strategies to help gilts reach their genetic potential.

1. Avoiding rapid growth: lysine to energy ratio.

The primary goal in replacement gilt nutrition is to develop them to their physiological maturity in body weight, tissue composition, structural soundness, and reproductive development. To ensure longevity and excellent lifetime performance, it's crucial to maintain growth rates to reach 115 to 140 kg at puberty and 135 to 160 kg at breeding with an average daily gain (ADG) between 600 to 770g (figure 1; Bortolozzo et al., 2009). However, limiting growth may be necessary in ad libitum feeding systems to prevent gilts from exceeding these weight targets, as rapid growth and fat gilts can experience locomotion and structural issues, leading to early removal from the herd (Amaral Filha et al., 2010).

The high feed intake and rapid growth rates in current genetic lines increase the risks of lameness and leg problems (Farmer, 2018). Free access feeding after 10 weeks of age increases the risk of osteochondrosis (OCD) by 20% for each 100 g increase in ADG (Koning et al. 2013). However, limiting feed intake too much by restricted feeding can reduce the development of mammary secretory cells (Sorensen et al., 2002). Reducing the lysine to energy ratio is a strategy that can help to decrease growth rate, increasing the number of gilts in optimal body weight at first estrus (Lents et al., 2020) and reducing lameness and severeness of joint lesions (Quinn et al., 2015). However, puberty can be delayed if the dietary lysine-to-energy ratio is drastically reduced (Lents et al., 2020) or if energy intake is reduced by 25% or more (Johnson et al., 2022). Fibre can also be used to restrict energy intake (Winkel et al., 2018); but high inclusion levels are often needed (Helm et al., 2021).

It is important to keep track of gilt weights as this can help to detect deviations from the expected growth rate, allowing you to make changes in the diets or feeding program. There are several tools to help you track the growth of your gilts. The best way to do this is to weigh gilts with a scale. However, in the absence of a scale, gilts’ weights can be estimated using a flank tape, which measures gilts from flank to flank (figure 2) to determine approximate weights or a girth tape, which measures the entire circumference of the gilt (figure 3).

2. Vitamins and minerals supplementation.

Lameness is one of the top three reasons for culling gilts and sows (Wang et al., 2019). Calcium and phosphorus, the body's most abundant minerals, play essential roles in functions such as growth, development, and maintaining the skeletal system (Berndt and Kumar, 2009). Compared to market pigs, replacement gilts had 8% greater calcium and phosphorus requirements to support bone mineralization, preventing bone issues, and serving as a reserve for the litter's needs during gestation and lactation (NRC, 2012; Vier et al., 2019).

Vitamins important for reproduction, such as choline, pyridoxine, folic acid, and biotin (Flohr et al., 2016), should be included in the diet because they are typically not present in finishing premixes or micros. Alternatively, the sow premix or micro can be used to formulate replacement gilt diets. Additionally, supplementation of organic trace minerals such as zinc, manganese and copper is recommended as Zinc can accelerate wound healing through cellular repair, copper aids in antibody formation and lymphocyte replication, while manganese is crucial for cartilage and bone health, reducing osteochondrosis (Fabà et al., 2019). Similarly, the dietary inclusion of 25-hydroxy-D3 can lower the incidence and severity of osteochondrosis lesions.

In summary, the longevity and performance of replacement gilts are crucial to the productivity and profitability of swine farms. Proper management, including nutrition, plays a critical role in preparing gilts for a productive lifespan. Key strategies include controlling growth rates through a balanced lysine-to-energy ratio and supplementing diets with essential vitamins, minerals, and organic trace minerals. These measures help in achieving optimal body weight, reducing lameness and joint issues, and ensuring sound reproductive and skeletal health. Therefore, prioritizing gilt nutrition and management is essential for maintaining a robust and productive sow herd.

Note: References available upon request.

Digestibility of Amino Acids in Feedstuff for Poultry

For a number of years, research has been conducted to determine the digestibility of the amino acids from feed ingredients used in poultry diets. The information released from that type of research is an added tool used to improve the nutritional balance and efficiency in the utilization of the diets as well as the most economical combination of ingredients.

Generally, the digestibility of the amino acids contained in the different feed ingredients is determined by feeding birds given amounts of an ingredient and then measuring the amount of amino acids retained in the body versus the amount excreted in feces or ileal fluids. The difference between the amount fed and the amount collected in the feces is considered as being the digestible portion of that feed ingredient or the particular amino acid being measured. The value found is expressed as a percentage of the amount fed or coefficient of digestibility.

The amount of amino acids collected in the feces contains not only the portion of the ingredient that is not digested but also some loss of amino acids coming from the normal degradations of cells in the body, that is why excreted values determined from the ileum are considered to be more accurate.

The digestibility of amino acids is dependent not only on the kind of feed ingredients and its variety but also on the type of birds, their age and sex. In addition, processing procedures to which some feed ingredients are subjected to improve their nutritional value and therefore can affect their digestibility.

The Wageningen Livestock Research Centre in the Netherlands published, a few years ago, a table containing the coefficient of digestibility for 18 amino acids from about 80 feed ingredients. The values published are expressed as standardized ileal digestibility and as apparent fecal digestibility.

Some of the ingredients listed on that table are frequently used in poultry diets, however ingredients less frequently or seldom used but with the potential of becoming available in the future are also included.

From that publication, the coefficient of digestibility of 4 amino acids contained in 6 feed ingredients commonly used in poultry diets is shown in the tables below. Out of the six ingredients, canola meal, peas and soy meal are mostly used as sources of protein, whereas barley, wheat and corn are the traditional sources of energy used in poultry diets. In Tables 1 and 2, the ingredients are displayed according to the incremental value in the coefficient of digestibility of lysine.

Table 1. Digestibility coefficient of some amino acids for some protein sources.

Table 2. Digestibility coefficient of some amino acids for some grains.

Within the protein sources, soya meal has the highest values of digestible lysine (88%) and methionine (90%), whereas, within the grains corn ranks first in digestible lysine and methionine. Peas within the protein sources and wheat within the grains represent the second-best sources of digestible lysine.

The main feed ingredients in the poultry diets in western Canada and Montana are soya meal, wheat and corn which explain, at least in part, the excellent performances achieved. Barley and canola meal are used to a lesser degree in poultry rations depending on the type of birds and according to their relative price as compared to the other ingredients.

It would be of interest to measure to what extent the addition of enzymes intended to improve the digestibility of proteins has closed the gap in digestibility between the different ingredients, as is the case with the enzymes used to improve the utilization of energy contained in wheat and barley.

The knowledge of the digestibility of feedstuff has led researchers to determine the requirements of birds for digestible amino acids rather than for the total amounts of protein. Among some of the reports published in that regard, it is worth mentioning the results of a trial designed to determine the requirements of digestible lysine by Lohmann layers between the ages of 22 and 47 weeks.

This work was published in Poultry Science volume 98 in April 2019. In the study, a total of 896 layers were fed 7 experimental diets containing increasing levels of digestible lysine, plus a control diet representing the type of formulations used in commercial egg production.

The trial was divided into 2 phases, from 23 to 34 weeks of age and from 35 to 46 weeks of age. The level of digestible lysine in Phase 1 varied from 0.517 in diet 1 to 0.913% in diet 7 and from 0.468 to 0.845% in Phase 2.

In the study, it was reported that increasing levels of digestible lysine had a significant effect on improving egg production, egg weight, egg mass and feed efficiency. The diet containing the highest level of lysine (0.913%) resulted in the highest level of egg production (98.1%) at 28 weeks of age; the same diets resulted in the highest egg weight of 59.6 grams at 32 weeks and 60.6 grams at week 40. For many years Western Ag has used 60.6 grams per egg which corresponds to an egg case weight of 48 lb, as a benchmark to initiate its egg size control program.

At Western AG generally, the formulation of 19%-layer diets contains 0.98% of digestible lysine, with that level producers report peak production as good or slightly higher than that in the trial, whereas an average egg weight of 60.6 grams is achieved between 28 and 33 weeks of age.

Note: References available upon request.

The Effect of Rumensin in Cows: A review

Rumensin is a brand name for the feed additive monensin sodium and thereby the word ‘monesisn’ is used in the rest of the article. Monensin is a widely used ionophore antibiotic in animal feed that improves feed efficiency and growth performance in cattle. Monensin is also used in the cattle industry to prevent certain types of diseases (coccidiosis) and to improve feed efficiency. However, it can be toxic to cattle if not used correctly.

Coccidiostat: Monensin is an antiprotozoal agent that acts on coccidia parasites by inhibiting reproduction and retarding the development of the parasite in a host intestine. It belongs to ionophore antibiotic category and is given to animals by mixing in cattle diets/feed to prevent coccidiosis, a parasitic disease situation in the intestines. Therefore, it is considered a feed additive.

Coccidiosis: Coccidia is a parasitic protozoan found in animal gut causing a disease called ‘coccidiosis’. Monensin is well known for preventing coccidiosis, that can cause diarrhea and weight loss in cows. Mainly, coccidiosis in calves and young animals is shown to be controlled improving the growth and body weight gain.

Powder or Bolus: Monensin is available in various physical forms; powder or bolus. Monensin powder is a form that is commonly used as a feed additive to mix in grain feed. Rumensin boluses are a form of monensin delivery that are inserted into the cow's rumen and slowly release the drug over a period of time. Overall, research has shown that monensin can improve feed efficiency, and milk production, and reduce the incidence of coccidiosis in dairy cows. However, some studies have reported potential negative effects of monensin on milk fat content, rumen fermentation, and cow health if used improperly or at excessively high doses.

Feed Efficiency: The benefits are shown in some research studies. Monensin has been shown to improve feed efficiency. In this process, monensin is shown to improve feed conversion efficiency, which means that cattle may gain weight faster or cows can produce more milk per unit of feed (6). This can be beneficial to farmers looking to increase growth or milk production while keeping feed costs low (3).

Ketosis and LDA: Monensin bolus is shown to have beneficial effects, reducing ketosis and left abomasal displacement (LDA) in dry and fresh cows (1,2,4,5). Some studies have suggested that monensin may reduce the incidence of ketosis and LDA in dairy cows (2, 3). There is some evidence to suggest that the use of monensin in dairy cow diets can help prevent ketosis and LDA in cows. Some research has reported that monensin reduced the incidence of ketosis in early lactation cows (4). Similarly, another study showed that monensin reduced the incidence of LDA in dairy cows (2).

It has been well studied for its potential effects on reducing the incidence of metabolic disorders, including ketosis and LDA by independent research groups (4,9). However, the research on the efficacy of monensin in preventing these conditions in dairy cows is mixed and inconclusive. Some studies have not found consistent or significant effects of monensin on preventing ketosis and LDA in dairy cows (8). For example, a study by Gressley et al. (2011) found no significant effect of monensin on the incidence of ketosis or LDA in dairy cows (3). Whether the use of monensin bolus is good or bad for dairy cows depends on various factors such as dosage, management practices, individual cow health status, body weight and body condition. The use of monensin in dairy cow diets has been extensively studied, and the following references provide information on its benefits and potential drawbacks. However, the effectiveness of monensin for preventing these conditions may vary depending on various factors, including diet, cow management, individual cow health status, body weight and body condition.

While these studies suggest that monensin can be effective in reducing the incidence of ketosis and LDA, it is important to note that monensin is not a substitute for proper cow management and nutrition. Other factors, such as ensuring adequate dry matter intake and minimizing stress, are also important for preventing metabolic disorders in dairy cows. Farmers should work with their veterinarian and nutritionist to develop a comprehensive management plan to maintain cow health and prevent metabolic disorders.

Toxicity: On the negative side, monensin can be toxic to cows if not administered properly. If given in too high a dose, monensin can cause serious health problems, including heart damage and even death. Even though monensin is used as a feed additive for cattle to improve feed efficiency and promote growth (1), if ingested in excessive amounts, it can be toxic to cattle causing acute (sudden) or chronic (long term) toxic effects. Monensin can have negative effects on cow health if given for prolonged periods of time, such as reduced fertility and decreased immune function. Its use is controversial and can have both positive and negative effects on animal health and productivity (9).

Symptoms of monensin toxicity in cattle include poor appetite, dehydration, diarrhea, weakness, depression, difficulty breathing, and sudden death. The severity of the symptoms depends on the dose and duration of exposure. The toxic effects of monensin in cattle occur primarily due to its ability to disrupt the balance of ions within cells, leading to cellular damage and dysfunction. Therefore, cattle that ingest toxic doses of monensin may exhibit symptoms such as decreased appetite, dehydration, diarrhea, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and even death (9).

The severity of monensin toxicity in cattle depends on several factors, including the dose ingested, the duration of exposure, and the age and health status of the animal. Younger and weaker animals are more susceptible to monensin toxicity, as are animals that have underlying health issues such as liver or kidney disease. Treatment for monensin toxicity in cattle is primarily supportive and aimed at managing the symptoms. This may involve intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, anti-diarrheal medications to manage diarrhea, and respiratory support for animals experiencing difficulty breathing. In severe cases, cattle may require hospitalization and intensive care (9).

Prevention of monensin toxicity in cattle is crucial, and it involves following the recommended dosage guidelines for monensin use in feed and ensuring that feed is properly mixed and distributed to avoid overexposure to the antibiotic. Close monitoring of feed intake and animal health can also help detect early signs of toxicity and prevent further exposure (9).

Overall, the decision to use monensin boluses or any other form of monensin in dairy cows should be made in consultation with a veterinarian and based on the individual needs and health status of the herd. It is important to carefully follow dosing instructions and monitor cows for any signs of toxicity or adverse effects. Therefore, while monensin may have some potential benefits for preventing metabolic disorders in dairy cows, its effectiveness may depend on various factors such as dosage, cow management practices, and individual cow health status. It is important for farmers to work with their veterinarian or a qualified nutritionist to determine if the use of Rumensin or other monensin-containing products is appropriate for their herd and management practices. It is recommended that farmers consult with their veterinarian or a qualified nutritionist to determine if the use of Rumensin bolus is appropriate for their specific herd and management practices.

Note: References available upon request.


Congratulations to the following WAGS partners who made it to the Hams Marketing December.

Top 10 list

4th Wymark Farming Co.
6th Vanguard Farming Company Ltd.
8th Hillridge Farming Co.
10th Raley Colony Ltd.

2nd Southland Farming Company Ltd.


Lean Percent target
1st Vanguard Farming Co. Ltd.
3rd Wymark Farming Co. Ltd.
5th Raley Colony Ltd.
8th New Dale Hutterrian Brethren

Loin Depth Target
3rd R Valley Farming Co. Ltd.
5th New Dale Hutterian Brethren


% in Core Area
1st Hillridge Farming Co.
6th Wymark Farming Co. Ltd.
7th Raley Colony Ltd.
8th New Dale Hutterian Brehtren

Carcass Wt. Target
2nd Wymark Farming Co. Ltd.
3rd Hillridge Farming Co.
4th Raley Colony Ltd.
5th R Valley Farming Co. Ltd.
8th Vanguard Farming Co. Ltd.
9th New Dale Hutterian Brethren


Jake Adams– Sales, Montana
David Borsboom – Sales Manager
Harry Korthuis – Sales Manager
Darcy MacDonald – Sales Manager
Doug Richards – Sales Manager
Tony Rock – Sales Manager
Gordon Van Dasselaar – Sales Manager
Denni Van Dasselaar-Sales Manager
C Ann Cornell – Office Coordinator, Great Falls, Montana
Anne Dyck - Office Assistant, Lethbridge, Alberta

Hailey Moors – Office Manager, Lethbridge, Alberta
Darlene Thorburn – Office Coordinator, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Saman Abeysekara – Ruminant Nutritionist
Ruben Garzon – Poultry Nutritionist
Benjamin Londono – Poultry Nutritionist
Mario Rebolledo – Poultry Nutritionist
Joaquin Sanchez – Swine Nutritionist
Danilo Sotto – Swine Nutritionist
Tom Dowler – General Manager