Using crude glycerol in sow diets

Quick facts

  • Including up to 9 percent crude glycerol in lactating sow diets likely doesn’t affect sow performance compared to a typical corn-soybean meal diet.
  • Dietary crude glycerol doesn’t appear to improve the sow’s ability to cope with heat stress during lactation.

What is glycerol?

Glycerol is a co-product of biodiesel production. For each gallon of biodiesel produced, about 0.66 pounds of crude glycerol are generated.

Glycerol could serve as an energy source in swine diets. Researchers in Iowa determined that the energy content of crude glycerol is about 95 percent of the energy present in corn. Starch and fats have been traditional sources of energy in U.S. swine diets. If biodiesel production continues, glycerol could become an important energy source for pork production.

Effects of glycerol in sow diets

We evaluated the effects of glycerol in the diets of three hundred and forty-five sows. We assigned the sows to corn-soybean meal-based diets containing 0, 3, 6 or 9 percent crude glycerol. The crude glycerol contained

  • 86.1 percent glycerol
  • 6.01 percent salt
  • Less than 100 parts per million of methanol

Due to the salt content of crude glycerol, we excluded supplemental salt from diets containing 6 and 9 percent crude glycerol. We imposed dietary treatments on day 109 of pregnancy. After sows farrowed their litters, we allowed them to eat as much of their assigned experimental diet as they wanted.


Including up to 9 percent crude glycerol had no significant effect on the sows’

  • Weight or backfat loss
  • Litter size or weight at weaning
  • Time needed to rebreed after the pigs were weaned

Dietary treatment tended to affect daily feed intake of sows, mostly between sows fed 3 and 6 percent glycerol. There’s no apparent explanation for the lower feed intake of sows fed the 6 percent glycerol diet.

Dietary glycerol did not affect water use or breathing rates of sows.

1Schieck, unpublished

Effects of glycerol in sow diets

Trait 0% Dietary glycerol 3% Dietary glycerol 6% Dietary glycerol 9% Dietary glycerol
No. of sows 90 89 85 81
Avg. parity 4.5 4.4 4.2 4.2
Lactation length, days 18.5 18.4 18.2 18.2
Sow feed intake, lb/day 13.3 13.7 12.5 13.2
Sow wt. loss, lb 2.2 4.4 5.9 4.4
Sow backfat loss, mm 1.4 1.5 1.2 1.4
Litter size weaned 9.5 9.6 9.4 9.4
Litter weaning wt., lb 134 133 128 131
Time to rebreed, days 5.3 5.2 5.4 5.1

Lee Johnston, Extension animal scientist; Sarah Schieck, Extension educator; Jerry Shurson, Extension animal scientist; Sam Baidoo, professor of swine production, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences; and Brian Kerr, USDA-ARS, Ames, IA.