Livestock Research for Rural Development 2 (2) 1990

Citation of this paper

The physiological and biochemical basis for feeding pigs and poultry in the tropics (part 2)

J Ly

Swine Research Institute Carretera del Guatao km.1, Punta Brava, La Habana, Cuba


The suggestion that sucrose or even glucose ingestion in large proportions could be the origin of the laxative effect in pigs and poultry fed sugar cane final molasses (Alvarez 1976; Entringer et al 1975) has not been a successful explanation considering that high-test cane molasses, or even molasses type A and B, have high digestibility indices, in line with a slower rate of passage of digesta, mainly in the large intestine (Ly 1977; Ly and Díaz 1979).

Searching for a general comprehensive theory, Cuban investigations re-examined the chemical composition of sugar cane molasses in order to determine the factor(s) which could be directly affecting the rate of passage of digesta and digestibility of the diet.

In fact, it has been found that although the well known carbohydrate fraction contained in sugar cane molasses exhibits a relatively high pre-caecal digestibility (Figueroa et al 1988) very similar to pure sucrose, glucose, and fructose (Ly 1987), a poor pre-caecal disappearance of non-identified organic substances (NFE - true carbohydrates) present in the molasses (table 10) has been observed. On the other hand, caecal and colonic disappearance of these non-identified substances must be largely due to microbial activity in this area of the gastrointestinal tract of the pig (Crenwell 1968) hence lowering even more the dietary energy availability (table 11). In this connection, some preliminary studies carried out in rats fed diets containing isolated compounds from non-identified organic substance from molasses NFE revealed a reduction in faecal dry matter (Figueroa and Macía 1988) and probably nutrient digestibility.

There is no doubt that the energy density of sugar cane molasses diets in terms of gross energy is lower than those of cereal and grain based diets, basically due to the difference between the heat of combustion of sucrose and its hexose components (some 16,5 and 15,3 Kjoules/g respectively) and amylose and amylopectin (roughly 17,1 Kjoule/g, according to Nehring and Haenlein (1973). Furthermore, if it is taken into account that the amount of non- identified organic substances contained in the different types of sugar cane molasses is minimum in high-test molasses and maximum in final molasses, it is logical to expect high values for the digestible energy content of the former if contrasted with the latter.

Table 10: Digestibility in pigs of swill obtained from food wastes and other residues.
------------------ Digestibility up to the rectum,% ------------------ DM  
DM OM N Energy KJ/g Source
79.8 84.0 83.7   16.16 Grau et al 1976
78.1 82.4       Maylin and Grau 1977
85.3 87.9 83.6 85.4 16.51 Maylin and Cervantes 1982
81.6   82.2 82.3 12.25 Maylin 1983
80.7   76.8 79.7 14.37 González et al 1986
78.4   76.0 77.0   Domínguez et al 1988
-------------------- Digestibility up to the ileum, % --------------------    
71   65.2 68.9   Domínguez et al 1988


Table 11: Apparent digestibility of energy sources in the pig.
  ---------- Digestibility, % ----------  
  Up to ileum Up to rectum Source of data
Dry matter      
- Sucrose 98.3 100.0 Ly et al 1987
- Cassava starch 87.0 100.0 Figueroa et al 1989
- Molasses type A 84.0 94.0  
- High-test molasses 83.5 95.9 Figueroa et al 1987
- Final molasses 63.0 81.0 Díaz et al 1984
- Sucrose 98.3    
- Cassava starch 99.0    
- Molasses type A 96.0    
- High-test molasses 96.5    
- Final molasses 83.0    
Non-identified Organic substances      
- Sucrose      
- Cassava starch      
- Molasses type A 14.0 79.0  
- High-test molasses 0.0 28.9  
- Final molasses 51.0 70.0  


One of the consequences of the apparent absorption from the gastrointestinal tract of certain fractions of the non-identified organic substances could be the increased calorific value of the urinary nitrogen in pigs (table 12). These observations could otherwise explain the decrease in metabolizable energy values of sugar cane molasses, even more pronounced in final than in high- test molasses. A net decrease in metabolizable to gross energy ratio has been observed in chickens fed increasing levels of sugar cane final molasses in the diet (Alvarez 1977). In this connection it could be possible that in poultry as in pigs the depression of metabolizable energy in diets based on sugar cane molasses depends not only on the level but on the type of this feed to be utilized, perhaps due to the level of non-identified organic substances contained in the molasses.

Table 12: Precaecal fate of energy in pigs from the NFE contained in sugar cane molasses (in Kjoule/g DM)
type A
type B
- Carbohydrates 13.47 12.16 11.67 9.43
- Non-identified organic substances 1.53 2.74 3.03 4.07
- Total 15.00 14.90 14.70 13.50
Mouth to rectum digestibility        
- Carbohydrates 12.80 11.67 11.09 7.83
- Non-identified organic substances 0.0 0.38 0.42 2.08
- Total 12.80 12.05 11.51 9.91

Source of data: Ly 1987a


The role of the microbial activity in the gastrointestinal tract might be another factor that influences digestible and metabolizable energy values of sugar cane molasses for pigs and poultry. Experiments conducted in this sense appear to indicate a major fermentative action in crop and caeca of chickens (Alvarez and Ly 1975) if compared to what is occurring in the alimentary canal of pigs (table 13). Furthermore, high-test molasses can result in a greater rate of volatile fatty acid production in the caecum and colon of pigs than final molasses.

Table 13: Calorific value of the urinary nitrogen from pigs fed diets based on sugar cane molasses or cereals (1).
Source of energy Calorific value, KJ/g urinary N
Cereal 41.46
Sucrose 53.83
High-test molasses 58.86
Molasses type A 62.96
Molasses type B 71.33
Final molasses 79.34

(1) Data from 28 balance trials with 150 growing pigs (30-50 kg)

Source of data: Ly (1988)


Some metabolic profiles of pigs fed sugar cane molasses

Digestion of sucrose and therefore fructose utilization by pigs and poultry is one of the immediate consequences of a feeding system based on sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane derived feed. In the pig, earlier experiments carried out to study the fate of fructose utilization in growing animals fed either fructose or swill plus sugar cane final molasses indicated that some 10 % of dietary fructose can escape from absorption in the pre-caecal areas (see Ly 1987) or from tissue metabolism after absorption thus being excreted through the kidneys in levels accounting for 3 to 5 % of daily feed intake of this hexose (Ly and Macía 1979). This fructosuria could have its origin in an absence of renal threshold in the pig. The presence of fructose in caecal contents of chickens fed sugar cane final molasses could be caused not only by an incomplete absorption in the small intestine like in pigs, as suggested by Alvarez (1976), but also by excretion in the urine.

On the other hand, fructosuria seems not to be an effect solely of sugar cane final molasses intake, since this phenomenum is also present in diets formulated with sucrose as the only source of carbohydrate (Ly et al 1988).

The excretion of DL-lactate in the urine has been found in pigs fed sugar cane feeds, together with a persistent fructosuria (Ly et al 1988a; Ly et al 1988b). Besides, the concentration of DL-lactate tends to reach a maximum and urinary pH value a minimum. Urinary DL-lactate does not seem to be an important energy loss but an indicator of a possible metabolic modification in pigs and possibly farm birds fed sugar cane molasses. In fact the origin of DL-lactate could be due to the fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract, mainly in the crop of the chickens (Valarezo and Preston 1973; Alvarez and Ly 1975) or from the absorptive process both in pigs (Mansford 1965; Talafantova and Kolinska 1977; Bjorkman et al 1984) and chickens (Leveille et al 1970). On the other hand, a noteworthy production of lactic acid has been found from fructose injected intravenously in pigs (Ly et al 1988a) and chickens (Leveille et al 1970). In fact, fructose and not glucose has the property of elevating DL-lactate in the blood after intravenous tolerance tests carried out in man (Cook 1970).

Table 14: Organic acids (in mmol) in the gastrointestinal tract of growing pigs fed diets based on maize or sugar cane high-test molasses.
Source of data
1.5 hr post-ingestion      
- Volatile fatty acids 62.2 97.4 Ly and Bocourt 1975
- Lactic acid 15.3 50.3  
- Organic acids 77.5 147.7  
6.0 hr post-ingestion      
- Volatile fatty acids 180.1 250.6 Ly 1979
- Lactic acid 36.5 27.6  
- Organic acids 216.6 278.2  


Another feature to be considered concerning carbohydrate metabolism in pigs and poultry fed sugar cane feeds might arise from an altered acid-base status together with an impaired glucose tolerance test (Ly et al 1981; Rodríguez et al 1985). In fact, changes in the characteristics of the urine of the pigs may be related to changes in the pattern of feed intake and demineralization processes in the bones (Ly 1987). The observed phenomena related to the feeding of pigs and chickens with sugar cane molasses could give rise to several hypotheses in order to explain the relationship between the different components of the feeding formula which contributes to neutralize these considerable events and even improves this intensive pig and poultry production model.

Some conclusive remarks

The strategy for a new pig and poultry production system in the tropics can successfully face the challenge of applying new technologies in animal feeding. The Cuban feeding systems have in common the use of a liquid feed with variable amounts of sucrose, where the protein source may not necessarily be a conventional one. In this respect, the system can serve as a model of how to use local feed resources widely available in the tropics for pigs and poultry. At the same time, the model avoids the competition for resources useable by humans, as is the case when cereal grains are used in animal feeding.

In the development of such feeding systems, research into nutritional physiology and biochemistry aspects of the system is not just an academical exercise but a very useful tool of how to improve animal feed efficiency by opening new frontiers of knowledge.


I am greatly indebted to the organizers of the Training Course Animal Production in Developing Countries, Dr P H Petersen, Dr F Dolberg and Dr T R Preston for permitting me to publish the course lectures.

I wish to express my thanks to the librarians of the Swine Research Institute, Dr Maria del Careen Montpeller, Mrs Juana Camacho and Mrs Nancy González. I am also grateful to the librarians of the Institute of Animal Science, Dr Laysi Brito, Mrs Caridad Cruz and Mrs Milagros Alvarez, for their invaluable help and assistance in literature searching. Gratitude is also expressed to Mr M Lorenzo.

My special thanks to my colleagues Dr Miriam Ribas, Dr Dulce Maria Vento and Dr Lidia González, from the Editorial Board of the Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science for their skillful advise and help concerning the English manuscript.


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