Friday, January 21, 2022
Friday, September 22, 2017

The sugar lactose is the primary carbohydrate source for neonatal mammals.  Mother’s milk is rich in lactose.  Newborn mammals are enzymatically equipped to digest and utilize the two-ring lactose molecule.

There are several species-oriented categories of commercial animal feeds formulated for with lactose sources, including feeds for young: dairy calves, veal calves, piglets, lambs, foals and goat kids.

The lactose sources can be either liquid or dry, depending on the feeding systems.

There are several lactose containing ingredients including: dried whey, dried permeate, dried skim milk, WPC, and crystalline lactose monohydrate.

The following are major feed types that are formulated with lactose sources:


Dairy Herd Replacement Calf Milk Replacers

  • More economical to feed than cow’s milk
  • Dry powders are mixed with water prior to feeding
  • Typical calf milk replacers contain 35-50% lactose


Veal Calf Milk Replacers

  • Milk replacers fed to bull calves raised to produce veal meat
  • Fed until calves are 18-20 weeks of age
  • Calves are fed milk replacer until 450-500 pounds


Ingredients commonly used in milk replacers:

  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Dried skim milk
  • Caseinates
  • Dried whey
  • Partially delactosed permeate (DLP)


Estimated size of the US Milk Replacer Market

  • Herd milk replacers: 110,000 tons per year
  • Veal milk replacers: 110,000 tons per year


There are also commercial milk replacers for orphan animals including: foals, puppies, kittens, calves, pigs and lambs.




In the US and Europe, a large portion of the feed usage of dairy ingredients is in pig starter feeds.  A pig starter feed is the first dry feed offered following weaning.

In the developing markets in Asia and Latin America use of lactose in animal feeds is most prominent in swine feeds.

Pork is the meat consumed in the largest volume on a worldwide basis.  According to the UN FAO, pork accounts for approximately 36% of world meat consumption.  Poultry runs a close second, accounting for approximately 35% of world meat consumption.

Modern commercial pork production systems include the practice of “early weaning” (18-25 days after birth) in order to maximize the number of pigs produced per sow per year. With early weaning pork producers can manage their sows to produce two+ litters of pig per year.  Recall that in nature a sow will produce one litter of pigs per year. 

A lactose source in the first dry feeds feed after weaning is essential in “early weaning” systems.  Very young pigs are equipped with the lactase enzyme but cannot yet capable of digesting very much starch like that found in grains.  A lactose source is essential for successful “early weaning” programs.

Today the most common lactose source used in pig starter programs all over the world is dried permeate.   A typical phase one pig starter formula might contain approximately 25% dried permeate.

Here is an example of a commercial pig starter formula: 


                        Item                                        %

            Ground corn                                      37.23

            Dried Permeate                              25.00

            Soybean meal, 48%                          20.00

            Spray dried plasma                             6.00

            Fish meal, menhaden                          5.00

            Spray dried blood cells                      3.00

            Monocalcium phosphate                    1.00

            Calcium carbonate                              1.00

            Growth promotant                              1.00

            Zink oxide                                            0.40

            Flavor                                            0.15                                                                           Methionine                                                  0.10

            Threonine                                            0.01

            Vitamin and TM premix                     0.11

            Total                                                  100.00

This pig starter formula is calculated to be:

            Protein           23.5%

            Fat                     2.1%

            Lactose           20.0%

            Lysine                1.6%


The quantity of milk product use in pig starters in the US is significant.


US Volume estimates based on the following assumptions:

  • 5.8 million sows in the US
  • 20 pigs produced per sow per year
  • 2.2 pounds of permeate consumed per pig
  • 5.8 million X 20 X 2.2 lbs. = 255,000,000 lbs. of permeate per year!


The amount of dairy used in swine feeds in various parts of the world varies a great deal.

  • US: 2.2 lb. per head (lifetime)
  • EU: 2.2 to 3.3 lb. per head
  • SE Asia: varies but averages 1.1 lb. per head
  • Latin America: 1.1 lb per head
  • China: 0.67 per head (usage is growing rapidly)


Over 50% of the world pig population is in China…the potential for increased dairy use in pig starter feeds is very great.


There are some liquid dairy ingredients, such as DLP and liquid permeate, used in liquid cattle feeds. The dairy ingredient is used as a source of energy rather than a source of lactose per se.  Liquid cattle feeds are fed to both dairy and beef cattle.


Why did mother nature go to the trouble of making lactose in milk?  Lactose is a glucose/galactose two-ring sugar.  Glucose alone would be more economical to make and easier to be absorbed and digested.  The presence of lactose in the gut appears to cause the intestine to be populated by Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacterium sp. …these are favorable bacteria populations in the intestine.


What about lactose sources for poultry feeds?  Birds do not possess the lactase enzyme and therefor birds cannot digest lactose.  A lactose source in a poultry diet can serve as a prebiotic.  This could reduce the incidence of Salmonella in the bird’s intestine and reduce a potential food safety risk.  Further research on this subject is planned.  If successful this could be a tremendous new market for lactose containing dairy ingredients.


In summary lactose sources are very important in animal nutrition and commercial animal feed products.  There is great potential for increased use of dairy ingredients in animal feed applications in the US and globally.