Empty feeders reduce feed intake. As simple as they seem quite often as many as 10% of the feeders may not be providing proper access to pigs for a variety of reasons including too tight feeder adjustment, bridging problems, in addition to other mechanical issues. While feed intake can be one of the more elusive challenges to monitor, its importance cannot be over stated since feed intake is key to developing diet specifications, achieving targeted growth rates, and efficiency of production. Past surveys have indicated feed intake can varies by least 25% among farms, and with feed costs ranging from 50-70% of the cost of production getting a handle on feed intake is exceedingly important.
Checklist to Maximize Feed Intake
- a. Too high reduces feed intake. Feed intake will be reduced by 1-2% for every 10C above the pig's thermo-neutral (comfort) zone.
- b. Too low reduces feed efficiency.
- c. Older pigs are impacted much more profoundly than younger pigs.
- d. Reduced nocturnal temperatures: Lowering set-point temperatures by 60C in the finishing barn in the summer.
2. Feed and Water Access
- a. Feeder design and type of feed (mash or pellet) will impact carrying capacity of the feeder. Feeder space capacity can vary from 11 to 20 pigs.
- b. Performance was maximized when the feeder gap allowed for 40% of the trough to be covered with feed, as well as reducing eating time in increasing feeder capacity.
- c. Utilizing mash diets and wet/dry feeders can increase feed intake up to 5%.
- d. Ensure pigs have free access to water. Water intake in growing pigs with free access to feed is about 2.2 to 3.0 times the intake of feed.
- e. One functioning nipple drinker is required per pen of 12 pigs.
3. Space Allocation
- a. Floor space allowance that maximizes growth rate and feed intake is =0.035m2 x BW0.667.
- b. Growth is depressed by 0.5% for every 1.0% reduction in space allowance below a critical point.
- c. Growth rate can be reduced up to 10% in the last part of the finisher under a crowded scenario.
- d. Negative impacts of reduced space on ADG are not corrected by feeding pigs diets with high nutrient density.
4. Social Interaction
- a. Rooms containing variable weight pens empty 4-6 days sooner than rooms with uniform weight pens.
- b. Studies have shown (Stookey & Gonyou, 1994) reported mixing pigs two weeks before marketing reduced growth rate by 11%, and subsequent market weights. Mixing may make economic sense when it significantly improves building utilization. (Mixing partially marketed pens of pigs to make room for the next group of pigs being transferred into the room).
5. Barn Entry Weight
- a. Bigger pigs eat more feed. Therefore anything that can increase the size of pigs entering the growout will increase feed intake.
6. Health Status
- a. Moderate health issues can reduce feed intake by 5% or more.
- b. Severe health problems can reduce feed intake by 15% or more.
7. Diet Composition
- a. Excess minerals, especially calcium, may reduce feed intake.
- b. Ensuring a proper amino acid balance and energy to amino acid balance is met. Otherwise feed intake may be adversely impacted.
- c. The use of various feed additives may increase feed intake. However, the cost effectiveness of using these additives will vary among farms.
- d. Increasing levels of energy in diets will increase feed efficiency but not growth rate. As a simple rule of thumb, if the percent increase in DE concentration is greater than the percent increase in diet cost, the increase will pay for itself in terms of feed efficiency.
8. Anti-Nutritional Factors
- a. Complete diets containing up to 0.10% ergot can be fed to a wenling pig, provided it is no fed to the breeding herd.
- b. Complete diets containing 1% ergot will reduce pig performance by more than 30%.
- c. Choose ingredients with low tannin levels. Tannins are compound that have the ability to bind to proteins, including dietary protein, thus impairing the ability of the pig to use dietary protein. Tannins also reduce palatability due to a sour taste.
- d. The impact of aflatoxin is age and dose dependant, and at low levels (20-200 ppb) ranges from depressed performance to immune suppression.
- e. Guidelines for feeding mycotoxin infected grain are for Vomatoxin (DON): nursery 0.5ppm, finisher 1.0 ppm and breeding herd 1.0 ppm.
Checklist to Optimize Water Intake
1. Mounting water nipples correctly reduces wasted water. For nipples pointed straight out pigs should drink from shoulder height. For nipples mounted downward at 45o the nipple should be 5cm (2 inches) above the back of the pig. Mounting lower will increase water wastage. Nipples should be set for the height of the smallest pig in the pen.
2. Check flow rates. Flow rates determine time spent at the nipple, water intake and water wastage. Too little is just as costly as too much when it comes to flow rates. Flow rates of 1,500 ml for lactating sows, 700 ml in grow-finish are recommended. Research on wastage found 23% at 2080ml/min versus 8.6% at 650 ml/min.
3. Use wet/dry feeders in grow-finish. Wet/dry feeders reduce water used by 34%, and slurry volume by 20-40% compared with dry feeders and a bowl. Wet/dry feeders also increase consumption of mash diets compared to dry feeders and a separate water nipple, resulting in a 5% improvement in average daily gain.
4. Feeding diets containing excessive protein and/or excessive mineral levels results in increased water usage.
5. Temperature impacts water requirements. For every 1oC above 20oC results in a sow drinking 0.2L more water each day.
6. Some of the factors that contribute to increased water intake are: heat stress, hunger, boredom, elevated dietary protein, elevate dietary minerals, and moderately elevated minerals in the water.
7. Factors that depress water intake include cold stress, warm water temperatures, and a high level of salinity in the water.
8. Water:feed ratios decrease as pigs grow. Studies have shown water:feed ratios with nipple drinkers were 3.35:1 for nursery and 2.5:1 for growing pigs.
Generally for groups larger than 10 pigs in the nursery and 15-20 in the finisher facility a minimum of two water delivery devices is required (Brumm, 2006).
By Katie Carr
Published by Prairie Swine Centre Inc.