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Suggestions for improving feed efficiency in swine operations

In order to improve the nutritional efficiency of feeding swine, one must provide the correct amount of nutrients for the size of pig, in the correct mixture, and in a manner that the pig will consume without wasting feed. Sometimes swine producers are tempted to compromise feed quality, or place less emphasis on the grower and finishing diets in their nutritional programs. Growing and finishing diets make up approximately 75 percent of the feed cost in a farrow to finish swine operation. With more pigs being sold on carcass merit buying programs and grower/finishing diets making up the greatest volume of feed in a farrow to finish operation, additional attention to these diets may provide an opportunity of improving profits.

Diet Formulation

The goal of a feeding program is to maximize lean growth at the least cost. Nutritional requirements of pigs vary from one farm to the next and change as the pigs mature. Pigs of all genetic potential need less lysine as they get closer to market weight. Determining the exact nutritional requirements of each group of pigs is difficult. Many producers attempt to feed diets suitable for the average of the group. The more genetic and weight variation a producer has within the pig group, the more some animals will be over-fed while others are under-fed, nutritionally.

Emphasis should be placed on following a breeding program, keeping accurate records, so pigs produced will be genetically similar, and grouping pigs of similar weight and age. Environmental stresses such as overcrowding or high temperatures reduce feed consumption. Higher lysine levels should be fed to pigs under these conditions. Listed below is a suggested guideline for determining the need of feeding higher levels of lysine or diets for a high lean pig:

  • If your pigs average less than .8 inches of backfat at 240 lbs
  • If your herd average percent lean is 49 percent or better

If your pigs average performance does not meet the above listed criteria, the high lean diets may not be cost effective since feed cost will be increased without improving efficiency. However, other factors may be influencing total percent lean such as pig health status, feeder space, overcrowding, ventilation rates, availability of fresh water, weight variation within pens, and parasites.

Feed Mixing

Proper dietary formulation does not guarantee the pig will succeed meeting its genetic potential. For on the farm feed mixing, there are several things that can happen to a well-balanced diet between formulation on paper and the pigs digestive system.

If you invest the time and effort to develop well-balanced diets, you should insure the feed available to the pig is as good as the diet formulated on paper. Random samples of each diet should be taken at least twice a year and sent to a laboratory for chemical analysis.

If the chemical analysis of the feed does not meet your expectations, then you need to determine where problems occur. Several areas that you should consider are: quality of feed ingredients, calibration of feed mixing equipment, wear of equipment, mixing time, particle size, weight of feed ingredients, proper weighing of each ingredient, length of feed storage, feed contamination, and knowledge of person mixing the feed.

Inadequate levels of nutrition will prevent pigs from reaching their full genetic potential. If your pigs are not performing as well as you expect, check your feed by chemical analysis to insure the pigs are consuming the proper level of nutrients. If you desire to submit feed samples for analysis, contact your County Agent's Office for information regarding feed sampling and analysis. Allow 2–3 weeks for the results of a routine feed analysis.

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