Boost Finishing Feed Efficiency

09:48AM Dec 06, 2019
Finishing hogs
( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

By Laura Greiner, Iowa State University

Feed cost is associated with 65% to 70% of the cost of marketing a hog with approximately 60% to 70% of a pig’s intake occurring after the pig reaches 150 pounds. There are many opportunities to improve feed efficiency and reduce overall diet expenses throughout the finishing production. Some key areas of attention during the decision of what methods to employ are dependent upon seasonality, time or space limitations, and packer allowances.  

Here are four opportunities to consider when establishing your finishing pig rations.  

1.    Feed additives: A variety of feed additives are available ranging from beta-agonists, ionophores, essential oils, acidifiers, plant extracts or a combination. Some products, such as the beta-agonists, currently have limitations on use due to the export market requirements. Ionophores have label specifications associated with the duration of feeding and the potential use of water medications while feeding ionophores.  

2.    Nutritional ingredients: Ingredients commonly added to feed either in early nursery programs or seasonally have shown potential for value in late finishing. The feeding of supplemental copper has been shown to improve feed efficiency and daily gain. The use of fat improves feed efficiency by approximately 2% for every 1% inclusion. However, fat is not always economical and generally the price needs to be less than 3.5 times the price of corn. The metric for value may change depending on hog markets and the season of the year.

3.    Dietary considerations: Changing feed form can improve feed efficiency (100-micron particle size change improves feed efficiency by 1.3% and pelleting improves efficiency by 6%). Special attention should be made to alternative ingredients to ensure that nutrient estimates are accurate. Finally, manage feed budgets to ensure the proper phase of feed is being fed to pigs at the corresponding weight to ensure proper growth rate.  

4.    Environmental parameters: At the barn level, managing the thermo-neutral zone can minimize the pig’s need to expend energy to either heat or cool itself. The ideal temperature range will vary based on housing/flooring type and also the lean potential of the genetics. Pigs consume approximately 2 to 3 times more water than feed; therefore, water pressure and water quality should be assessed periodically. Proper feeder space should also be maintained and will vary based on the use of dry or wet/dry feeders. If feeding diets with low fat inclusion, then the requirement will be closer to 2.0 linear inches (1.7-2.0 inches) of dry feeder space. Finally, dry feeders should have no more than 25% pan coverage to reduce the wastage. However, farm staff must avoid setting the feeder adjustment so tight that it reduces growth rate.  

Although implementing some of these opportunities can create economical value, the use of these opportunities may not always be additive. While some products have a greater impact than others in terms of improving performance, any and all practices have the ability to reduce feed costs.

Dr. Laura Greiner is an assistant professor in animal science at Iowa State University where she focuses on swine production and nutrition.

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